When actor Alfonso Herrera was approached for a TV show inspired by the 1973 iconic film The Exorcist, which itself is based on the 1971 best-selling novel by William Peter Blatty, he thought it was a bad idea.
The actor told us over the phone, calling from his home country Mexico, that he rationalised a TV show couldn’t possibly live up to the “holy grail of horror”.
But the 33-year-old actor changed his mind once he spoke to series creator Jeremy Slater and read the script for the first episode.
“I feel very honoured to be immersed in this universe, and to be working with director Rupert Wyatt (who shot the pilot) and (actors) Ben Daniels and Geena Davis. The writers did an amazing job, generating a solid story for the show … (while) paying homage to the original film,” Herrera said.
In the 10-episode series The Exorcist, Herrera plays Father Tomas Ortega who runs a Catholic church in a blue-collar neighbourhood in Chicago, populated mostly by Latin Americans and Mexicans.
A respected member of his congregration (Davis) approaches him to ask for his help, believing that her daughter may be possessed. By a strange coincidence, Father Tomas is led to a priest (Daniels) who performs exorcism. But Father Tomas is unable to do much as there are red tapes to go through before an exorcism is approved by the church.
The red tape is something Herrera faced when he tried to get more information on the subject from his local church. “I live in Mexico City, where most of the population are raised as Catholics. I was raised a Catholic. I tried to do some research here in Mexico with the priests but they didn’t to share any information. So, Ben and I researched on the internet, read books and watched documentaries, to get as much information as we could,” he explained.
Nonetheless, all that research didn’t prepare the actor for the creepy scenes on the show.
“When I watched the pilot, I can tell you that I got scared,” shared Herrera.“I was really, really scared even though I had shot the scenes. I think horror fans in Asia will be very pleased.”
The Exorcist marks Herrera’s first experience working on American network TV; he previously participated on the Netflix show Sense8. Back in Mexico, he had done a number of acting gigs on stage, television and films. For a time too, he was in a band called RBD, although he prefers acting these days.
1. What do you remember of the original Exorcist film?
I watched the movie when I was 10 years old with my little brother who was eight at that time. We were living in a city approximately 400km from Mexico City, and we had a peculiar experience because we were scared from watching that film.
We had nightmares even after two weeks.
2. Did you experience anything scary or unusual on set?
Before shooting the pilot, I thought it will be a scary process because we are shooting The Exorcist, so there is a possibility of strange things happening on set. But we had a blast shooting the series.
Even though we were talking about very dark and obscure things while shooting it, but – between takes – we were laughing and having fun. Ben is a very generous actor on set and outside of set. It was four months of pure fun in Chicago.
3. Do you believe in possession?
I believe that light and darkness exist. For us to appreciate darkness, light has to exist and for us to appreciate light, darkness has to exist.
The battle between light and dark, God and devil may have existed since the beginning of time. So, we portray that in this story; showing that the battle doesn’t only happen in the physical world, but also in different dimensions.
4. The Exorcist is a hit in the United States. Do you think it’s because the way the world is right now?
Well, yes. In a certain way, some kind of evil is starting to appear in different parts of the world and very peculiar ideas are starting to appear (as well).
We, as human beings, try to connect with the light. I try to connect with the light.
I feel very fortunate to be a part of this show, to be a part of this rightful path and to fight evil.
5. You act and sing. Is there one that is a favourite project?
I love everything. Each and every single project I have done has been a great experience, allowing me to acquire different skills.
Every single project has made me the actor that I am today. I feel very fortunate and a lot of gratitude to have the career that I have.
The Exorcist is shown on Kix HD (Astro Ch 729) at 11pm every Thursday.