Having left off on a major cliffhanger, the CBS drama series Stalker is back with its three final episodes of the season. After Beth’s (Maggie Q) former stalker (Eion Bailey) targeted her inner circle in a deadly rampage and then threw her into the trunk of his car, Beth is now left desperately fight for her life after she’s dragged to a remote cabin, leaving her co-workers at the TAU, Jack (Dylan McDermott) and Janice (Mariana Klaveno), to frantically search for clues to their location. This is the episode that everything has been leading up to, and then there are still two more episodes to go.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, show creator Kevin Williamson talked about how the germ of this idea started because he had a stalker of his own, why he’s always leaned towards the scary, where things go next, what fans should brace themselves for with the finale, being hopeful for a second season, and where he’d like to take the show next. He also talked about what it’s like to have so many shows on the air at once, why making television shows is the best thing in the world, how thrilled he is to be doing a pilot reading for Dawson’s Creek (with special guests) for the ATX Festival, and how excited he is to see what they’ve done with Scream for the upcoming MTV series. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: I just have to say that, having had a stalker, I find this show terrifying.
KEVIN WILLIAMSON: The whole germ of the idea was because I had a stalker, as well. I understand the feeling. That’s how I found out about TMU. My first introduction into TMU was because I had a stalker, as well. I remember learning about this unit at the LAPD that handled stalking and threat management and I thought, “Wow, that could be a really good idea for a series,” and it only took 15 years later.
Since you certainly have a knack and a talent for it, do you truly enjoy scaring people, or is it more about telling the stories that you want to tell?
WILLIAMSON: Even as a child, I just leaned towards the scary. I remember seeing Halloween, for the first time. I snuck into the theater and was sitting there with a group of friends in the front row, and I turned back to look at the audience. They were screaming and interacting with the screen and were interacting with Jamie Lee Curtis as she walked through that horrible night. I just thought, “I want to do that.” That was a hugely interactive, emotional experience, the same that Jaws was when I went to the theater and saw how the audience responded to that movie. If you can get the audience to talk to the screen, I just thought that was so cool, and I wanted to do that. And I just leaned towards the scary and the thriller. I find it very emotional. I want to make emotional horror. I don’t want to make horror. I want you to feel something. If I can make you cry, than you have a full experience.
You left things on a pretty big cliffhanger, with the last episode that aired. Did you worry, at all, about losing momentum, from the end of that episode to the return for these last episodes?
WILLIAMSON: It’s interesting because the network, studio and I all discussed it, and we actually moved this cliffhanger up. We knew our hiatus was with Episode 17, so we thought, “We do have a fan base. We do have a core audience that watches, every week. Let’s give them the anticipation of a reason to return to it. Let’s give them something that they need to see the other half of.” We don’t really do two-parters. We’re not a cliffhanger show. We tell procedural stories and we wrap them up, and then we keep our characters’ relationships alive. This was the first time we did a full-on cliffhanger with Beth locked in the trunk. We were hoping that it would actually build momentum, and not lose momentum. We were hoping that when they saw the TV guide, the audience would go, “Hey, I’ve gotta see what happened to Beth. It’s back on!” Hopefully, it’s just one more way that the audience can find us. We’re back on, Monday nights at 9 pm. I worry that the audience that has been watching this show won’t be able to find it.
What would you say to tease the return of the show for people?
WILLIAMSON: If you’ve been watching the show, and even if you haven’t, this is the episode where you can really see what this show is. It’s thrilling, emotional, dramatic and heroic. It’s Maggie Q, at her finest hour. Her past has come back to haunt her. The ghost is right there, front and center. She’s being held captive, and you can watch her match wits with him and overcome him, emotionally, psychologically and physically. It’s what we’ve been building to, all season, and it’s the episode where it all goes down. And what’s fun about it is that it’s not the end. It’s just the end of this story. She’s closed the door. She’s reached closure. Her past is gone, and now she has a chance at a future. In Episodes 19 and 20, you’ll begin to see her try to move forward. You’ll get to watch Jack and her fumble through the beginnings of an attraction, which has brought another whole dimension to the show. I’m hoping that can continue into Season 2. We’re just getting started.
Are you hopeful for a second season, and have you already done some planning for where you’d like to take the show next?
WILLIAMSON: Oh, absolutely! We focused on stalking cases this year, but the Threat Assessment Unit handles all threats. They’re the secret service within the LAPD. In addition to the stalking cases, they’re threat management. They consult with major crimes, robbery/homicide, vice, secret service, CIA and FBI. They’re always the liaison, whenever there’s a threat made against another individual. They handle all political threats to Los Angeles. They cross state lines and they consult all across the country. They work internationally. They’re a small, elite unit within the LAPD that does so much, and they do more than we even know about. It’s so hard to prove a stalking case because they consider it a wobbler crime. It’s either a misdemeanor or a felony. It would be nice to go into the courtroom a little bit, and see the cases tried. There’s so much more here. We’ve only just scratched the surface, and I’d like to be able to go further with it and let the show expand and grow.
This show has the procedural element to it, and then there is the ongoing relationship development, and a bigger season-long arc for Maggie Q. Are you looking to do something similar for Season 2, as far as having ongoing stories with the procedural stories?
WILLIAMSON: Yes, I do believe that we would do more emotional storytelling. I also tried to shift away from the scary moment of the week. We’re trying to be a scary, thrilling show without being an in-your-face horror movie. We made that shift, all through the season, and we’re trying to move in that direction and expand the world. We’d love to do more multi-arc storylines. We’d love to do a case-of-the-week, but also have a long-term case brewing.
Now that you’ve finished the season, looking back on it, how close did things end up to the way you thought you would, when you started the season?
WILLIAMSON: Oh, nothing ever ends up the way you thought it would when you start. It’s a television show. There are so many moving parts. I sit in a room and write a pilot, and it’s developed by a group of people that you produce it and make it with. Then, you hire an entire writing staff and you bring them all together, and they have their input and their creation. It all comes together, but it’s always changing. You cast your roles and, suddenly, they bring it to life in a way that you never imagined possible, so then you write towards it and it changes the story. Everything changes. At first, you want to let the show find itself, and you nurture it and let it grow and see what it can be. I’m just hoping that we get a chance to continue because I know what this show is and what it can be. I love what I do, so I just want to take on a challenge.
After this arc for Beth is concluded, will we see any changes in the team?
WILLIAMSON: There will be a whole new dynamic. Vicki Gregg, played by Mira Sorvino, sticks around. Beth is not allowed to come back to work. There’s an entire internal investigation into how this all went down, and we follow the rule of law there, so she is sidelined a little bit. She’s stuck twiddling her thumbs, and that doesn’t sit well with her. You will see important her new identity is to her. You will watch a relationship form between Beth and Vicki, and you’ll start to learn about Vicki’s past. Vicki came there for a reason. She volunteered for this job, as you’ll find out in Episode 19, because she has an unsolved case of her own that she needs help with, and Beth returns the favor. We’ll explore a cold case that has been troubling her for some time, and that is also the window into letting us learn more about Vicki Gregg. We just want to expand the world and create more characters. We’ve got Ben in the hospital, so we wanted to open up the world. Bringing in an FBI consultant allows us to dive into different types of cases. I just think that’s a nice relationship to explore, as we go into Season 2. From a character standpoint, in Episodes 19 and 20, we move into the romance between Jack and Beth. Oddly, we made a decision not to go so dramatic with it. We watch these two very serious characters fumble their way through a very awkward attraction. It actually turned out quite light and fun, oddly enough, for a show called Stalker. They have a natural chemistry.
Should fans really brace themselves for the finale? Will there be a cliffhanger, or will there feel like a sense of resolution to the season?
WILLIAMSON: Both. We bring in a lot of resolution with our characters, and we close and wrap up a lot of things. We also open the door to new things, and we have a little cliffhanger in there, just for fun. I tried to pull a Vampire Diaries, in the final episode. We even have Kat Graham guest starring.
You’re responsible for The Vampire Diaries, The Following and Stalker, all being on the air. What’s it like to have three TV shows on three different networks, all at the same time, when it’s tough to not only get one show on the air, but to keep it there?
WILLIAMSON: I’m absolutely thrilled! And don’t forget The Originals. That’s Julie Plec’s show, but come on! I’ve watched every week, just thrilled to death for her. Through osmosis, I’m part of that one, too. I love TV. It’s the best thing in the world. I’m the luckiest guy in the world. Believe me when I tell you that I’m just happy to be here.
In a business where everyone is always looking ahead to the next thing, is it surreal to look back and prepare for a Dawson’s Creek pilot reading for the ATX Festival?
WILLIAMSON: They funny part about it is that they said, “Could you send us the pilot script?,” and cut to me digging through every closet in my house to find one. I couldn’t find it. I found the finale script, but I couldn’t find the pilot. I called up everyone I know, and then we ended up finding it in the WGA library. It was so crazy! I found an old draft with my notes all over it, but I can’t have that one xeroxed. But, I’m thrilled. Are you kidding?! It makes me feel really, really old. The thing that makes me feel young, honestly, is making television. It’s the only thing that excites me, the way that you get excited when you’re a kid. That’s why I still do it.
The first Scream film came out about 20 years ago. Could you ever have imagined it would still be relevant and evolving into a TV series, so many years later?
WILLIAMSON: No, and I can’t wait to see it. I’m very excited about that. I haven’t been involved, at all. I’m anxious to see it. I feel like they’re creating a brand new world, and I’m just excited to see it.
Stalker returns to CBS on Monday nights, starting April 27th.