The devil's in the detail

AS THE new series 666 Park Avenue opens, Jane and Henry, played by Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable, move into an old New York apartment building that we slowly discover exerts a sinister influence on those who inhabit it. It's a premise writ large from cinema history, evoking Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, in which a young couple, played by Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, find themselves in a similar predicament.

''I think the pilot episode is absolutely evocative of Rosemary's Baby, and I think that's quite deliberate,'' Taylor says. ''Every episode seems to have this subtle reference to horror classics. The second is Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, the third is The Shining. But I think that's a universal theme in horror - the idea of innocence being perverted. To me that's a classic horror gesture, and I think 666 Park Avenue hits that right on the head. The most potent question the show asks is, what are you prepared to do to get what you want?''

It is also a timely question, Taylor says. ''We live in a world of instant gratification, the world of the quick fix. We want wealth, we want status, we want power and this show is a spooky look at that idea. Can people be bought or sold and, if so, at what price? If we tap into the things we want and the things we desire the most, are we prepared to do terrible things to each other? To ourselves?''

In the first episode, Jane and Henry take on the job of co-managing the building, whose inhabitants include playwright Brian (Robert Buckley), his wife Louise (Mercedes Masohn), dashing doorman Tony (Erik Palladino) and a couple of charming but slightly sinister owners in Gavin (Terry O'Quinn) and Olivia Doran (Vanessa Williams).

The series is based on Gabriella Pierce's novel of the same name but borrows little save the title. Significantly, writer-producer David Wilcox and director Alex Graves have deliberately made the show's more supernatural elements a slow reveal. ''The first episode was about setting up this very solid, optimistic, buoyant young couple and just the very first little suggestion that there might be some doubt they're going to survive in this world,'' Taylor says. ''The supernatural world is not present just yet, except in dream sequences. They're not privy to it, they're not aware of it, we're not yet doing full horror.''

In fact, Taylor says, the heart of the show is relationship-based. ''I think all television has to be about relationships and I don't think horror for the sake of it can work unless you're able to ground it in some kind of relationship,'' she says.

As the series progresses, the differences between Jane and Henry will become clearer. ''Henry is probably the more likely of the pair to do bad things to get what he wants, whereas Jane is the moral centre of the show and she's not likely to be corrupted,'' Taylor says. ''But other things will happen to her: she will get to a place where her sanity is questioned … she's the person saying, 'There is something going on here … something's not right about this place.' Everyone else is just accepting of it.''

666 Park Avenue

Mondays, Fox8, 9.30pm

 

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