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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Michael Emerson shows off his Evil side in this exclusive behind-the-scenes clip

Michael Emerson stars as Leland Townsend in CBS’s Evil
Michael Emerson stars as Leland Townsend in CBS’s Evil
Screenshot: Evil

Pandemic-related lockdowns have given some of us a chance to catch up on shows that got lost in the premiere shuffle earlier this year, including Michelle King and Robert King’s Evil. The increasingly supernatural-skewing procedural follows priest-in-training David Acosta (Mike Colter) and forensic psychologist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), who, despite holding very different views of the supernatural, work together to distinguish between what’s scientifically explicable and what might be more in David’s new field. Evil plays with our perception through David’s visions, Kristen’s skepticism, and most important, a wicked emissary in the form of forensic psychologist Leland Townsend.

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As played by Michael Emerson, Leland is a level-headed con man with designs to let Hell loose on Earth, even if it’s by manipulating his patients into committing horrible deeds instead of literally throwing up the door for Satan (although his tête-à-tête with the Devil in season one suggests he might have a direct line to the ruler of Hell). In this exclusive behind-the-scenes clip, Emerson shares what makes Leland such a great antagonist for Kristen, as well as why he revels in being bad.

“I think he’s creepy and then some,” Emerson laughs. And while there might be very grounded explanations for the cases David and Kristen encounter, Leland is “definitely a bad player.” But for Emerson, who’s played his fair share of devious characters, what makes Leland so distinct is that he has “a kind of infectious fun as he goes about his villainy, and it sure is fun to play. I think villains don’t need to be dark in temperament. Maybe villains, if they’re good at it, maybe it’s a joy to them. Maybe it gives them zest and joie de vivre.”

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Leland’s already successfully infiltrated Kristen’s family, proposing to her mom Sheryl (Christine Lahti), who nabbed some of her daughter’s personal items at her fiancé’s behest. The recently ordered second season will undoubtedly explore just how tenuous the mother-daughter relationship is now, but if you need to catch up on season one (there’s no shame), Evil’s now available on DVD via CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment.

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