Cover Story

A Looser Lucifer

By Judith S. Gillies
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 18, 2007

Smooth, suave, sophisticated.

Not necessarily your first thoughts about the devil, which Ray Wise plays for drama and laughs on the new CW series "Reaper."

"He's well dressed, well groomed, has a great sense of humor and a wealth of knowledge -- as well he should, since he's been around since the beginning of time," Wise said. "He's perhaps a combination of a really good talk show host and used-car salesman, with his smile and demeanor to make you feel good about yourself. It's the only way the devil can operate."

And though he's a smooth operator, the devil has his problems. Seems that Hell is overcrowded and evil denizens escape every now and then. That's why the devil needs Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison) as a bounty hunter: to recapture those souls and send them back to Hell where they belong.

Sam didn't seek out the job. His parents (Andrew Airlie and Allison Hossack) sold his soul before he was born, mistakenly believing they would never have to deliver.

Sam confides in his two best friends (Tyler Labine and Rick Gonzalez), who usually help him in his quests. They're also on hand to commiserate about his unrequited love for an associate (Missy Peregrym) at the Seattle home improvement store where they all work.

But Sam, who's been a slacker for much of his life, realizes being the devil's bounty hunter is something he can do well.

"And there's something wonderful for anyone who can find something that they're good at," said Mark Gordon, an executive producer. "In this case, it was foisted upon him, but it gives his life focus."

Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, who became friends while working as assistants on "The X-Files," created "Reaper."

They wanted to marry the fantastic (such as the world of "Shaun of the Dead," complete with zombies) with the mundane (of 20-somethings who still live at home), and those ideas came together for the premise of "Reaper," Fazekas said.

They also explored the idea of a likable devil, she said. "He can be evil. He will do bad things. But he has this Rat Pack charm. . . and on a certain level, you like the devil more than Sam's parents because he's more parental."

"Reaper" was close to starting production "and we had seen dozens of very good actors, but Ray came in and read it with the exact amount of humor," Fazekas said. "He plays on many things in a simple line. This guy is really evil if he wants to be. He steals the show in many ways."

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