‘Scari­est TV show ever’ is not for

Twenty-five years ago, Geena Davis bed­ded an un­known Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise. Now Davis stars in a new telly spinoff of The Ex­or­cist, ‘‘maybe the scari­est TV show ever made,’’ she tells Grant Smithies. ‘Ev­ery time we get the new script [for The Ex­oci

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The cred­its rolled over a car snap-frozen in mid air, driv­ing off a cliff into the Grand Canyon. As you shuf­fled out of the movie the­atre though snow­drifts of spilt popcorn, you were left imag­in­ing twisted metal, bro­ken bod­ies, a gi­ant ball of flame.

It was a de­lib­er­ate death plunge, but what other op­tion did they have? The two women in the front seat had shot a rapist, robbed a store, torched a petrol tanker. The cops were right be­hind them, and they’d be in jail for a very long time if they got caught.

So they just kissed each other good­bye, pointed their 1966 Ford Thun­der­bird at the cliff and floored the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

The last time I saw Geena Davis on screen it was 1991, when she and Su­san Saran­don co-starred in pi­o­neer­ing fem­i­nist road movie, Thelma & Louise.

Twenty-five years on, af­ter dozens more movies and a re­cent run as a doc­tor on Grey’s Anatomy, Davis is com­ing to a TV near you tonight, de­ter­mined to make you pee your pants.

‘‘Oh, yeah! This is prob­a­bly the scari­est TV show ever made,’’ she says by phone from Cal­i­for­nia, her voice an un­ex­pect­edly deep drawl.

‘‘We’ve just shot episode five, and ev­ery time we get the new script, we go ‘Oh, my God! Noooo! Peo­ple are gonna freak out!’ It just keeps get­ting more ter­ri­fy­ing, but if you’re gonna make a show like this, you have to go full out or you might as well not bother.’’

Sur­rounded by a stel­lar cast that in­cludes alumni of House Of Cards, The Cho­sen, Scream Queens and Fer­ris Bueller’s Day Off, Davis is the mar­quee movie star lead in the 10-part ‘‘psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller’’, The Ex­or­cist, which takes its in­spi­ra­tion from the 1973 movie of the same name.

Di­rected by Ru­pert Wy­att (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), the plot veers off in many un­ex­pected di­rec­tions, but the cen­tral themes – de­monic pos­ses­sion, fam­ily dis­tress, un­bear­ably in­tense priests – re­main.

Davis plays stressed-out busi­ness­woman An­gela Rance, a de­vout Catholic whose life is far from flash. Not only is her house­hold reel­ing from re­cent fam­ily trauma, big black birds have started smash­ing through the win­dows like some­thing out of Hitch­cock, and the very walls have started mut­ter­ing dark mes­sages.

‘‘My char­ac­ter’s very con­cerned about her fam­ily, and it doesn’t help that the walls are talk­ing, you know? That’s very stress­ful, when your walls start to talk! She starts to think there’s evil present and brings in a priest, but then things just get a whole lot worse. If you’re eas­ily scared, you might not wanna watch it, to be hon­est.’’

Too true. Watch­ing the pi­lot just reaf­firmed that I’m too wimpy for shows like this. I don’t have the stom­ach for that at­mos­phere of spir­i­tual malaise and gath­er­ing dread, even though I have zero be­lief in the su­per­nat­u­ral. How about Davis?

‘‘As a kid, I re­ally be­lieved strongly in su­per­nat­u­ral things. I was ter­ri­fied that my dolls might start talk­ing, and I used to watch things like The Twi­light Zone and com­pletely freak out. When I be­came an adult, I be­came more ra­tio­nal, like – that stuff just can­not be true – but I’ve be­come less dog­matic about that over time. I guess I’m some­where in be­tween now.’’

One cun­ning move with this new se­ries was hav­ing two very dif­fer­ent Catholic priests slug­ging it out with the sep­tic spir­its.

On the one hand, there’s the kind and com­pas­sion­ate Father Ortega (Al­fonso Her­rera), who rep­re­sents the more mod­ern and pro­gres­sive face of the Catholic Church. And then you’ve got old­school fire and brim­stone mer­chant Father Keane (Ben Daniels), who sees each day as a life-and-death strug­gle with the devil.

Be­tween them, there’s scope to ex­plore more nu­anced ideas about the na­ture of good and evil.

‘‘Ab­so­lutely. One is a rene­gade who’ll flaunt the teach­ings of Rome in a heart­beat, and the other’s very much on the straight and nar­row.

‘‘It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing, too, that ex­or­cism is a rite of the Catholic church that’s still per­formed to this day. I wanted to ask – How can the church tell that they should get in­volved, rather than call a psy­chi­a­trist? But there are very spe­cific cri­te­ria to qual­ify for an ex­or­cism, ap­par­ently, and they’re not symp­toms any­one can eas­ily fake.’’

You’d be right in as­sum­ing that this is a se­ries low on laughs. Noth­ing cuts the dra­matic ten­sion, not even slightly, not once. It’s a bleak sce­nario right from the start, with Davis’ char­ac­ter only just hold­ing things to­gether.

‘‘Oh, yeah! I have a very full plate, even be­fore any­thing su­per­nat­u­ral hap­pens! I have a

Geena Davis

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