Pop some popcorn, break out the snacks, and turn on the lights – the devil has come to Ohio.
Buckeye State is the backdrop for Netflix’s new limited series “Devil in Ohio.” The eight-episode series, which debuts on the streaming service on September 2, chronicles the curious case of Mae (Madeleine Arthur), a young woman on the run from a satanic cult who is hospitalized and cared for by a psychiatrist. , Suzanne (Emily Deschanel, star of the hit Fox series “Bones”).
Things take a strange turn after Suzanne offers Mae a place to stay in her house in a fictional town in Ohio (supposed to be a few hours from Cleveland). From there, unnerving complications ensue, including Mae’s unwelcome rivalry with one of Suzanne’s children, Jules (Xaria Dotson).
The series is the work of creator, executive producer and showrunner Daria Polatinplaywright and veteran of other episodic series, including “stone castle,” who first penned “Devil in Ohio” as a young adult novel in 2017.
In a recent phone interview with The Dispatch, Polatin, a Boston native who now lives in Los Angeles, discussed the real-life inspiration for the book and show, his longtime friendship with star Deschanel and why the Ohio has created a menacing setting for one of the new season’s most anticipated new coolers.
Q: What is your literary background?
Polatin: In fact, I studied at Boston University with Emily Deschanel. We went to college together and did plays together, so it’s a very small world.
I have written and produced plays and directed theater in New York. I came to LA and worked my way up. I worked on “Jack Ryanfor two seasons. I worked on “Castle Rock”, the Stephen King Hulu series, which is really fun. I sort of worked in all genres. I’m generally drawn to the character and the story.
Q: Why did you decide to write “Devil in Ohio” in book form first?
Polatin: When my producer Rachel Miller heard this true story, which took place in Ohio, she told it to me. I knew I had to say it. I decided to start with a book. I fictionalized the story to free myself creatively, and thought it would be interesting to tell it to a YA (young adult) audience since the girl is in her mid-teens. To put it through the character from Jules’ point of view in the book, you get that little bit of “single white woman“vibe goes. For me, the best format for the book was through Jules’ perspective, so we could really be in her head as this girl walks into her house and befriends her but, before she knows it, somehow moves it.
Going into the series, we based it on the book, but really reframed it to be from the perspective of psychiatrist mother Suzanne. It was a lot of fun, because we were really able to branch out into the storylines.
Q: What can you say about the true story that inspired the book and the series?
Polatin: The bones of the story are true and happened, and I wanted to take that as a starting point. It’s based on real events, but it’s not a documentary. It’s just a different type of storytelling. For that, I felt the best outlet would be to creatively free it and fictionalize the details and let it take on a life of its own. (The Real Story) took place in Ohio. . . . (Polatin would not divulge any details about the actual event the series is based on.)
We created a fictional town in the story, but we really wanted to be as accurate as possible for Ohio viewers and give those Easter eggs to the audience. Suzanne and (her husband) Peter met while studying at OSU, and Peter talks with an old friend from Mirror Lake. I wrote the radio-specific dialogue. . . discuss teams from Ohio. I was really, really trying to make it specific. (In one scene) they’re watching a football game and there’s a touchdown and the crowd goes, “OH-IO!”
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Q: Did the Ohio setting also work creatively for the series?
Polatin: Because I went (to Ohio) before I wrote the book – for separate reasons I was visiting friends and family – I felt it was a very specific (place) but also very universal. It’s very Everytown in a really wonderful way. I thought it would hopefully be relatable and people could see themselves (in it). It is as if the story takes place in a city. He kind of has this “this could happen to you” feeling.
Q: You shot the show in British Columbia, but it feels very authentic in Ohio.
Polatin: You’re trying not to have those big evergreens from BC. We really tried to make the forest, the woods look like Ohio.
Q: How did your old college friend, Emily Deschanel, find the role of Suzanne?
Polatin: My producer and I thought of her. We were gathering names… and my producer and I were texting, “What about Emily Deschanel?” I’m like, “I love her and I know her.” And she knew the book; she was a fan of the book. She and I sat down and had a long, pleasant chat about it. We were so happy she signed on and it was a perfect fit.
Q: If someone hasn’t read the novel and seen the series, does it matter that you watch first and read second?
Polatin: It does not matter. They both work by themselves. They both have their secrets to uncover and their mysteries.
In one look
The limited series “Devil in Ohio” premieres September 2 on Netflix.