Courteney Cox is arguably best-known for two diametrically opposed genres: the multiple jokes per page format of sitcom “Friends” and the jump scares of slasher horror franchise “Scream.” But with Starz’ “Shining Vale,” she will be combining those two tones.
“Sharon [Horgan] and I set out very, very ambitiously — and Sharon before I came on board — to create a new genre of something that’s really, really scary and really, really funny, executive producer Jeff Astrof said during the show’s Television Critics Assn. press tour panel on Aug. 19.
To that end, the show will certainly feature a lot of homages, references and visual Easter eggs to classic horror properties — including a set of curtains in the central house location that he called “close enough but not close enough to sue, based on the Overlook Hotel.” But rather than go for gore, it will lean toward psychological horror, in the realm of “Rosemary’s Baby” or “The Shining,” he continued. (When it comes to both of those titles, there are visuals peppered throughout the show, as well, including the infamous wallpaper design from the latter.)
Psychological horror is where the shows executive producers and writers wanted to play because the show will deal with different levels of hauntings. On the one hand, Pat (Cox) and her family move into a house in which “terrible atrocities” have taken place and at least one woman (Mira Sorvino) still lurks, a 1950s housewife who was not happy with that life and instead dreamed of a life on stage and screen, the actor previewed.
“I am only visible to Courteney,” Sorvino said. “And I try and enlist [her] character on a series of somewhat self-oriented adventures, so that I can live through her a little bit.”
On the other, there are themes of writer’s block for Pat who is struggling with her second novel, as well as family mental health concerns and marital strife between Pat and her husband Terry.
Pat had an affair prior to moving to this new house and Sorvino’s character, aptly named Rosemary, will be taking advantage of their struggles, Astrof said. But whether she’s just “somebody who is a projection of Pat” or an actual demon, that “thread falls through ’til the very last shot of the season.”
He explained: “We really explore that. We find out Pat’s mother’s history, who we mention in the pilot — she’s going to be played later on by Judah Light — and somebody else who went through a very similar thing. … There really is a strand of mental illness. And I think mental illness is something that people still don’t really talk about that much and if they talk about it, it’s not head-on. And we deal with it.”
“This character just fits,” Cox said. “Let’s face it, I’m in my 50s and I’m going through maybe not that [but] it just feels like something that is just rich and deep. And I get to go into places that I have never been to before and be raw and vulnerable. And I think I’ve worked harder on this than I have on anything else.”
See some first look images from “Shining Vale” below.