The next time you hear a child claim he or she has an imaginary friend, it might be worth believing.
That’s one of the lessons of “The Whispers,” an ABC suspense series whose executive producers include someone who often gives lots of credit to young characters, Steven Spielberg. Premiering at 10 p.m. Monday, the show doesn’t choose just any locale to spin its tale: The kids in question reside in Washington, D.C., so their alleged new buddy knows where to strike if gaining power and influence is the aim.
As the youngsters allegedly are guided into increasingly alarming actions by their unseen pal, known as Drill, an FBI agent (played by “American Horror Story” veteran Lily Rabe) who specializes in child behavior is drawn in. She doesn’t know it, but she has even more of a link to the situation: Her hearing-impaired son (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) also is communicating with Drill.
In “The Whispers” as originally constructed, Drill was an alien intelligence, but series creator and co-executive producer Soo Hugh explains the show’s makers decided to “pull back on some of the story and change some of the reveals. The question of what is Drill, who is Drill, plays a bigger part in the series now. We wanted to make that question more of a season-long question. There’s people making conjectures of what and who Drill is, and some people may jump to the gun of ‘alien,’ whether or not we bear that out.”
Among others in the “Whispers” cast: Barry Sloane (“Revenge”) as a Defense Department agent seeking related answers in the Sahara; Kristen Connolly (“House of Cards”) as the wife he cheated on with the widowed Rabe character; and “Heroes” alum Milo Ventimiglia – seen recently on Fox’s “Gotham” as the sinister ogre – as an enigmatic character appropriately named John Doe.
Is John Doe supposed to be the embodiment of Drill? “You can’t make out exactly what he’s there for,” Ventimiglia said, “but you know it’s ominous, and you know that it’s dangerous, and you know that it’s something you’ve got to follow closely and watch because it’s got to relate to the greater picture.”
For Rabe – the daughter of playwright David Rabe (“Hurlyburly”) and the late actress Jill Clayburgh (“An Unmarried Woman”) – “The Whispers” means working frequently with much younger co-stars. She deems that “one of the greatest joys I had doing this show.”
“I think all children are pretty extraordinary, and getting to work with children is always so much fun, because it’s exactly what you’re chasing all the time in a scene partner … which is someone who just wants to play and who is completely, wholly present. And it’s different every time. And all the things that excite me as an actor, you get that in spades with kids. And these kids were very special.”
Even if the creative path of “The Whispers” has been altered a bit, the series still ends up where it always was intended to, Hugh maintained: “We always knew the last scene of the show, having had experience on shows whose finales may have disappointed some fans. I’m part of those fan circles, in terms of watching TV shows. I don’t want to be disappointed when I watch my favorite shows, and we really took that to heart when we were in the writers’ room.”