Something ‘Wicked’ this way comes on new ABC drama

In the new ABC drama “Wicked City,” Ed Westwick’s character Kent Galloway is at the heart of a murder investigation that unfolds on the Los Angeles Sunset Strip during the early 1980s. It’s a dark world that moves to a loud rock beat.

The actor, best known for playing Chuck Bass on “Gossip Girl,” didn’t have to go too far to do research on serial killers because his mother is a psychologist. They had some very interesting conversations about his character.

“There is an individual here who is living multiple personalities. It’s one of the ways we see him manipulate so easily and so well the people that he interacts with,” Westwick says.

One of his main inspirations for playing the role was Ted Bundy, because, as serial killers go, Bundy was notoriously charming. Westwick decided that’s the way his character would be.

That charm draws in Betty Beaumont, played by Erika Christensen. They form an odd Bonnie and Clyde kind of bond.

For Christensen, the role is the complete opposite of the mother and wife she played on “Parenthood.” The “Wicked City” part was one of a variety of roles she was offered after “Parenthood” ended. Nothing piqued her interest like this one.

“What really struck me about Ms. Betty Beaumont is how quickly she might change from the outset, when we made her, to the end of the pilot. Right away, you get the sense that she’s all in for whatever this is with Kent,” Christensen says. “I don’t actually know, but I’m betting she goes down the rabbit hole with him.

I find that really interesting from where she starts, a nurse and single mom, you know, kind of a cowed person, not super confident, not super comfortable in her own skin, and she may blossom.

Erika Christensen on her character Betty Beaumont

“Wicked City” will spend equal time looking at the murderous couple and at the detectives assigned to stop the latest serial killer in Los Angeles. In the ’80s, the Southern California city was known as the serial murder capital of the United States.

Former “Law & Order” star Jeremy Sisto returns to a detective role with “Wicked City.” What he learned from people who lived through that time was that having fun was the object of most people’s attention. But there was something underneath that fun that was hollow and dark. In “Wicked City,” that will be represented by the serial killers.

The story will unfold in a place that in many ways hasn’t changed in three decades. Efforts are being made to match the mood, tone and tenor of the era, but not to the point of obsession.

Executive producer Amy B. Harris explains that the key is to draw the viewer in so that they feel like they are living in the time period but not to make it look like a museum piece.

“We know everyone will be watching this show through a modern lens. So anything that goes to the camp place, we are stepping away from,” Harris says. “Do we want to talk about MTV as this thing that may or may not work and who will watch music videos? Yes, because we think that’s an interesting comment on the time. Are computers going to be in every office? All of those kinds of questions we think are very interesting and really help us sort of shed light on the time. But we want our characters to feel like people you know and see on the streets today.”

How the story of the killers and the cops plays out will be wrapped up at the end of the season. “Wicked City” is being structured like “American Crime,” where the storyline will wrap up at the end of the year. Some of the characters will continue into the next season.

Many of the actors see that kind of structure as a positive way to work. Taissa Farmiga, who plays a young journalist looking for her first big break, has only signed a one-year contract.

She likes that she’s getting to play an interesting character, but she will be free to either continue or move on to a different project.

Of course that could be settled for Farmiga if her character becomes a victim.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

Wicked City

  • 10 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, ABC (Channel 30.1)