[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
One of my great joys in covering Slasher is getting to chat with the mad scientists who bring it to life (or, you know, murder) every season. Today I sat down with showrunner Ian Carpenter and executive producer and series creator Aaron Martin to talk about Season 5, which rolls out at 3 am ET Thursday on Shudder and AMC+ in the US and at 9 pm ET on Hollywood Suite in Canada.
As we covered over here, the new season throws it way, way back to the turn of the last century, setting the action in Victorian Toronto. Subtitled “Ripper,” this installment gives a nod to that famed killer but dedicates its eight episodes to The Widow, a veiled killer clad all in black working her (we assume) way down a list of folks who once did something no good very bad and must pay, pay, pay.
Slasher has always astutely had its finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist and “Ripper” is no different, exploring the caste system of the haves and have nots and issues of gender and identity that are still playing out today. “Aaron’s wanted to do period for quite a while. This felt like the right time and it got exciting for us when we found out that we could actually pull it off, because that’s also the challenge,” shares Carpenter.
“And it felt really in tune with the themes that we wanted to talk about, or that we were talking about, which is how we start much of the time. We were very interested in the class conflict that we and many people feel like is going on right now in the world. And it seemed to us that that was never more extreme than back then.”
“There’s the great lie behind the class division there, which you see present in our show, where the high class are traveling to where the low class live all the time, but to do their secret stuff, to do their dirty work and get their rocks off and all that kind of stuff. So it all just sort of lined up for us that this was a way for us to talk about a lot of things that we were interested in and the period excited us big time.”
“I will add to that, too, as horror fans, there’s a reason that there’s so much Victorian material out there because it’s the birthplace of modern horror with Frankenstein. We love that we could do our riffs on Frankenstein. We love that seances and the paranormal in the spirit world were a big part of entertainment at that time. We love the Jack the Ripper of it. We love turning that on its head. So it let us do a lot and flex the vision of Slasher in ways that still felt in accord with the vision of the show.”
This season marks the return of several fan favorite cast members and a handful of new arrivals, and the pair say they start with the structure and then entertain who from their deep repertory bench can come play. “We always start with the character first. We figure out which characters this season needs. So we knew we wanted three sisters. We knew we wanted a brothel and we needed a drag queen in the brothel, and we knew we wanted society people. So we start with all those characters,” says Martin.
“And then of course, the immediate thing we do is we think of the actors that we’ve worked with before and we want to work with over and over again. And then we kind of figure out, ‘Oh, Paula [Brancati] would be amazing to play Vivianna because we know that she can.”
“I’ve worked with Paula for 20 years and I know her range, but we’ve seen her do so many different versions in the show already. This is another new version of a character that we know she would knock out of the park. So that’s how we approach it.”
“And that happens sort of halfway through our breaking [the season], where we’re really starting to sniff out a couple of key people and then that can just be such a pleasure for us, the degree to which you know them. You see that with Paula, you see that with Salvatore [Antonio], who we were aware of having a big drag show at Buddies in Bad Times Theater in Toronto. So we knew he could crush that,” Carpenter points out.
“And then Thom Allison, we tailor-made that [role] for him. There’s so much going on and I don’t know how many people could pull it off. It’s incredible. So that becomes great, great fun, but also too, you do that and then you never know if you’re going to be able to line up people’s schedules and things like that. So it’s very interesting, that whole process.”
A fun wink-nod to Slasher Season 1 is the return to the franchise of [SPOILER ALERT] Steve Byers and Rob Stewart. In their first outing together, Byers played police officer Cam by day and masked killer by night (and sometimes day). Stewart was his verbally abusive priest dad, who Cam eventually claps back at with deadly results. I adore both actors and I stand by my assertion that if the first season hadn’t been as strong as it was and anchored by such a great cast, we wouldn’t be on Season 5 today. In “Ripper,” the duo are again father and son, but with a less murderous vibe, and Martin says reuniting them was fun for them, too.
“That was definitely done on purpose. Once we got Steve, we thought, ‘Well we need his father, so why don’t we just go back and make it just like season one, but in a different version. This time they’re actually both priests.’ It was really exciting to have them both back because they hadn’t been in since season one and hadn’t been brought in in any other seasons,” he shares.
Familiar face Daniel Kash gets to go all in as the increasingly unhinged and drug addicted police commissioner Kashtinsky. “He was a live wire and he was just such a pleasure to see him bring that alive. That was a really tough part to cast,” says Carpenter. “It was our big chase to find someone who could ground that stuff but still have that intrinsic comedy. Watching him work across from the other actors, he was just sort of subtly floating. It was great fun.”
The tentpole casting this season is Toronto native Eric McCormack coming home to gleefully inhabit nasty AF tycoon Basil Garvey, who wields a menacing power over the haves and have nots. Initially suggested by Christina Jennings, CEO at Slasher’s producing company Shaftesbury, Martin and Carpenter loved the idea. And McCormack had a ball.
“I think he was really excited to play an unlikable guy cause he doesn’t get to do it often,” says Martin. “I think if you work in the genre and you love the genre, you know that sometimes people outside of the genre look down at it. And so anytime you get a mega talent who hasn’t really worked in the genre to come in, it just feels like a big get and exciting, because then once they get in there, they realize, and Eric did, just how much fun it is,” Carpenter says.
“I mean this show, for actors, where else do they get to do the peaks and valleys of insanity that are present on Slasher. He jumped at it once he read some of the scripts very early on. He only had two scripts and so he didn’t even know where it was going. He loved it and he was just incredible to work with, for everyone. It was wild because you’d have moments on set where he’d be the sweet, generous, kind, warm, smart guy he is, and then he’d turn and walk on the set and you’re just looking away [because] he’s just so awful.”
After you check out the Slasher: Ripper premiere Thursday, head over to Tubi TV in the U.S, on Friday for Marry, F***, Kill, a new horror feature written by Carpenter and Martin. It’s their third film for the streamer after last year’s reboot of Terror Train and its sequel, Terror Train 2. “It’s a fun horror film that has a bad word in its title,” laughs Martin. “It’s our chance to really play with the paranormal and spirits and possession and things like that,” explains Carpenter. “And it’s our first original on Tubi. We’re excited to see it with the world.”
Check back throughout the season for more of our conversation!
Slasher: Ripper premieres with the first two episodes next Thursday, April 6th, at 9 pm ET on Hollywood Suite and then on demand on April 8th in Canada and streaming on Shudder and AMC+ at 3:01 am ET in the U.S. You can catch last season’s Flesh and Blood on those outlets, too. The first three seasons of Slasher are still on Netflix. Here’s a sneak peek of Ripper. And all our coverage of previous seasons is here.
Photos courtesy of AMC Networks and Aaron Martin.