Interview conducted by Preview editor Greg Shull and other family-friendly media with Revelations creator, writer and executive producer David Seltzer. Seltzer, who began his career penning screenplays for such horror film classics as The Hellstrom Chronicle and The Omen, has now turned to the vivid events that foretell the “end of days” in NBC’s six-week mini-series, Revelations, which premieres April 13.
Greg: Why did you want to do this series?
David: I wanted to do the series because I hadn’t seen it done before. I’m very interested in doing things that are original. I don’t even do sequels on my own pictures even though sometimes it’s always been at the sacrifice of becoming a rich person, which I’m not. But The Omen, for instance, had four sequels or five. The Mountain had a couple. … I search for something I can learn from and that I haven’t seen before. That was the draw. I’ve always been interested in the Bible. I’ve always been interested in science, and I realized … that this was a chance to combine the two in a compelling story.
Greg: What do you hope an audience will get out of it?
David: I hope they get a really wonderful ride on an adventurous, mysterious story. I hope they will feel in some way challenged to think in ways that they don’t always have to or rarely do when they watch a television show. I think it’s going to be provocative because it’s dealing with the actual we actually say the name Jesus Christ, and we talk about the Bible. We talk about specific Scriptures and what they mean. I think an audience will also become aware of the fact that the world really is on the cusp of ending or continuing on and will look at their own faith and their own doubt and their own ability perhaps to affect the outcome of the very dangerous times that we live in.
Greg: Some believe that it’s the success of The Passion of the Christ that has triggered Hollywood to do projects that are linked to Christianity and religion, such as Revelations. Do you agree or disagree and why?
David: I’m certainly aware of the Left Behind books, of the huge audience that was discovered by The Passion of the Christ. I went into this project without reading the Left Behind books, which I have not, and before there was a film called The Passion of the Christ. I think if people are interested in religion now, it’s because of what they see on television with their morning coffee. And actually everybody’s wondering if their children are going to survive to have children of their own in an environment with air that we can breathe and in an environment where we have the freedom to travel where we want to without being worried about somebody blowing us up. It makes me think about religion and wonder if in fact there is a dark side and a light side and if I’m doing everything I can to shine more light rather than create more darkness. In times of fear, people become religious, and I think that’s probably what we’re experiencing right now, more people wanting to come together in a community and find reassurance in a singular belief and also to try and create pictures of it all that they can understand. And I think we’re going to help do that. I may be wrong about all these things, but I’ve been forced to think about it.
Greg: Do you think Hollywood now recognizes the issue of spirituality/Christianity/ religion as being a big money maker after the success of The Passion of the Christ? And could this be the reason that writers and producers, such as yourself, are creating projects like Revelations that appeal to the viewers’ hunger for something spiritual?
David: Well, you’re talking about two different animals. The network is not a writer. What I’m saying is there are two tectonic plates rubbing against each other here. One is commerce, and one is art. I don’t care if they make a nickel on this. I don’t care if I make a nickel on this. That’s not the position that I work from. I think they wouldn’t belong in their jobs if they didn’t see that there’s a huge audience out there and they could get a huge rating and they could then get more for their advertising dollar. ... I’m writing it because I’m thrilled to be able to investigate something in a challenging way, in an illuminating way perhaps that hasn’t been put on television before. There’s no question, although I haven’t asked them, that the commercial aspect to it now looks like it has a lot of potential, and I’m sure that’s part of the driving force of why they’re willing to do it right now.
Greg: How do your personal religious beliefs line up with this presentation of the end times?
David: I think that’s a question that I am going to pass on. I’m not going to pass on it. I do want to give you an answer because I think it’s a good question and an appropriate question, but I’m writing characters, some of whom doubt, some of whom believe, characters who talk of science, characters who talk of the Bible. I’m doing men. I’m doing women. I’m doing old people. I’m doing children. And I don’t know that, as a writer, it’s important to talk about the confines of and I wouldn’t say they’re confines with the way my own life works. I’m a searcher. I’ll say that much. I believe that man’s instinct to find a connection to something ultimately in control of their fate is indigenous, chronic, genetic and inherent. From the first man who developed a prefrontal lobe and buried his child with flowers around it hoping he would go to a better place, it continues to this day. I am fascinated with the very personal ways in which people dialog with their own God, and my mind is open to everything. It’s not closed to any possibility. So I would say that I function here as a writer with a curious mind rather than a man with a belief or a dogma or a need to teach anybody anything.
Greg: I found it interesting that you wanted to bring science and the supernatural together for this. What makes you think the end times might bring those two divergent camps together?
David: Science and theology have always been a part of my life. I’m a science buff. My background is in doing documentaries for the National Geographic Society, for Jacque Cousteau, for the David Wurfel organization, tramping around the world looking at grasshoppers and termites with a close-up lens and also looking at the stars. I do believe that the scientists and the theologians in my scenario are both searching for something higher than the tallest building and beyond the farthest star for an answer to why the things on earth happen. When the Bible predicts that the world will end with a comet in the sky, with the destructive nations, with end of bloodshed, with epidemics and famine, with the rage of the oceans, you do realize that we have reached a time with all the wars going on this planet that we’re on a nuclear bubble, and science is beginning to act and react in a way that perfectly aligns with what’s described as the end of days, not just in Revelations but in John 1 and 2 and in Daniel and Corinthians. The myth, the fable, the prediction of the end of days has been with religious literature from day one, and I think that a scientist and a theologian would have to ultimately come to realize that they’re searching on parallel tracks for very allusive answers, and they’re not connected so much by the answers as they are by the questions. Their questions are probably the same, and their answers, their conclusions, might be different. But I feel that they’re walking the same path, and it feels very natural to connect the two. If you look at the structure of a grasshopper as a scientist, you realize that’s no accident it doesn’t have lungs, it has bellows that suck the oxygen in through its skin the way it’s constructed like a little, mathematical piece of perfection. So, what I’m saying is everywhere you look in science, you would have to be blind to the fact that this is more than some random accident. So to me, it’s natural to think of the two in the same breath.
Greg: The title of the book in the Bible is usually, if not always, translated "Revelation” singular. Why did you call the series Revelations?
David: The book, of course, is called "Revelation,” singular. We decided to call it Revelations to put it into a broader context. There are personal revelations involved with it for our characters. There are revelations of things surrounding the events of our day. There are revelations of the Bible itself. So, revelation meaning enlightenment, I believe we are making it plural because it’s enlightenment on a variety of levels as they pursue the mystery of this story.
Greg: How concerned were you with being biblically or theologically accurate?
David: Our religious advisor is head of the Divinity School at Harvard. There’s nothing we do that doesn’t pass her approval, and I’ve tried to be myself very careful about chapter, verse, book and quotation of the Bible. There’s nothing I’ve credited that’s inaccurate. I have too many people employed to make sure that that doesn’t happen.