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Geena Davis envisions ‘Exorcist’ as ‘the scariest TV show ever’

Geena Davis plays a hotel exec and mom on "The Exorcist." | Fox

Geena Davis remembers when she first saw the 1973 film “The Exorcist” — and she’s not the only one.

“Everybody I’ve ever spoken to remembers and remembers very vividly seeing it for the first time,” the Oscar winner says on the Chicago set of “The Exorcist,” her new Fox TV series. “They can also tell you when, where and sometimes even what they were wearing — and who they went to see it with. I don’t think you can say that about too many films.”

Davis’ own vivid memory was of seeing it “when I was a kid at a drive-in with my friend’s family.” Laughing loudly, she says, “My parents would have freaked out if they knew what I had watched that night. It really is the scariest movie ever. Our goal is to make this the scariest TV show ever.”

On the series, Davis’ character, Angela Rance, is a woman juggling a lot of issues.

“She’s a very high-power executive, running a major hotel in Chicago,” she says. “Her husband had an accident, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury. My oldest daughter was in a horrible car accident where her friend was killed, and she suffered a serious injury, which has ruined her dancing career.

“And then,” Davis adds with just the right dramatic oomph, “these demons start showing up. Yes, I’d say poor Angela has a lot to deal with.”

While the name of the hotel was changed for the show, Davis says she “absolutely loved playing the general manager of the Drake Hotel. It is the most incredible place! After we filmed there, I said, ‘Gee, can I stay here tonight?’ ”

Turning to the demonic possession issues in “The Exorcist,” Davis shares a conversation she had early in the filming process with Ben Daniels, the English actor who plays Father Marcus Keane, the priest who long has administered exorcisms around the world.

“One thing I learned from Ben was that every civilization has beliefs regarding possession — the idea that something can get inside you and take possession of you and your soul. In a way, it is scary to think about that.”

Another thing she learned: “While there are many, many tests that have to be performed before a bishop can give the OK for an exorcism to be performed, there are, in fact, hundreds of exorcisms performed all over the U.S. every year. I think that’s amazing.”

Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker also works as an entertainment reporter for Fox 32 News.