There's no shark in ABC's new series The Gates, but that's about the only creature missing from the show, about a gated community whose residents have supernatural powers that make them resemble vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein monsters and more. Star Frank Grillo sees his character as the show's Martin Brody, the sheriff played by Roy Scheider in the movie Jaws.
"That was part of my research," Grillo said in a group interview last week in Burbank, Calif. "That's exactly the movie. I went back, and I watched Scheider and I did all of my research based on Roy Scheider. When I read the script that's what I thought about this guy, that he didn't know."
Like Jaws, The Gates builds slowly before revealing its creatures.
"My character, I'm a Chicago homicide detective who gets himself in a bit of a jam in Chicago, and I decide to retire and take my family to The Gates," Grillo explained. "I get offered this job at The Gates. Basically it's a community, if you can imagine Bel Air, it's got its own schools. It's more or less a security guard job. It's the chief of police, but I consider it almost a retirement thing just so my family's safe. Very early on, things start to happen that don't add up. By about episode five, something is revealed. If you could imagine discovering Superman is real, it's something that outlandish where's you're like wow."
But the show won't be a complete tease, Grillo promised. (Some of the promos reveal co-star Rhona Mitra with sharp vampiric teeth.) "Oh no, you get to see it," he said. "The audience gets to see it almost immediately. They're not monsters. They're supernatural, but they all want to maintain their anonymity and they want to be human. So they've created this place, a sanctuary for themselves and not to reveal themselves, because they all have children and they want their children to be human beings. So it's crucial for them to keep their secrets as it is for me. I learn bits and pieces. The audience knows much more than I do which is fun."
That's where Martin Brody comes in. He wasn't a shark hunter: He was just the Amity police chief who had to figure out what was really going on in the ocean. "That's right, that's exactly what happens. I'm coming from a checkered past. I have demons, and I'm in a bit of a moral dilemma, which is why I'm there, and I'm concerned more with my wife and my kids fitting in. This is easy work for me. I was a homicide detective in Chicago, so this is kind of like a cushy job. They supply me with a house. I'm living in a community I'd never normally live in, and then it just kind of unravels. Like, 'That's strange! And that's strange. Did I leave Chicago to get into it more?'"
The Gates is scheduled to air 13 episodes over the summer. "By the way, I have the whole arc of the story and what happens by the end is just jaw-dropping," Grillo teased. "Here's the deal: In the pilot, again, you kind of get morsels of it. Nothing's ever overtly displayed. You just kind of get bits and pieces to keep the mystery of it. You get a sense. You get a sense right away."
The Gates premieres June 20 on ABC.