'The Killing': Exec producer Veena Sud spills secrets on TV's new hit mystery

Carole Segal/AMC

AMC has already found success in taking viewers inside the unique worlds of a 1960s advertising agency (Mad Men), a dying crystal-meth cooker (Breaking Bad), and a group of survivors battling zombies (The Walking Dead). Now the cable channel has delved into the murder-mystery genre with The Killing (airing Sundays at 10 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. CT), which follows the twisty and grim murder investigation of 17-year-old Seattle teen Rosie Larsen. Exec producer Veena Sud had just finished five seasons writing for the CBS’ procedural Cold Case but was instantly drawn to this adaptation of the Danish series Forbrydelsen. “I heard that phrase The Killing and I said ‘I’m in,’” says Sud. “I love how dark and raw that title is, and ditto on the material. It was wonderfully addictive, great storytelling and an awesome female lead.” The same could be said for the American version, which logged AMC’s second-highest premiere ratings ever. EW talked to Sud about The Killing’s central mystery, comparisons to Twin Peaks, and what season 2 would look like.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How closely does this hew to the original series?
Our version of The Killing uses the original series foundation — three stories, one murder, one episode, one day. We took the framework of the original, which was phenomenal storytelling, and used some of the shorter arcs and the longer arcs in their storytelling but started to just riff. After the pilot, just started to kind of go off in our own direction.

So the three storylines you’re talking about are the police investigation, the political campaign, and the parents of Rosie?
Yes. So it’s almost like high and low. It’ the upper echelons of the city’s power machinations — the politicians; the middle managers of the city — the cops; and ground zero — the city of the family of the slain child.

Is the killer the same as in the original version?
We have a different killer. It’s a really delicate house of cards sustaining a mystery for 13 hours. Knowing that we weren’t going to go to that same place that [the original series] did, we had to create our own twists and turns.

When you started this, did you come up with the killer first and then back track?
With this story because it’s so deeply character based, we really ended up saying, “Let’s not be married to the idea of [blank] as the murderer, and let’s walk in these people’s shoes. Let’s walk in the vicitm’s shoes, the cops’ shoes, and see where that path takes us.” So it was the polar opposite of knowing the end.

Will we get flashbacks to Rosie?
No. You’ll never see flashbacks. The only time we’ll see the dead girl alive is in photographs or in the real things you would have if someone passed away. That was a decision we batted back a lot because flashbacks are so incredibly effective. I really wanted to be faithful to walking in the detective’s shoes. So the detective never gets flashbacks. We gave ourselves that challenge. It’s actually really hard. How do you create an affinity for this person you’ve never known?

Were you ever concerned about how dark this show is and people tuning in?
No. I mean I’ve always been drawn to dark material. Any sort of authentic experience is what we seek as TV viewers. I’m sure at one point ER seemed to be too dark and Homicide seemed to be too dark. But I think as long as you tell a true story, people will come. We do want real experiences and real connections and not artificial kind of closure and artificial endings.

Will we find out the killer before episode 13?
I can’t [say]. It ruins the mystery.

There have been comparisons to Twin Peaks. What do you think about that?
I have never seen Twin Peaks. I heard that. I assumed because we’re set in Seattle and there’s a young girl that’s been murdered, I think maybe it’s natural people would compare shows because you don’t often see, dark, brooding cop shows set in Seattle. I guess there’s two of us now.

What can you tease about the rest of the season going forward?
One thing we’ll be seeing is that every single one of our characters has our secrets. Under the microscope of a murder investigation, no one’s secret remains safe. That includes the family, Sarah Linden, Darren Richmond, and that includes the victim. One of the big questions we’re gonna start thinking about as the series progresses is: How well do you ever really know anybody? You think you know your wife. You think you know your best friend. You think you know your child. But do you really?

What would season 2 be?
I can’t say without giving it away. But the great pleasure of writing The Killing is to get to take all the tropes and clichés and formulas and either riff off of them or throw them out the window. That is the mindset I’ve had from the very beginning. There is no formula. There is no endpoint. Let’s see where this story takes us. If I don’t know the end, then no one else will guess it. Having said that, there’s a deeply satisfying and shocking ending to this story.

Comments (44 total) Add your comment
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  • joey

    I love this show. AMC is on a roll.

    • Kristen

      Agree! This is definitely keeping me satisfied while I wait for Breaking Bad to come back.

      • Amanda

        Before you commit to this autnevdre read some of the other posts, particularly the one from Donna , dated May 12.It’s quite likely that you will be subjected to high pressure sales tactics. Sometimes the salesperson accepts your no , most times they’re going to pressure you. Expect to see at least 2 salespersons, sometimes 3. Everyone will have a better deal. The longer you delay, the better the price. As far as price goes, you can always get it cheaper on the internet, particulary from Ebay. Look at ebay.com, and search for Grandview timeshare. You will see what people actually are willing to pay when there’s no high pressure sales talk.If you feel you can stand up to the pressure, then give it a shot.REMEMBER, if you do sign anything and have second thoughts, cancel ASAP!!Also remember that the salesperson will basically say anything to get you to buy. If the promises are not contained in your contract, you won’t get them.

    • KwadGuy

      If only they had kept Rubicon. But I agree: With this show they’ve seemingly hit another one out of the park. I’ll take Rubicon + The Killing + The Walking Dead + Breaking Bad over (WAY over) the net offerings on any other cable network, or over the offerings of any single network. How long can they keep this up?!

    • Juneau

      With the news of Mad Men & Breaking Bad delays, this is a welcome distraction. I’m hanging on every scene and like the tag line said, I’m bummed when each episode ends.

    • Juneau

      And there was a show on in the mid 90s called Murder One. In the first season, they solved 1 murder over a network TV season (23 episodes). It was told primarily from the defense law firm perspective and it was brilliant. They never could get a following and in the 2nd season they threw in 2 other sub murder mysteries. It didn’t work and the show was cancelled, but both Seasons are on DVD and definitely worth a look from anyone enjoying The Killing.

      • ty

        Season 1 of Murder One was fantastic, but I did not really enjoy the second season. The second season felt like a different show.

  • J

    Ditto Joey, only network that is turning out quality programming besides Showtime and HBO (and even they dont get it as consistently as AMC)

    • joey

      And its free!

    • ty

      @J check out the shows on FX. Justified is one of the best shows out there. Sons of Anarchy is also great. Even the show that get cancelled are really good (Lights Out and Terriers).

  • Steve

    Uh, ‘Twin Peaks,’ while set in Washington state, is not set in Seattle. The town ‘Twin Peaks’ is in Washington state, right on the border between Washington and another state (not sure if it was Idaho or Oregon, but given the number of times characters made easy jaunts into Canada, I’d be willing to be it was Idaho). The fact that Ronette Pulaski, the girl who was with Laura Palmer when she was killed, is found having crossed state lines is why the FBI is brought in (once a crime crosses state lines, the crime becomes federal).

    • The Man

      Not buying her claim that she’s never seen Twin Peaks. Gimme a break. There are too many parallels.

      • Steve

        I agree. And even if she hasn’t seen the show, she has no doubt seen pictures or production stills or clips of the show somewhere. And from those materials, it is easily discernible that ‘Twin Peaks’ is set in a rural logging town and not in Seattle.

      • tracy bluth

        @Steve again, so true. Or at least seen the “Who Killed Laura Palmer” tag line.

      • Cece

        Never seen Twin Peaks? Mother, please!

      • elle

        I have never seen Twin Peaks? Kinda before my time, keep hearing about it…… is it worth viewing now?

    • Brooke

      Well, she DID say she’s never seen it. From her response and the way she didn’t mention the “Who killed ___?” tagline I’d believe she knows nothing about it.

      • Ed

        @ Brooke: The show is based on another show (basically an American remake of a foreign show)), maybe the writers of that show saw Twin Peaks.

    • tracy bluth

      Yeah, my first thought was “Wait, Twin Peaks wasn’t set in Seattle…”
      There are definitely similarities between this show and Twin Peaks, but I enjoy both shows immensely. I would recommend anyone who enjoys The Killing (or, really, anyone who likes great television) watch the first season of Twin Peaks RIGHT NOW. You can skip the second one though.

    • S.L.

      Right, actually I’ve never seen Twin Peaks either but it’s not like I don’t know what that series is like (thematically, visually, atmospherically, etc.). And even I thought The Killing was evocative of Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks is just such an iconic piece of tv that it feels disingenuous to claim complete ignorance of it, especially if you work on the creative side of the tv industry.

    • tom

      Twin Peaks was good but unsustainable. It really had no beginning and no end. Nothing ever got solved. If they pull this on Killing, it will be done.
      They can’t make a long run on one mystery, people will get turned off and tune out.

  • Lisa

    This show grinds to a halt whenever the storyline moves away from the detectives, the investigation and Rosie’s family to anything involving Darren Richmond’s campaign. It’s still a good show and anything with Michelle Forbes always manages to be interesting.

    • bamalam

      the only thing I’m hating is the inevitible “I’m calling off the wedding because she isn’t moving to be with her fiance soon enough” and the whole “my stepfather isn’t my real father” thing

      • AB

        I agree. It’s very forced. Maybe because the actors in this storyline have no chemistry. And the child actor playing the son is one dimensional.

    • Iniceboy

      Looking at how badly some shows like The Event are sliding so soon after retnrniug from a three month hiatus. I hope this reminds the networks that you can’t expect audiences to pick up a serialized show in the middle of its run. The ratings are most likely going to slide just like Flashforward did last year -mainly because audiences don’t want to invest into a show that they believe is going to get cancelled! NBC really needs to do a better job with it’s scheduling -it’s been horrendous this year.

  • Janna

    This show is the best cop/murder mystery show I have ever seen. The pacing is incredible, and it feels so real. AMC has done it again!

  • Cindy

    It is a good show. But it reminds me a little of the problem that Prison Break had after the prisoners broke out of prison. How do they sustain the show after the mystery is solved? Or, do they let it drag on for years?

    • S.L.

      The original Danish series focused on one murder case per season. Each episode, like Sud mentions, is one day in the investigation.

    • Katy

      Maybe they just solve another mystery people get killed everyday.

  • Buddymoore

    I have never seen anything, movie or television, that has kept me on the edge of my seat like this show has.

  • Fred

    Love this show! In some type of film noir way, it reminds me of Moonlight with Alex O’Loughlin….I know, really different shows but the vibe just feels the same.

  • Snsetblaze

    I love this show. Watching Michelle Forbes makes me tear up. The hubby likes it too and he doesn’t ususally go for this type of program.

  • yless

    I’m disappointed with the ordinary story and slow pace. The lead actress speaks in a monotonous slow way thats sleep inducing. Michelle Forbes is the only reason I’m sticking with this show,what a great actress!Prime Suspect was the best cop show on TV ever.

  • Katy

    This show is really great, I love it.

  • sharon

    bravo amc awsome shows the killing ,walking dead great shows .

  • Barbara JS

    I was mezmerized watching all the episodes last night (April 17). I’d saved them up thinking there would be only one or so more; I’m delighted to know we have so many yet to see. It is an excellent series with fine acting. The suspense slowly builds until I find my fists clenched and realize I’ve been oblivious to what’s going on around me. I’m definitely a captivated audience.

    More please.

  • Heidi

    Does anyone know what the storyline was in the danish version? It won’t be spoiling per se because Veena Sud said it will be a different murderer and they only used the basic framework of the original.

    • Sam

      The pelican trainer did it.

    • Sam

      In the Danish version the pelican trainer did it.

  • tom

    I love the show but if we are not going to find out who killed Rosie, this season, I done.

    I will not invest so much time, like I did with Lost, just to be yanked around.

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