From Blumhouse Television and executive produced by franchise creator James DeMonaco, Season 2 of the USA Network series The Purge explores how a single Purge night affects the lives of four interconnected characters, over the course of the ensuing year, as it leads up to the next Purge. This season is a deeper dive into what the Purge world looks like on the other 364 days of the year, and what that can do to someone who is either the target, perpetrator or witness of a Purge.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Derek Luke (who plays Marcus Moore, a man with a loving wife, successful career and beautiful house whose seemingly perfect life is interrupted and thrown into a tailspin when an assassin breaks into his house on Purge night) talked about what caught his attention when it came to the world of The Purge, his first introduction to the franchise, the blend of reality and fantasy, how he connected with this character, the Marcus Moore Purge triggers, getting to know his character in between Purge nights, and how often he was surprised by the scripts.
Collider: I’m excited about Season 2, and was very interested in the fact that you’d joined the show this season.
DEREK LUKE: I’m excited that you’re excited. It’s been interesting. I’ve had a couple of epiphanies in my life, in the industry, based on how robust the industry is, how diverse it is, in the sense that you have these new streamers and bingers, and that there are so many different ways for people to get content nowadays. So, I say all of that to say that I’m excited to talk about The Purge.
What drew you to The Purge now? There have been several movies and there’s already been a season of the TV series. What was it about the story in Season 2, specifically, that appealed to you?
LUKE: What comes to my mind is the first trailer that I ever saw for The Purge. I don’t know if I grasped the whole entirety of the storyline, but what I felt was that it was fantasy meets reality. I’ve played reality through drama, but never through fantasy or the Purge world. I’ve done thriller and suspense, but the audience for horror is a finite and cool audience, and also a faithful one. I’ve been thinking about that audience and telling a story in there, but I didn’t know that it would be The Purge. It was a great muscle to exercise because it required a different approach, and that felt fun.
Was this character all on paper, from the beginning, or did you get to have some input into what this character to explore and who he could be?
LUKE: That’s a good question. When it came down to a series arc on television, mentally, I used to feel like I was locked out of knowing. I came from a Netflix show (13 Reasons Why), and maybe I just didn’t think to ask. We’d discuss present scripts, or the script that we were working on, but never the totality of it. So, the only discussion I really had, in the beginning, was with (franchise creator) James DeMonaco, and he was shared with me that he was interested in me, for one of his movies, but that I was busy. I thought that was interesting, and I shared with him that I finally saw one of the movies, while I was in Mexico and on vacation with my family. As soon as I put my son asleep and I was relaxing, all of a sudden, The Purge: Election Year came on. I looked at my wife and I was like, “I think we’re supposed to watch this.” When I saw it, I just loved how you could pull from reality, even though it was fantasy. I thought it had great messaging. James shared that the original was created to have a response to a certain type of violence, and I just thought it was interesting.
This couple seems like just a normal, everyday couple, until this Purge night happens. Were there things about this character that you found yourself most drawn to?
LUKE: Yes. At first, on the page, I was interested in the different triggers in Marcus Moore. Marcus is a family man, but he’s also a guy who didn’t have his priorities intact. Today, we’re so busy that some of what’s happening is that our kids are being left alone and everybody is working. There were a lot of triggers, with Marcus leaving his old neighborhood and going to a new one, for whatever reason. Maybe he thought it was less safe. So, there’s this backdrop where you think one neighborhood or culture is prone to one thing, but then you realize that the world is dealing with pain everywhere. I thought it was interesting that he had a son and that they had a strained relationship, and I wanted to know why, especially in a culture where you don’t get to see a lot of father and son interaction. There were a lot of layers in there, regarding Marcus. And then, there’s also the social media effect. He’s a guy who, for no apparent reason, is being targeted, and I relate that to having a lot of likes on social media. You spend your life being this model citizen, and then, all of a sudden, someone says, “I don’t like you.” Basically, it’s someone’s dislike for him that spins his whole life and turns it upside down. We’re in a culture now where what other people say about you matters more than what do you say about you. I call the horror and thriller of it the Marcus Moore Purge triggers.
It seems like we’re going to get more time with these characters, this season, because we’ll be getting to know them over more than just Purge night. Because we’ll be getting to see them over the whole year in between Purges, do you feel like we’ll have a sense of who these characters are?
LUKE: I believe so. I hope so. I deliberately did not ask the writers much because my understanding was that everybody gets Purged. It was my way of going, “I don’t wanna get Purged, so I’m not gonna talk to you about it.” In our Purge world, I think the audience will get to know more about how our characters and their journeys because he’s basically spending his life, all year, trying to figure out why he’s being targeted, so you get to grow with Marcus, with Esme (Paola Nuñez), with Ben (Joel Allen), and with all of these other characters, and find their humanity and their flaws.
Since you intentionally tried to keep yourself in the dark a bit about all of this, when you were reading the scripts, how often were you surprised with where things went? Without revealing specific spoilers, did you have a moment, or more than one moment, this season, where you were like, “Oh, my god, this is terrifying. How am I going to do this?”?
LUKE: I think I’ve said that from Episode 2, all the way until the last episode that I was in. What was interesting was that, every time I would come to this apex and would feel like I’d just jumped over a huge hurdle, and then, all of a sudden, I’d get dunked under water again. I’d be like, “You guys have gotta be crazy! You’ve gotta be kidding me!”
The Purge Season 2 airs on Tuesday nights on the USA Network.