How Chucky Creator Don Mancini Approaches Killing Devon Sawa Every Season

How Chucky Creator Don Mancini Approaches Killing Devon Sawa Every Season

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Chucky Season 3.5. If you have not yet seen the first two episodes in the run, proceed at your own risk.

If you’re a Chucky fan, the big final moment of the Season 3.5 premiere probably felt inevitable on a certain level. Since the start of the show, characters played by Devon Sawa have repeatedly met with grisly deaths, and the fact that he’s most recently been playing the President Of The United States still never made him feel “safe.” Killing Sawa off has now very much become a thing in the series, and it’s developed in part thanks to planning and preparation by Chucky creator Don Mancini.

In anticipation of Chucky Season 3.5 launching last week, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Mancini, and our wide-ranging conversation at one point touched on the fate of President James Collins – who is killed when Chucky drives his hands into his face and plucks out his eyeballs. I asked how the filmmaker prepares for Sawa’s regular on-screen deaths, and he told me about the origin of the latest violent horror:

I basically have a whole file. I mean, I have a whole file of kills and potential kills, you know, Chucky-related and not, but now I also have a distinct file of potential Devon Sawa kills. The one you cited though, the one where Chucky gouges his eyes out, that was the idea of our writer Amanda Blanchard. That was her idea. And I loved it because I think it's so personal, because it's Chucky using his own hands. And that had been done to him sort of in Season 1 when Jake squeezed him and he just went 'Blah,' which I loved.

To date, Devon Sawa has played four characters who have met grisly fates in Chucky. His first death at the hands of the titular killer doll was in the pilot, with Luke Wheeler being electrocuted. In the penultimate episode of Season 1, Logan Wheeler was beaten to death, with Chucky himself used as the cudgel. In the seventh episode of Season 2, Father Bryce full on exploded after being possessed by Charles Lee Ray post-exorcism.

Clearly Don Mancini and his fellow Chucky writers get a giggle out of murdering the former Final Destination star, but Mancini also gives Devon Sawa a lot of credit for how great those various scenes are. After all, it’s Sawa’s performance that is bringing life to the violence. The writer continued,

We're always trying to challenge his actorly.... I mean, I'm not even saying this completely as a joke 'cause it's like, one of the things in the horror genre that you do and that you often ask actors to do is to portray death. And depending on the actor, I think it's fair to say that for almost any actor, that is physically exhausting and maybe emotionally as well. And you have to respect that. And I think asking an actor to portray their death, it feels a little sacred. Because you want it to be good. The acting needs to be good, and I think that sometimes maybe we take that for granted. But I think some of our favorite kills in the horror genre, it's not just the special effects, but also the acting behind them.

Old Chucky kills President Collins on Chucky

(Image credit: SyFy/USA)

It’s fun and funny to see Chucky do what he does best, but an actor’s performance adds weight that makes his actions disturbing and scary. It’s a crucial piece along with great writing, amazing puppeteering and gnarly make-up and effects (Don Mancini gave a special shout-out to François Dagenais, who worked on the dummy of President James Collins that gets his eyes gouged out.

Not only is it wild to see a death via enucleation (a word Don Mancini taught me), but it ends up being a smart move for the show’s eponymous doll given the events that play out in the subsequent episode, “Panic Room.” When Chucky makes his way down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center with the intention of nuking the world, he just so happens to need President Collins eyeball for a retina scan:

Amanda had this idea that Chucky would just use his hands, you know, 'cause you're thinking, 'How can make it worse than what we've done before?' So she had this idea, and I loved that. But part of it, it just seemed logical that you are gonna wanna enucleate, that's the word, enucleate him. And it's almost a little Beetlejuice-y. 'Oh, I'll save that guy for later.'

Just like all of Season 3 thus far, it’s all quintessential Chucky. The series is in the midst of its best run yet, and new episodes are airing every Wednesday at 10/9c on both SyFy and USA. If you need to catch up with the show (and you definitely should catch up), you can stream every episode thus far with a Peacock subscription.