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Hulu's 'Shut Eye' Examines The Secret Lives Of L.A.'s Psychics

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You’ve seen the storefront signs all over town: tarot card readers, palm readers, mediums and psychic advisors. And if you’re like us, one of the first things you ask is, “How can they afford that rent?” Shut Eye, a new series from Hulu, explores the world of psychics in L.A. through a mix of dark comedy and the surreal. Mix in a Romani (Gypsy) syndicate and regular gangster plotlines for a quirky series that explains how shadier psychics operate (and afford their digs).

Shut Eye stars Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) as Charlie Haverford, a fake psychic and con man, who begins to experience real visions. At the outset of the series, Charlie’s a company man for the Romani, who’ve cornered L.A.’s medium market. Kadee Strickland (Private Practice) plays Linda, Charlie’s spitfire wife, who runs their household and operations with one hand while holding her husband’s balls in the other.

Although fans of Donovan’s Michael Westen—his CIA operative character from Burn Notice—might be enticed to check out an episode or two of Shut Eye, the show's women and the plot’s twisty surprises are reasons to stick around for a few more.

“Les Bohem, wrote the most beautiful female characters from a perspective that’s less about being a woman and more about being just a completely rich, invested person that you want to know more about. They just happen to be women,” Strickland told us at the show’s recent Hollywood premiere. “I’m super excited to be such a part of a progressive writer’s mind.”

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In describing the Haverfords, Strickland added, “I would say the dynamic of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth play quite a part in who Linda and Charlie are. That whole ‘woman behind the man that’s turning the screws,’ I think there’s a lot of that.”

Rounding out a top-notch cast are David Zayas (Dexter) as Eduardo, Charlie’s client and a local gangster; Mel Harris (Thirtysomething) as a wealthy woman who becomes a target of Charlie and Linda’s long con; Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage) as Gina, a mysterious hypnotist with real skills; Angus Sampson as Fonzo, the leader of the Romani organization; and the superb Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet) as Rita, Fonzo’s mom and the matriarch of the entire clan.

Rossellini said she wasn’t inundated with scripts or projects when she started looking for work (how is this even possible, Hollywood???), but she found that the comical darkness and the surreal aspects of Shut Eye drew her to the series. “It just seemed like an interesting story, the characters were wonderful, the story was intriguing...I think we’re all intrigued by that world of fortune telling because we never know if it’s true or a scam, so it offered the opportunity to many different stories.”

When taking the role of Rita, Rossellini said she studied one particular performance to help her prep. “I watched The Godfather,” she said. “I thought Marlon Brando had done such a fantastic job, so I had looked at it again...is there anything I could learn from the great master? And he played this wonderful grandfather—caressing a little kitten, playing with the grandchildren, being very generous and being attentive to everybody—and yet a murderer.

“I thought, of course, if you are very nasty all the time, people back away from you. You have to lure them in...so I copied him.”

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Although Shut Eye is set in L.A. and the Valley, the city doesn’t really play a huge factor in the show. (It was filmed in Vancouver, after all.) In fact, many of the cast members say that the world of Shut Eye could be anywhere. “[Psychic storefronts] are all over the streets in New York, too,” Harris said. “There’s a wonderful series of articles in the New York Times about my character’s very predicament. Not about my character, but it’s true: People are being taken for lots and lots of money.

“I mean, don’t you find, though that situations that people say it’s only New York or it’s only L.A., really they’re much more common all across our country?”

Only time—and not a fortune teller—will tell whether Shut Eye resonates with viewers in L.A. and New York and the places in between.

In doing something a little different than its normal weekly release strategy, Hulu made all 10 episodes of Shut Eye available this week to add to the holiday viewing binge.