Posted on Thursday, January 9th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
Since Damon Lindelof left Twitter, he’s noticeably less a part of the public dialogue about entertainment. Which was the point after the venom he received for contributions to Prometheus and Star Trek Into Darkness. Part of his absence, too, is that he’s working on a brand new show for HBO called The Leftovers. Now he’s ready to share some details about it.
Based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, the show takes place in a New York town three years after 140 million people worldwide mysteriously disappeared. Was the disappearance based in science? Was it religion? How will it change how people live their lives? Lindelof talks about all that and more below, as he describes the show saying “if Lost and Friday Night Lights had a baby and then that baby was severely neglected, that would be The Leftovers.”
Lindelof’s quotes come from the new issue of Entertainment Weekly. There’s lots more there, including how he first got the idea to make the book a series, but here are some highlights.
Describing the set-up of the show:
You’ve got this big, crazy, supernatural — potentially spiritual — idea that informs every episode of the show that we’ll ever make, which is that this thing happened, this sudden departure of 140 million people which depending on what side of it you’re on, could be the Rapture. There could be some yet-as-undetermined scientific explanation for it, but still it’s miraculous. The traditional way of telling this story is you’re in immediate aftermath of this event. It’s all that anyone can talk about. Dropping into these people’s lives three years later and saying ‘This is the moment in which they get back to their lives as they were or they decide that they can’t get back to their lives as they were,’ that’s a much more interesting idea. So all decisions that the characters are making is informed by a supernatural idea, but the show is not presenting ongoing supernatural phenomena. You’re not looking at the sky seeing dragons like you are in Game of Thrones. Mulder and Scully are are not showing up and knocking on doors. But this idea of the elephant in the room of the Departure informs everything that’s happening on this show, and I felt that that was a fairly unique thing that I hadn’t really seen before on TV.
The vibe of the series:
This is going to be a show about sudden and abrupt loss and more importantly, what will at least in its initial presentation seem to be one that you can’t receive closure from. If someone dies, that’s a horrible thing and they must be mourned. But in this instance, you don’t even know if you’re supposed to mourn who’s been departed because they could be walking through your door tomorrow, or you could be zapped up or down or sideways to wherever they are. So this lack of understanding as to what just occurred is the most pervasive feeling, not just in the moment that it happens but certainly three years later when the story starts.
And, of course, the quintessential Lindelof question. Does he have an ending?
The answer is yes, but I think that there is a fair amount of hubris in planning too far ahead, because we don’t know if anyone’s going to watch the show or if there’s going to be a second season of the show. If the first season works and we like it and the audience likes it — and most of all, HBO likes it — then it will be time to start having conversations about how long this story should be, and in parentheses I would put: Not as long as you’d think. I don’t want to go into this with the attitude of we’re just going to keep writing this show until we don’t want to write it anymore. Particularly with a premise like this one, I really do feel that it should be finite. What that means exactly is a conversation for another day, but everybody involved agrees with that idea creatively. It’s not a show that can go on for many, many, many years.
Head over to EW to read more from the writer/producer, including how The Leftovers will borrow from The Simpsons and Peter Berg directing the pilot. The Leftovers will premiere Summer 2014. Also, here’s our first look at star Justin Theroux in the series.
Lindelof also has the 2015 release, Tomorrowland, in the works with director Brad Bird.