Damon Lindelof returns to the world of television later this year with a novel concept — literally and figuratively. The Lost co-creator is adapting Tom Perotta’s 2011 bestseller The Leftovers into an HBO drama series (starring Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler, and Amy Brenneman, among others) that follows the residents of New Jersey town three years after a rapture-like event whisked away 140 million people across the globe. Pick up a copy of EW’s 2014 Preview Issue to steal a glance at a script page from the first episode, which is being directed by Peter Berg (who is also an executive producer on the show). Below, Lindelof reveals more about this highly anticipated disappearing act.
On his decision to make another TV show and what attracted him to The Leftovers
“When Lost was ending, the two questions were: ‘What are your feelings about the ending of Lost?’ And ‘What’s next?’ The way I was answering the ‘What’s next?’ question was, ‘I don’t really want to think about it right now — I just want to enjoy this process,’ but the truth was ‘I don’t know if I can ever do another television show again because I’m so terrified that it’ll be just so much less than Lost,’ and I didn’t quite know any classy way of articulating that idea…. I went off into movie-ville with no real strong feelings about whether or not I was going to do TV again. I’m fairly monogamous when it comes to whatever project I’m working on, so I spent a year working on Prometheus and nothing else and then I spent a year working on Star Trek: Into Darkness. And then I was reading The New York Times Book Review – which is the way that I pretend to read books; I read the reviews of the books and then I can articulately pretend like I’ve read them — and Stephen King wrote a review of The Leftovers, which he described as the best episode of The Twilight Zone that had never been shot. I was a Perotta fan. I read Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher and just on the premise alone [of The Leftovers]. I was completely and totally engaged by this idea. I ran and got the book immediately and I got maybe 50 pages in before I decided: This should be a television show and I need to collaborate with Tom [Perotta, who is an exec producer] on that show. It took a year for things to sort themselves out but there was never any doubt as to like, ‘Should this be my next project?’ It was love at first sight.”
On the show’s set-up
“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.
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