After “Lost” ended in 2010, writer/producer Damon Lindelof took a break from television and tackled more obviously science-fiction heavy films, such as “Prometheus,” “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “World War Z.” But now Lindelof is returning to TV as writer, producer and showrunner of “The Leftovers,” HBO’s adaptation of Tom Perotta’s 2011 novel which examines what happens to the world after two percent of the world’s population vanishes in a mysterious, Rapture-like event.
When the “Lost” series finale infamously didn’t solve all of its major mysteries, disappointed viewers were vocal about the show letting some of its sci-fi enigmas go unanswered. But lovers and haters of “Lost” exist in equal abundance (full disclosure: I’m firmly on the side of the fence of people that loved the finale). So at last night’s New York City premiere of “The Leftovers,” I asked Lindelof what the show had to offer fans of his last big series. For example, why he decided to take on another series that seemingly revolves around an unsolvable mystery?
“The things that turn me on, turn me on,” Lindelof said. “Obviously I wouldn’t have done ‘Lost’ for six years if that kind of storytelling didn’t excite me. And there was something about Tom [Perotta’s] book that completely and totally captivated me. It was emotional, it was mysterious, it was surprising, but most importantly, it told a very very intimate story about people that I didn’t feel like I’d seen before.”
Something we have see before, however, is Lindelof’s preference for focusing on the people within his plots. Many defenders of the “Lost” finale point out that the show was always more about the characters and their development, rather than about the intricate meanings of the island, its time travel conundrums or its vision of the afterlife. Lindelof has basically come out and said that “The Leftovers” isn’t going to answer 100 percent of its own questions either; a statement that he perhaps felt he had to make so that people know what they’re getting into. Is that a lesson learned from the “Lost” aftermath?
“It’s not so much a lesson or a faction,” he said. “I do feel that in the DNA of “‘The Leftovers’ is the unapologetic presentation of a world that is about living an unresolved mystery, and the frustrations therein. So I almost think it would be a betrayal to Tom’s book to sort of say, ‘Oh we’re going to answer this or we’re going to answer that.’ But all of the characters are in the show are having the same experience as the audience.”
Something we don’t yet know about “The Leftovers” however is just how much the show will dip into the same science-fiction elements that Lindelof is known for. Christopher Eccleston, who plays a rapture denier on “The Leftovers” (and who is no stranger to sci-fi himself, having starred in first season of the continuation of “Doctor Who” and in NBC’s “Heroes”), thinks that this show is just not going to go there.
“We’re not doing a series about sci-fi, that’s not what this is about,” he said. “This is about human beings and emotion and relationships and identity. So I would be very disappointed if this was tied up in a bow when it end, whenever it ends. I think the only way to be with something like this is ambiguous.”
For those fans of “Lost” who preferred the show for its the examination of the characters, “The Leftovers” might be for you. For those looking for a detailed explanation of exactly what’s going on? Maybe best to look elsewhere.
“The Leftovers” premieres on June 29 on HBO.