HBO’s upcoming drama “The Leftovers” is Damon Lindelof‘s first TV series since “Lost” ended in 2010, and its premise involves characters dealing with an unexplained and traumatic event. So, yeah, the comparisons to his former show — and any residual bad feelings among fans about how “Lost” ended and questions it did or didn’t answer — are going to happen.
There is one big difference between the two, though: “The Leftovers,” based on Tom Perrotta‘s novel about a Rapture-like event that causes 2 percent of the world’s population to vanish, doesn’t really hold forth the promise to answer what happened to those people.
“I do think that our answer to it is fairly simple, which is, you know, just watch the show,” Lindelof says at the TCA winter press tour on Thursday (Jan. 9). “Hopefully, what you’re going to care about when you watch the show more and more is how are these characters basically dealing with this situation, in terms of living with this world and interacting with each other, and less about what happened and where everybody went and why — although there will be characters in the show who are concerned with those things.”
“Lost” and other shows that followed it that had a central mystery “built into the DNA of the premise,” Lindelof notes, also featured “characters who are actively engaged in determining why it happened and how. You’re promising the audience that you’re going to give them that answer.
“These characters on this show … are not actively searching for what happened in the departure. They’re actively searching for what they’re supposed to do in their lives. And, hopefully, that’s what the storytelling is going to echo.”
Perrotta is an executive producer of the series and is working in the writers’ room as well. He says he’s excited to see where the show’s story leads, whether it’s depicting events from his book or not.
“When I finish a book, I’m finished with the book,” Perrotta says. “What’s been really interesting about being in the writers’ room is having this opportunity, along with Damon and the other writers, to re-imagine this — not only what comes next, but what’s in the book.”
Lindelof says that he and the writers work on the assumption that viewers will not have read “The Leftovers” so as not to make people “feel like they’re left out.” That’s not to say, though, that there won’t be anything for fans of Perrotta’s work in the series.
“There are clearly deviations between the book and the series that we have to do because we’re building a television series that could potentially go beyond the first season and extend well beyond the book,” Lindelof says. “And then there are just beautiful things in the book that absolutely have to happen in the series, and as storytellers, we just have to figure out when the appropriate time to do those things is. And hopefully, the readers of the book will go, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah. I remember that.’ But we want to make the show as accessible to as many people as humanly possible.”
“The Leftovers” will premiere later this year on HBO.