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WonderCon 2016: Wayward Pines Season 2 Discussion with M. Night Shyamalan, Blake Crouch, Djimon Hounsou, and Jason Patric

Don’t tell my boss, but I don’t always watch every episode of a show I’m about to do coverage for. I know it’s awful, but with all the great series out there, it’s hard to find time to fit everything into my schedule. If an interview opportunity for a hit show comes up, I’ll try to watch enough to get the general gist, skip to the most recent few episodes, and come up with some good relevant questions.

Luckily, there weren’t many shows at WonderCon this year that I hadn’t already watched. With “Preacher,” “iZombie,” and “Damien” already on my docket, I didn’t feel like I had to scramble to find things worth covering. Unfortunately, the stars and minds behind “Wayward Pines” would also be attending. This was a show I had not yet seen. It also was a show I could not miss covering. So, off I went to my couch, laptop in hand, ready to skip around and take some notes.

Something funny happened after watching the first episode. When the credits finished rolling, I watched the second. And then the third. And the fourth. Ten episodes later, I came out of my trance to realize that I had just binged through “Wayward Pines.” I didn’t even notice. I just wanted to see more.

I had a new appreciation for the critically acclaimed show. It’s difficult to tell a story so complex in so little time. It is a bizarre, deeply compelling, top-notch series. It’s like a “Twin Peaks” that actually makes sense. Still, I was wondering where the story could possibly go from here. It seemed like the big twist was already revealed. I had a chance to speak with the author of the book series, Blake Crouch, and here’s what he had to say on the topic:

*WARNING! THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS IN THEIR ANSWERS! WATCH THE SERIES FIRST IF YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE TWISTS FIRST-HAND!*

Blake: I think it’s funny that some people are thinking, “Cat’s out of the bag!” There’s so much of the world we haven’t seen yet. We really only revealed one big thing in the first season. We know that yes, this is the future and that humans are being slowly reintroduced into this safe zone, but we hardly know anything about how that came to be. We don’t even know what the “Abbies” are. We’ll be getting into that more this season, along with seeing a bit more of the outside world.

He was accompanied by Executive Producer M. Night Shyamalan, who elaborated on their creative process:

M. Night: I’m very adamant about not taking opportunities to reduce the quality of storytelling. If they came to us and said, “Here’s 10 seasons,” we’d say no. When I got together with Blake, it was because I was incredibly excited about bringing this world to life, and I wanted to do it right. This is a three-season show, and we will tell that story in three seasons. We already know the whole arc and how it’s going to go. In Season One, we really just introduce the world. It’s about finding those tent poles that are holding it all up. You don’t know where it’s going exactly, but you can see the structure is leading somewhere. We started with the ending, figured out how many episodes it would take to tell the story, and built it from there. It’s like we’re letting you in on where it’s all going one episode at time, not just finding more people on the island.

M. Night Syamalan and Blake Crouch

They both went on a bit to explain how they felt the show fit into the world of television:

Blake: I’m a bit jealous of procedural shows. They already know how they are going to structure each individual episode. That formula is safe, but it would be impossible for “Wayward Pines.” We have to almost reinvent the wheel each episode. Every episode has a point, a big revelation we lead up to, and we have to tell that naturally and appropriately. It has to be unique every time, since each of the reveals is unique. It wouldn’t feel right to have a formula.

M. Night: Exactly right. When we first got greenlit, it was as a 10-episode event series. We didn’t know if we would get a second season, but that didn’t change how we approached it. We knew what we wanted to tell in Season One, but telling the whole story would take three. I think the first season is great, but it’s definitely just a piece of the whole story. If we didn’t get renewed, it would have just sucked for everyone. It was a risky decision, but ultimately one we had to make to tell the story right.

M. Night Shyamalan

It’s clear the creators of the show care about it. This is Blake’s world come to life, and M. Night is doing all he can to make sure that vision is properly realized. It makes for some interesting situations for the actors. New series star Djimon Hounsou has a bit to say about this:

Djimon: It’s a bit surreal walking onto the set. It’s so creepy, like its own little world. We’ve only shot the first couple of episodes, and we don’t get our scripts until right before, so there’s a lot of uncertainty. The whole thing feels a bit like a roller coaster that you’re not really sure about. The quality of the writing is great though, so I’m enjoying the ride. It’s actually kind of nice; I couldn’t spoil anything even if I wanted to.

Fellow new series star Jason Patric had more to add:

Jason: Not getting the scripts too early is key to how we act. I haven’t watched the first series. It’s appropriate, since my character just woke up and is totally new to this world. I really try to bring that to life. Sometimes there will be a part of a script, something that he does that just feels jarring given his newness to the world, and the writers have been very receptive to working on those pieces. It’s been great having a role I can really work on getting so right.

Jason Patric and Djimon Hounsou

These two Hollywood stars have been in films their entire career, so I was curious as to their switch to television. I asked them what they thought this said about the state of television and film. Jason had a lot to say on the issue:

Jason: I think it says more about the state of film. People might not realize this, but all of these people working on a film are doing it for one day. One Friday where the movie releases and the amount of asses it puts in seats will come up with a box office number that dictates whether or not the movie was a success. It’s all about that one day. To make that happen, plots have to be boiled down to what can be explained in a 15-second trailer. It has to all be written, directed, paced, and styled around blowing up on one Friday. The movies that I loved as a kid that made me want to be an actor, the movies I made as a young mind like After Dark, My Sweet and Rush, those aren’t those kinds of movies. I mean, think about it; you want to talk horror movies? I was talking to William Friedkin a few years back, and The Exorcist opened in just 26 theaters. He had the projectionists’ numbers so he could call them and tell them to tweak the volume or picture. It blew up after that, but it built itself up from that. Today that film would be opened on 4,500 screens, and it would be determined in one day. That’s why film is losing real talent to television. Really creative actors and directors want more out of a script than what will get people in 15 seconds.

It’s not an inaccurate statement. There was more star power in that room than for any other show I’ve covered before. If shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad” have taught us anything, it’s that mature, complex storylines sell incredibly well as television. It’s still unclear if “Wayward Pines” will be ranked up there with the other all-time greats, but it’s certainly off to a good start after Season One. Check out Season Two when it premieres May 25th on Fox.

Wayward Pines

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Ted Hentschke