Co-creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, director/executive producer Mimi Leder, and actors Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Amy Brenneman and Scott Glenn spoke at a “For Your Consideration” panel for Emmy voters the Friday before the series finale. The audience at the Metrograph Theater in New York was treated to an early screening of the episode, followed by a talk hosted by critic Matt Zoller Seitz.
Here are a few of the highlights from the discussion about what co-creator Tom Perrotta described as “the least-apocalyptic apocalypse show ever.”
The orgy scene in Season 3 Episode 5 was, ah, carefully planned.
“Nicole Kassell, who directed that episode, had this fantastic chart of little figures in positions,” revealed Carrie Coon. “She’d be like, ‘Can you put that couple in position #17?’ and they’d go over and set them like that.”
There weren’t many rules to making the show — but there was one important one.
On Kevin's repeated deaths and whether the audience should take it at face value, Justin Theroux shared, "Damon would always have some sort of scientific explanation for why I'd be able to survive, but it still lives in a gray area."
Lindelof expanded, “The rule has always been, at least internally, if 2 percent of the world has disappeared, then 2 percent of the show can be supernatural. And the other 98 percent had to be real-world grounded. But because of the 2 percent disappearing, there would be a lot of confusion over what was real and what wasn’t. Hopefully it doesn’t matter as much to the audience as Do I care about what’s happening as if it were real?”
Nora’s final monologue about the “other world” is just that for a reason.
Perrotta explained the scene’s lack of visual accompaniment: “We just wanted it to be a story. The show is a lot about faith and you don’t need to have faith in things that you’ve seen; you need to have faith in things that someone has told you. We wanted to end the show with a test of faith not just for Kevin, but for the people that are watching.”
And you’ll have to decide if she or Damon is telling the truth.
Lindelof, who’s been adamant about never explaining where the Departed went, offered this brain teaser: “We had to say we are never going to tell you because people would be very distracted by that revelation, and wouldn’t focus on what they’re supposed to. So you’re not expecting to hear the story Nora tells if you’ve been listening to us. Who was lying, me or Nora? Maybe there’s a way for both me and Nora to be telling the truth.”
Don’t ask, “What did you mean when…?”
“The Leftovers is essentially the Rapture drained of its religious significance,” explained Perrotta. “It’s created this space where all religion has failed to comprehend the Departure, so everyone’s looking for narratives to replace those that have been dismantled. That’s why we get nervous when people say “What did you mean?” [because] that is really the subject of the show; how our characters create meaning because they’re in desperate need of it.”
Also: Lindelof said people were often disappointed when he explained what a moment meant because it differed from their own interpretation.
From beginning to end, it was all about reading the signs.
“If we don’t try to connect dots and find meaning in things, as Laurie says, then there’s going to be f**king chaos,” said Lindelof who then shared a casting anecdote about Justin Theroux, who had read several times for the part of Kevin. “I occasionally have insomnia, and like to flip through channels, and Wanderlust was on,” recalled the showrunner. “There’s 9,000 channels and Wanderlust is on right now, and I was basically like, “Holy s**t — it’s got to be Theroux.”
“So if you’re looking for meaning or guidance,” continued Lindelof, “as the nun says to Nora, ‘It’s a nicer story.’ and I would rather live in the world of nice stories than the most cynical one where everything is arbitrary and means nothing.”
Watch every episode of The Leftovers on HBO.
Photo credit: HBO / Kristina Bumphrey