Based on the best-selling novel Pines by Blake Crouch and brought to life by filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, Wayward Pines is the intense new mind-bending, 10-episode event thriller from Fox. When Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) drives to the town of Wayward Pines, Idaho, to search for two missing federal agents, mysteries within the town pile up and Burke quickly begins to wonder whether he’ll ever make it out again. The show also stars Terrence Howard, Carla Gugino, Melissa Leo, Toby Jones, Juliette Lewis, Reed Diamond, Shannyn Sossamon, Tim Griffin and Charlie Tahan.
While at Comic-Con to premiere the series, co-stars Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Melissa Leo, Toby Jones, Shannyn Sossamon and Tim Griffin talked about approaching characters in such a unique story, how their characters fit into this mysterious world, how much they were told about their characters’ secrets, how costume informs character, the experience of being directed by M. Night Shyamalan, allowing the guest directors to have a voice, what a great thrill-ride the season will be, and how the answers will start getting revealed about half-way through the 10 episodes. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
MATT DILLON: There are certain questions that my character wasn’t asking. He’s an investigator. He’s a law enforcement person, and these outrageous things are being presented to him. So, what I did was start asking questions as the character would ask questions, and giving voice to those questions helps you. They were questions he would ask, and good things came as a result of it. As we went forward, I would ask about things he should want to know, and it brought things up and forced the other characters to answer questions.
CARLA GUGINO: It was an incredibly collaborative process. What I love about making television or film is that, when you see those credits at the end, you couldn’t have made it without every single one of those people. And in this particular case, in terms of the writers, the directors and the actors, it was a true group effort.
Shannyn and Tim, how do your characters fit into the story?
SHANNYN SOSSAMON: We’re in a little bit of a separate universe from Matt Dillon’s character, Ethan Burke. I play his wife, Theresa Burke. I’m in Seattle worried about him because I hear that he’s been in a car accident.
TIM GRIFFIN: I play Adam Hassler. I’m his Special Agent in Charge, so I’m his boss, but I’m also their personal friend and I’m the one who breaks the news to Theresa that her husband, who she has been trying to track down, has suffered an accident. And then, we turn to each other to try to figure out what happened.
SOSSAMON: The catch is that he’s been in this accident, but his body is nowhere to be found, so I find that suspicious. Our marriage has been on the rocks, so there are other things that I think might be going on and I need answers. I take it upon myself, and my 14-year-old comes along as well, and we go on the road and try to find him. No signs of a body is odd, and he hasn’t called.
How do you even find out that there was an accident?
GRIFFIN: We recover the car.
Shannyn, does your character know why her husband left to search for this missing Secret Service agent?
SOSSAMON: She has an idea. She knows that he had to go to Idaho and that he couldn’t say anything else. And now he’s gone and there are no traces of his body, but he was in a car accident that no one has any information about. She has ideas, and she wants answers. I always thought of it as a last attempt to know that she tried her hardest to save this marriage. And then, she gets things that she didn’t expect, on that journey.
GRIFFIN: Could you imagine knowing that your husband is out there on a top-secret job, and there’s another woman in a top-secret job? My wife wouldn’t be happy.
Melissa, what drew you to doing a TV show?
MELISSA LEO: I really love working, so when something is done, I’m always looking for something else. M. Night is really the thing that made me want to do it, practically sight unseen. I had a really wonderful conversation with him, in deciding to do it, more so than just reading the script itself. When I heard about the notion that the character that I would play would have an integral involvement in the storytelling, and not simply be an interesting character there because she’s interesting, but there for a reason, I completely signed on to do it. And then, it just kept getting sweeter, as they hired more and more actors to come in. It was incredible.
TOBY JONES: I didn’t know the books, so I just was told the arc of the whole story. And then, they told me who was involved, and it was really the combination of this shattering twist in the show, that no one can talk about, and the quality of the actors involved. That was the thing that really brought me on board.
Did you guys want to know what was going on, or were you okay with there being so many secrets?
GRIFFIN: Most of us wanted to be clued in on some of the secrets, but Terrence Howard famously did not. He did not want to know what was happening. He delivers such a brilliant, original performance because he didn’t want to be led down the path. A little bit like how Christopher Walken doesn’t want punctuation, Terrence Howard did not want to know the fate of any of our characters.
SOSSAMON: He just wanted his scenes.
GRIFFIN: He just wanted to be in the moment. It was pretty incredible.
Did any of you read the books this show is adapted from?
SOSSAMON: I read one.
GUGINO: I was initially told not to read the books, but I snuck and read one the first one. Because the novelist, Blake Crouch, was so involved with Chad Hodge and the entire process, it felt like it was adjusting to the story that you needed to tell, when you were seeing things. My character is in there a lot longer than Matt’s character, and there’s a lot of information that she didn’t have, so we had to make some adjustments. You can believe that when you’re reading it, but if you’re seeing someone every day, you can’t believe that they might not know something. It’s very faithful to the book, but he wanted to have the departures that come with making it in a different medium.
DILLON: I was told not to read them and I took their advice. But after we shot the first episode, I read most of the first book.
Melissa, there’s something quite striking about seeing your character in her nurse’s uniform. How much did that costume inform the character for you?
LEO: Costuming is always extremely important to me. I knew that I was going to be playing a nurse, and I had lovely conversations with our amazing costume designer, Mary Vogt. We were so much on the same page. There’s a whole mystery to be unraveled about when our story is taking place, and there is a style of a period of clothing that, frankly, looks well on me. So, Mary and I decided on the ‘40s-informed style of the nurses uniform. I prefer clothing that has a weight to it and that it not be too gossamer because that wouldn’t help me be her. So, the fabric that the nurses uniform is made of is a really important part of who Nurse Pam is to me.
SOSSAMON: It was amazing because you just felt really confident that the tone was going to be set in a way that was dedicated and not compromising the quality.
GRIFFIN: M. Night told us, going in, that he wanted it to be like a film. So, every director that came in after had a unique perspective, and were really acclaimed directors, but ones that don’t traditionally work in television. You’ll get these incredibly original, beautiful visuals, and I think it pays off because the series is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
DILLON: It’s a little uncommon in television that it was very director-driven, and M. Night set that tone. Any questions that you have on a TV show typically goes through the writer and producer, and that was there, but the directors actually got much more involved in the story.
GUGINO: And that was encouraged.
DILLON: That was good for us. For me, coming out of film, that’s what I’m used to.
As actors with a heavy film background, what’s it like to constantly be working with a different director, on each episode?
JONES: I found that very challenging. It’s not what I am used to. In a way, then the actor is responsible for the character. Normally, it’s the actor and the director. The director is really responsible for making it a coherent episode, in this country, and I found that a big change. It took awhile to get used to putting my hand in the jar and saying, “I really don’t think that’s a good idea,” or “That’s a good idea.”
LEO: With all the television I’ve ever done, it’s very rare that a director will do even two or three episodes of a season. There’s not that one person. The director is the captain of the ship, without question. No matter what their talent or energy level is, everyone on the crew has all eyes on the captain. If they come in going, “I don’t know. Maybe we’ll do this. Maybe we’ll do that,” you’ve got 10 days to shoot and they don’t care what you’re doing. And then, you’ll get another director that comes in and thinks it’s so exciting, and even the grips get a little more excited. The flow of the shooting day changes with the director, almost even more, in my opinion, than the look of the show.
GRIFFIN: You’re going to be in for a great thrill-ride. It’s a great mystery with the most unparalleled cast that you’ll ever see on television. Everybody does killer work in it, and it’s really fun. M. Night makes it accessible and fun, and he makes you part of the story. It’s just great television.
DILLON: I would say to expect a good noir. There are going to be a lot of reveals, as you go along. You’re maybe not gonna understand everything right away, but that’s okay. I would like viewers to expect to watch something that’s really very atmospheric and very textural with interesting characters. And be prepared for some surprises.
GUGINO: And surprises that you really don’t see coming. What’s interesting is that all of the characters have a different level of information, and the audience is in the same position. We’re all going together into this world that is not what it seems. It’s a good idea and it’s well-structured, and you get to live with these people as these mysteries are unfolding. And it’s also, by the way, beautiful to look at. It’s very beautifully shot, but you can tell something is not quite right.
By the end of the season, will we have a pretty clear idea of what’s going on?
GRIFFIN: You will not even have to wait until the end of the season. Chad Hodge didn’t want the feeling where you get through all 10 episodes and the big reveal is at the end. There are many reveals that happen in every episode, but the big secret of the town gets revealed half-way through the 10 episodes. And then, you go from there. You think you can exhale, but then it just continues on and on. They’re really generous about giving away information to the viewers to keep them a part of the unfolding mystery. You don’t have to wait until the end. You’re not gonna get an experience like Lost, which I am a fan of.
Are you hoping for future seasons of the show?
SOSSAMON: I wouldn’t mind a second season, at all. That would be fun. But, I think that’s enough.
GRIFFIN: But it’s nice that it’s self-contained, if it needs to be. Also, I don’t think you would have been able to attract this caliber of cast. We’ve both been involved with some really phenomenal ensembles, but I’ve never been on a show where I think [I’m one of the only ones] who hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar.