Created by Damon Lindelof and acclaimed novelist Tom Perrotta, the HBO series The Leftovers, about what happens after 140 million people vanished from the face of the Earth, is currently in its final season. With the seventh anniversary of the Sudden Departure approaching, ex-Holy Wayne follower and former undercover Guilty Remnant member Tom (Chris Zylka) is just trying to find his place in the world and among his family.
After seeing seven of the eight episodes of Season 3 (they were understandably withholding the final episode of the series), Collider sat down with actor Chris Zylka to talk about the huge journey of ups and downs that he’s taken with this character, the honor of working for HBO and with this cast and creative team, his mutual respect with Damon Lindelof, trying to come up with his own explanation for The Departure, how much he looks up to fellow cast member Justin Theroux, living by the idea that his favorite job is his next one, and his experience on the upcoming feature film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan.
Collider: This final season of The Leftovers is so good, and now that I’ve seen seven of the eight episodes, I’m dying to know how it all ends!
CHRIS ZYLKA: I actually don’t know. I’m such a fan of the show that I didn’t read the last script.
What was it that originally drew you to this show and this character, and could you ever have imagined the journey he went on or where he ended up?
ZYLKA: No. Number one, I could never have imagined working for HBO, at such a young age, which was such an honor, or with Damon [Lindelof], Pete [Berg] or Mimi Leder, or with being involved with the cast that I’ve been able to work with. But the evolution of Tom, Season 2 was a dream for me. Even not being involved with so many episodes, the episodes you are involved in, it’s like, “Oh, my gosh!” There’s an arc that happens, in an hour of a television show, that most people would have to have two-and-a-half hours of a movie to resolve. It’s just been a complete honor.
Some of these characters have been on a very clear path, from the beginning, but your character has been much more unpredictable.
ZYLKA: Tom’s changed a lot. I’m so fortunate, just for the ups and downs. He’s been searching for something. When Season 3 is resolved, I think people will see the evolution, a lot more. I couldn’t have imagined, reading the pilot and talking to Damon, that it was going to be as gnarly of a ride as it has been.
This show presents a lot of questions, some of which it will never answer, and Damon Lindelof has been pretty up front about that fact. Did you have to take a moment to get over not having those answers, or are you okay with not having those answers?
ZYLKA: My career has gone in such a way that I’ve gotten to learn that, when you’re working with a great storyteller, you don’t ask questions, you just trust them. And when you don’t hear from them, that’s a good thing. Me and Damon have that mutual respect for each other, and he knows that I’m not going to ask questions. I’ll ask him how his kids are or how his wife is doing, not what’s next for Tom. It’s just that mutual respect and trust that is The Leftovers.