Damon Lindelof wears his heart on his sleeve, which at once makes him an ideal person to run a show like “Lost” or “The Leftovers,” and the absolute last person you would want to wish that burden on. He holds nothing back, whether in his writing or in his discussion of his writing, and he takes every criticism of his work very deeply. (He quit Twitter two years ago because it wasn’t healthy for him anymore to wake up every day to people cursing at him and demanding six years of their lives back.)
That openness and sincerity was on display in “Leftovers” season 1. The show was despised by some for being too depressing, too slow, too opaque, and spending far too much time with the mute, chain-smoking members of the Guilty Remnant cult. But it was adored by others (like me) who fell right into the show’s parallel world – one just like ours, except that two percent of the world’s population vanished, without explanation, in an event known as the Sudden Departure – and could feel the pain of its characters almost as acutely as Lindelof himself (working with Tom Perrotta to adapt Perrotta’s novel) did.
The new season debuts Sunday at 9. I’ll have a more detailed review of it later in the week (spoiler: I loved it!), but there are many changes, starting with relocating the action to Jarden, a fictional Texas town that lost no one in the Departure, and has now become known as Miracle National Park. Some of the show’s returning characters move to Jarden, while we meet a local family led by Kevin Carroll and Regina King as John and Erika Murphy.
Over the course of two long conversations last month, Lindelof and I discussed the decision to so drastically change the show (and why he doesn’t want this thought of as a reboot), how he ended up making a much darker show than he had intended going in, how he tries to use the show itself to tell the audience he’s never going to explain what caused the Departure, and a whole lot more. It’s very long, and very candid, and gives great insight, I think, not only into the making of this show, but into the many complicated decisions that go into making almost any show.
As Lindelof puts it at one point, “It”s amazing to me that every single television show doesn”t completely and totally fail.”
(This transcript has been condensed slightly from our actual conversation, including the removal of several answers featuring spoilers for the next few episodes. Look for those the morning after certain episodes air.)
At what point in the process of season 1 did you and Tom realize you were going to burn through the whole book in that season?
Damon Lindelof: The first meeting that I had with Tom Perrotta ever, face-to-face, I went on and on about all the things that I loved in his book and why I thought that it would translate better into a television series versus a movie. And he had already made all those determinations because he had set up the book at HBO. My sense of it is Tom came in with this idea and that I was just in strict agreement with it: which was that the end of the book would be the end of the first season of the show. And that felt very obvious to both of us.