Damon Lindelof on 'Anxiety' Over TV Return, Pressures of Following 'Lost' (Q&A)
The "Leftovers" executive producer tells THR he won't be tempted to check Twitter when his HBO drama premieres Sunday: "There couldn't be a worse place to go."
A version of this story first appeared in the July 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Lost's Damon Lindelof, 41, is returning to TV with the HBO drama The Leftovers — based on the novel by co-creator and executive producer Tom Perrotta — which begins three years after a mysterious event caused 2 percent of the world's population to disappear. In a recent chat with THR, Lindelof revealed his state of mind, how his relationship with faith has evolved since wrapping the pop-culturally seismic ABC sci-fi drama and his thoughts on Twitter.
What is your biggest worry about getting back into TV?
There's a certain degree of anxiety about whether the show is going to connect with people. I've never been a writer who could say, "I don't care what people think."
How did you decide this is the right time?
The only way anyone would decide to run a TV show is to not think about what goes into it. The moment I read a book review from Stephen King in The New York Times, I was intrigued. I always said if I returned to TV after Lost, I would want it to be on premium cable. When I heard The Leftovers was set up at HBO, it was like the stars had aligned.
When you started Lost you were mourning the 2002 death of your father, David. Where are you now as you begin The Leftovers?
I was in my late 30s when Lost ended and was sort of looking down the barrel of, "I've achieved my wildest dream — what's next?" That question of "What's next?" corresponds thematically with a lot of the ideas in The Leftovers, as people try to cope with moving on after this big event. I'm not undergoing a midlife crisis or worried that the show won't live up to Lost. People ask me, "Are you worried about this topping Lost?" I'm not, because I don't need anything to top Lost. It's done. It's probably going to be the first word next to my name in my obituary, and that's great.
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Much of your work has revolved around faith. How have your views on faith evolved since Lost?
The older I get and the more experience I have, the more spiritual I become. When feeling anxious or scared or alone, my inclination as a younger person was to conclude that I really was alone. Now that I'm older, I don't feel that way. My dad died and I met my wife within a few months of that, so I think that was the beginning of the change.
You've said this series won't answer the question of where the disappeared people went. After Lost, was that a requirement for you?
I'd be experiencing a tremendous amount of anxiety and worry if we were promising, "We've got a big, intricate reveal coming, and what you see is going to blow your mind." It's very freeing not worrying about that. The book doesn't deal with that resolution, and that becomes established very soon within the narrative. That was one of the things that I loved about it. The pilot tells you in different ways, "We don't know. We've put our best scientists on it and they don’t know — and it's time to move on with our lives." How they move on became the more interesting tapestry to weave.
You used to be very active on Twitter but quit in October. Will you be tempted to check it out premiere night?
If I wanted to know the reaction to the show, there couldn't be a worse place to go than Twitter. People are much more likely to go on Twitter to bash something than go, "How awesome was that?"