Damon Lindelof of 'The Leftovers' Reveals Toughest Scene: It Took Forever to Get Right (Q&A)

The HBO drama's co-creator says his team spent a "disproportionate amount of time" crafting the premiere's riot sequence.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Sunday's series premiere of The Leftovers, "Pilot."]

HBO has unleashed its newest drama, The Leftovers. The series premiere presented us smack dab in the middle of a worldwide crisis, three years in. While we saw a snippet of the disappearance, it was that aftermath that the series focuses on.

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Co-creator Damon Lindelof reveals why the riot sequence was the hardest part. For more from the pilot, read part one of our Q&A with Lindelof here.

What was the most challenging scene from the pilot?

Certainly none of them were easy. But the riot sequence was something we spent a disproportionate amount of time both writing and planning. Certainly for [Peter Berg] it was a challenge directing and editing to try to understand the rhythm of it. We spent about as much time editing that sequence as we did editing the rest of the show.

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What beats were you hoping to hit with that sequence?

First, Nora Durst [Carrie Coon] is giving a speech that is very emotional about her own loss. It's the first time we've heard someone speak about their experience of loss. And then there's the arrival of Guilty Remnant, and of course the aftermath of that. It was all a challenge.

How long did you have to shoot it?

It was only about five hours. Pete Berg directed the entire riot in an afternoon. He had a very specific plan. Nan Bernstein, our line producer is amazing and helped greatly. What I love about the scene is suddenly there is a shift — editorially, then musically. The pilot's music was composed by Max Richter. Tonally, he completely nailed it.

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Since Lost ended, you've focused on movies. How did you decide this is the right time to get back into TV?

It was like a lot things in my life in that it wasn't really a decision. I met a woman — and I really liked her a lot. It wasn't like "Should I marry her?" We just did.

The only way one 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 on HBO, it was like the stars had aligned.

Do you think the show speaks to current times?

The emotional stock and trade of the show is these people are spinning in the wake of a spiritual tragedy on a worldwide level. That's a relatable concept. Whenever there's some kind of a tragedy — be it 9/11 or Newtown — it hits us hard. But moving forward, you very quickly have to push through that membrane and resume a semblance of normality: "I have to drop my clothes off at the dry cleaner." I'm not entirely sure what people think they're going to get when they tune in Sunday night or tune in on subsequent nights. I do hope they like it.

The Leftovers airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO

Email: Aaron.Couch@THR.com
Twitter: @AaronCouch