'The Path' Creator Refutes Scientology Comparisons

Jessica Goldberg - H 2016
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Jessica Goldberg - H 2016

Scientology had an eventful 2015, thanks to Alex Gibney's groundbreaking documentary Going Clear, but the creator of Hulu's new religious drama The Path insists her series has no ties to the controversial, Hollywood-friendly organization.

"The Internet is full of misinformation," writer and executive producer Jessica Goldberg told reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. Instead, Goldberg and the writers purposefully strove to "invent" her own ideal faith. "It wouldn’t allow us the same sort of storytelling opportunities if we put it into something that already existed." she said.

The Path tells the story of a family at the center of a controversial faith-based movement struggling with relationships, marriage and power. Each hourlong episode will take an in-depth look at what it means to choose between the life we live and the life we want. 

Goldberg also denied reports that she herself practices a religion similar to Scientology. "I'm a faith-interested person, but I don’t follow anything," she said. "This show really came out of a more personal experience for me." In addition to growing up in Woodstock, N.Y., which she said was home to lots of "seekers" and "new crystal-y religions," Goldberg placed more emphasis on the "double whammy" of losing a parent and getting a divorce in the same year when it felt like "the frame for my life had crumbled."

She added: "Our goal is to look at both sides of religion — where it brings comfort and then also where it when you against the grain of the faith, that does provide cynicism. … There's also great comfort to be taken in having a frame for your life, and I think that is something a lot of us are seeking."

That conflict is demonstrated in the couple at the center of the series, devoted follower Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) and her more conflicted husband, Eddie (Aaron Paul). The Path marks Paul's return to TV after his Emmy-winning run on Breaking Bad.

"I wasn't really looking into jumping back into TV this quickly, but my reps called and said, 'You must read these first two episodes.' I read them and I just could not ignore the material. It was just so gripping, so beautifully written and well done," the actor said. "I just fell in love."

This marks the second religious series for Paul, who previously recurred on HBO polygamy drama Big Love before his breakthrough on Breaking Bad. "I find religion sort of fascinating," he said. "There's an endless amount of religions out there and everyone, as humans, [are] just desperately trying to find their questions to be answered."

Paul's interest in the subject comes as no surprise, given his family background and specifically his father, who is a Southern Baptist minister. "I had to read the Bible multiple times. I know the scripture. I am definitely drawn to that sort of story. When I read this, I was just blown away," he said. "[My character] is having some sort of doubt in the pilot episode, you come to realize, and so he's really searching for his questions to be answered and trying to find the truth."

In stark contrast to Eddie is Hugh Dancy's character. The actor, fresh off the acclaimed NBC series Hannibal, which was canceled in June, plays Cal Roberts, the charismatic face of the movement who struggles with personal demons as he attempts to take the organization into its next generation.

"I think, on the surface, he's having an easier time of it than [Hannibal's] Will," Dancy said when asked about comparisons between his characters on The Path and his previous show. "I love what I do, and in both cases I have loved the environment that I find myself in and the people I work with. … Tough, strange, messed-up scenes are all the better because I got to do them with these guys. The same is true for Hannibal."

Added Dancy: "I also like playing people who are a little more complicated."

The Path premieres March 30 on Hulu.