WonderCon: CBS' 'Under the Dome' to Explore Faith, Fear, Fascism

Under The Dome Book Cover - P 2012

Under The Dome Book Cover - P 2012

ANAHEIM -- CBS unveiled the first footage of its summer big-swing Under the Dome to close out WonderCon on Saturday.

The short reel -- which offered footage mixed with interviews with the drama's cast and creators including Stephen King and Brian K. Vaughan -- featured the first appearance of the mysterious dome and how the town of Chester's Mill responds to the crashing planes, flying body parts, separated couples and more.

The summer series, which bows June 24 on CBS, follows residents in the community of Chester's Mill as they deal with the postapocalyptic conditions that ensue when a strange dome mysteriously encapsulates the town.

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Producers -- including Neal Baer (A Gifted Man) and Jack Bender -- said Dome will be "cinematic" and as "big as possible" yet intimate and "character alive" as it can be. "It is big and there are big subjects in the show and big entertainment," Bender (Lost) told the packed ballroom.

Based on King's thick book -- it clocks in at more than 1,000 pages and takes place -- showrunner Baer said the 13-episode drama is split into three: faith ("This can't be real," "This won't last for too long"), fear ("Oh my God, what are we going to do") and fascism ("Who's going to maintain order when people run out of things").

"That gives us a guideline to dig into these stories and helps us root for characters, hate some of them and love characters and be passionate about them," Baer said, noting that the drama isn't a miniseries but instead a series that can run for multiple seasons.

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For his part, genre king Vaughan (Lost, comic series Y: The Last Man) said the marriage of King, whose book provides the backbone of the series, and Steven Spielberg (whose company Amblin Entertainment is producing) was easy.

"Steven Spielberg is the world's ultimate optimist and Stephen King is the world's ultimate pessimist, but they're both humanists -- they both love their characters and it was easy to wed those two people since they both like writing about people," Vaughan said, noting he hopes King will cameo in the writers' room vs. on screen as he previously did on Sons of Anarchy.

While the book takes place over a couple of days, the series will stretch well beyond that, with King -- who has been highly involved and even name-checked Vaughan in the book -- has given the writers total freedom to take creative turns and expand the universe beyond the novel.

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Baer noted Dome will explore the intense circumstances that present themselves when people are presented with impossible situation. 

"When you're under those intense circumstances, people's good or evil hearts may come out more than in everyday life," he said. "That intensity under that magnifying glass gives us the opportunity to explore what people would really do."

"It's a parable for our times: can the sun shine through the dome? Can it rain? Those sound like climate issues and we can really explore that without being preachy," he said. "It's fun for us to think about what happens when you run out of Tide soap, what do you use? Who rises? Do you really need a banker under the dome? But farmers? Maybe you do."

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Co-star Rachelle Lefevre noted Dome's concept brings up a question she asks herself frequently: What are the circumstances where I'd save myself and what are the circumstances where I'd sacrifice myself?" she said, whose character, Julia, in the book is a 50-year-old woman. "It's the living embodiment of those questions. We're going to get that scenario every week: Every character gets the chance to show you who they are with when they sacrifice or save themselves."

Added Vaughan of the similarities to the book: "Big Jim (played by Breaking Bad's Dean Norris) is pretty effing evil and we we're going to get you there. We've told [the cast] to be careful what you read. We'll get you there, but it might take some time."

Stay tuned for the first-look video Monday morning.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit