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The six-part miniseries from Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh was three years in the making. The murder mystery first debuted in the form of a mobile app in November, the first narrative offering from Soderbergh and Casey Silver’s PodOp. But the linear version of the story will be making its television debut on Jan. 22 and running for five consecutive nights.
“I lost two days of my life watching this app. If you get in, you can’t get out. Watching Mosaic is a little like joining the mob — there’s no coming back,” Stone explained during The Hollywood Reporter‘s TV Talks series at New York’s 92nd Street Y on Tuesday night. But it is the underlying “hopefulness” in the story that keeps viewers hooked, she says.
Stone was joined by writer Ed Solomon and co-stars Garrett Hedlund, Fred Weller, Jennifer Ferrin and Devin Ratray for a panel discussion moderated by THR‘s East Coast digital lead editor Jackie Strause. (Watch the full chat in the video player above.)
Mosaic follows famed children’s author Olivia Lake, played by Stone, and the investigation that unfolds after she is murdered in a picturesque Utah resort community.
The HBO version’s narrative structure will be nonlinear, jumping back and forth from present to past to highlight the different characters’ roles in the series of events that lead to Lake’s death and the ensuing search for the culprit. Whereas the interactive app version is told through a branching narrative. After an introduction of Olivia Lake, those who follow along can continue the story by choosing which character’s perspective to watch next. Unlike the choose-your-own-adventure model, however, the choices do not change the plot or the ending.
Solomon and the cast joined the Oscar-nominated actress to discuss their mutual bewilderment at Soderbergh’s talents as a director, along with Mosaic‘s uncharted story-telling approach.
“One of the things that got us so interested in doing this was that no one’s really done anything like this,” Solomon said about the medium of interactive storytelling. “We had no antecedents, we didn’t have anything to base it on. We were just winging it. As we went along, we were discovering the form.”
For Soderbergh and Solomon, they were halfway through production on the app when they began to create the television version of the story. And although users of the app have been able to see the story play out through the perspectives of each character, it wasn’t until postproduction that the cast knew what their fellow actors’ storylines entailed.
“We were only given our own storylines, and it was exciting in that manner because I’ve never had a process like that,” said Ferrin, who plays Petra Neil. “I loved the mystique of it.”
Through the almost eight hours of content on the app, the story is given various layers; certain scenes are revisited from an alternate perspective and “Discoveries” of content, such as a document or news story, pop up when relevant to a scene.
“I thought it was so interesting to do the same scene and in one take, you’re really sympathetic because it’s your recollection of that moment; and the next time, you’re kind of a tool because it’s someone else’s perspective,” said Weller, who plays Olivia’s love interest Eric Neill.
For Hedlund, who plays an aspiring artist whom Olivia lures into working on her property, shooting Mosaic was unlike any other set he’s been on. “[The shooting style] was so exciting and liberating,” Hedlund said. “We shot 500 pages in 10 combined weeks, and that’s unheard of. Sometimes you can’t even shoot 100 pages in seven months.”
Stone also discussed the long, nonstop hours when working in Soderbergh’s “genius” and “precise” filming style, while the group was on location in Park City, Utah.
“The first three or four days, I thought I was going to die. But it’s like a race: Once you get your pace, you can do 30 pages in a day and you can go home and learn the next 30 pages and really go,” Stone said. “It was such a learning curve. At this point in all of our careers to be in this new thing and to be working so quickly, and learning some new way to work, is just exhilarating.”
Ratray, who referred to Mosaic as the “greatest cinematic experience and probably the greatest professional experience that I’ve ever had,” agreed: “It was almost kind of painful to go back to traditional ways of shooting after this.”
Stone added to laughs, “Like a dental exam.”
When asked if the end lends the story to a possible second season, Solomon said that was a conversation that hasn’t come up. “We were just really working hard on making this the best we could make it without thinking past that,” he said. But he did imply that there is opportunity with some of the characters who were onstage.
Stone — who joked that, should there be any spinoff potential, Olivia has a secret twin sister — said the character became “very tender for me because [Ed and I] shared a lot of things. There are things that sort of organically got woven into the character that became very precious to me.”
To hear Solomon tell it, it would be hard to imagine another Mosaic without his star.
“When we were first conceiving it we thought, ‘Who would be the perfect person to play this?'” Solomon recalled. “We called her Sharon. And then we had to change it for obvious reasons when you came on board. I thought that was kind of amazing.”
Mosaic premieres its first episode on Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. on HBO; subsequent installments air during the same time slot on Jan. 23, 24 and 25, with the final two episodes airing Jan. 26. The app is now available for download on iOS and Android and will be coming to desktop at watchmosaic.com.
Jackie Strause contributed to this story.
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