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The mid-season drama, a serial horror about a group searching the Amazon for a missing television host, is told through “found footage” — never a good sign for character mortality — and comes from genre vet and Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli.
He joined the cast and executive producers Zach Estrin and Michael Green at the Television Critics Association press tour, where they all seemed hopeful for life beyond the original eight episodes, despite the inherent restrictions of the premise.
“For as many episodes as we are blessed to have, we have real stuff to go off of,” Estrin said of the Amazonian lore and natural dangers that fit into the supernatural premise. “We wanted you to be not just scared, but worried for the people. I think that’s what will make the difference between a great horror movie and a great horror series.”
The River certainly seems tailor made for a one-off season, like the 2009 CBS slasher Harper’s Island did, killing off at least one cast member, every episode, up until the finale.
“There are a lot of actors out there… We like them to feel disposable,” said Estrin, not commenting on how much of the cast makes it through the first season. “The Amazon is a place with real threats.”
One cast member not prepared for an early exodus is Leslie Hope. The series star, who previously played Jack Bauer’s (Kiefer Sutherland) ill-fated wife on 24, told reporters she wasn’t interested in being offed onscreen again.
“I was on a show where I was killed unexpectedly,” said Hope, laughing. “Michael [Green] made a promise that I’d make it at least 40 episodes before they killed me and shoot me in the gut, so that’s a bit of spoiler.”
Given the specific audience the show will likely play into, creators were also keen to note that fans will find closure if the show doesn’t return.
“I write every episode like it’s my last,” said Green. “We don’t leave a lot of cards on the table.”
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