This weekend at C2E2 in Chicago, GeekNation had a chance to sit down with director M. Night Shyamalan and actor Matt Dillon. The two are collaborating on a new 10-episode mini-series on Fox that will debut in the middle of May. It’s called “Wayward Pines,” based off of the novel Pines by author Blake Crouch, and follows a Secret Service agent named Ethan Burke (Dillon) who wakes up in a mysterious town after injuring his head in a car accident. As he tries to determine the truth behind the town and its strangely behaving people, he begins to get closer and closer to a strange secret that keeps the townspeople obedient, as well as isolated.
Both veterans of applying their respective crafts to the medium of film, both Shyamalan and Dillon are relatively untried at contributing to television. This presented unique challenges to both men, who had to adapt their respective methods to the very different working environment that television creates.
For Shyamalan, much of the difference between working in film and television was the speed. “It’s so much faster,” he said when talking about working for TV. “You have to deliver so much material so fast that you can have a tendency to round the corners. You have to tell an actor to get through the scene, and if some truth comes through, then great!” He also said that a big challenge was doing justice to the material as well as the performances without sacrificing the specifics of what makes it unique. “It’s the struggle to get the detail. That’s the thing, because I wanted to not sacrifice those kinds of nuances. But you have to move quickly at the same time. So I prepped a lot with the actors. I let these guys have a say in it. I wanted them really invested in their characters.”
The director also said he came away from the experience with a new perspective on the medium. ” I have so much respect for TV,” he said. “I don’t know how these people do it! I really don’t know how they do this much material. It’s a totally separate gift, art form, and skill set that they have.”
Actor Matt Dillon, who plays the lead character Ethan Burke, came across as the kind of actor who puts a great deal of thought in the logic of the material, and who isn’t afraid to challenge writers of he feels like something doesn’t make sense, which is possible given the somewhat ethereal nature of the writing for the series. “If I saw something in the script where Ethan wasn’t addressing an obvious question that the audience will be addressing, then Ethan has to at least ask that question,” he said. ” This guy is a trained investigator, so he would ask these questions. So it was really important for me that Ethan be proactive his approach.”
Dillon also talked about the general unsettling nature of the characters and their feelings, and how that’s indicative of the show’s thematic aim. “There are themes in the show that are going to come up [in later episodes] in a more allegorical sense,” he said. “Because in the end, it goes into the realm of science fiction. It doesn’t appear to be a typical science fiction show in the beginning, but there’s this idea of truth: the acceptance of it, and what it is.”
He continued, “There’s a word that I learned while I was making the show, which was ‘verisimilitude,’ which translates to the appearance of truth. So this place, Wayward Pines, appears to be something that Ethan recognizes. Everything appears to be normal. But something’s wrong, and he knows that. His instinct tells him that something’s wrong.”
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