M. Night Shyamalan’s soiree into television begins tonight with the 10-episode psychological thriller Wayward Pines premiering on FOX.
The series has been receiving favorable reviews so far and follows Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke(Academy Award nominee Matt Dillon) as he tries to figure out what’s going on in the strange town of Wayward Pines. Ethan travels to the town in search of two missing federal agents, but everything gets weird when his truck slams into his car…and he wakes up in the Wayward Pines Hospital, unable to find his belongings and unable to leave. Ethan begins to look into the secrets of the town and his continuing investigation only turns up more and more questions, each one leading him to the most important question of all: What’s wrong with Wayward Pines?
The show’s executive producer M. Night Shyamalan recently took some time to chat with reporters about what attracted him to the project, what he feels about all of the thriller programming that’s airing right now and his use of symbolism in the series.
Many know that when they watch a Shyamalan film, they can expect to be taken on a somewhat strange journey, filled with twists and turns. Wayward Pines is that and more, but what else attracted him to the project?
“I’ve been hesitant about doing things other than movies for a while and very tempted to do something on TV. It was a tentative ride, got to the altar a few times and found a reason to not do XYZ projects. I felt a little bit like maybe I will never feel the clarity of the decision that I feel when I do most of my movies, when I do an original that I’ve written – a thriller or something. I always feel a great clarity and a commitment to how I want to put in this time. I can’t wait to do this for the next year and a half to two years and I wondered whether I would have that clarity.
“Then just when I was doubting all of that—and it’s been a while, maybe a year and a half of trying to find something that felt right to start the journey in TV, and then the pilot for Wayward Pines came across my desk and I’m really, really lucky that it did and lucky they chose me as their first choice and just that they thought of me and it just fit so well with what I was interested in. I was interested in doing dark material and doing, for me, a dark humor attached to that material and certainly the pilot had that approach. As it entered this world of mystery and stuff and suspense it took a dark irreverent tone to it.
If you’ve seen the trailer to my new movie for Universal, that also has very inappropriate dark humor throughout. I’m a big fan of that and I’m in that headspace, so this pilot really spoke to me and it was such a great puzzle and a great mystery. And, ultimately, when you find out what’s going on, I thought meaningful. So it was a really easy decision.”
The show fits into the thriller genre and while thrillers are not new to the TV world, it does seem like within the past few years that there’s been an uptick in dark, thriller programming, so we asked Shyamalan what he feels contributes to the trend?
My question:It seems like during the past few years we’ve seen an uptake of the mysterious, strange, scary, thriller kind of TV shows. What do you think is responsible for that?
“…perhaps the format of a mystery just naturally leans towards tune-in and find out what happens next kind of agenda on television, and there’s great storytellers that have done great mysteries. Lost is probably a seminal one, JJ’s show, and X-Files back in the day. There’s all these seminal stories of dark, mysterious, weird stuff. As you know, that’s my particular area of fondness.
“I try to make dramas that have the fancy clothes of the genre on them. So very kind of a mixture of those two. And that instinct to make drama/genre it feels very much the appetite of what audiences want on television.”
Finally, Shyamalan’s work in film is usually wrought with symbolism, and it sounds like Wayward Pines will be no exception.
“…there’s definitely a lot of hopes in there in terms of the colors and themes. I hired directors to do each of the subsequent episodes. We have a little, kind of like a guide book that we put together as saying this is what the filmic language is, at least the way I was thinking of it. I wasn’t stringent at all with them. I really implored them to make their episodes their own because I hired them for their particular muscles.
“Some of them are more muscular than me. Some of them are more kinetic or can handle a particular type of storytelling much better than I can and that’s why I hired them. I didn’t want them to copy me. But I did have kind of a guide book like hey if you used artificial light in this capacity it has this connotation, so that’s one. The way we use light is indicative of what’s going on in the plot.”
Wayward Pines premieres tonight at 9/8c on FOX.