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The pilot episode of NBC's new sci-fi drama La Brea served up plenty of thrills, chills, and... prehistoric creatures? While the pilot doesn't answer many questions, it's clear that when the Harris family — Eve (Natalie Zea), Josh (Jack Martin), and Izzy (Zyra Gorecki) — are separated by a sinkhole in the middle of the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles, this show is going to be full of surprises. A mash-up of disaster flicks and Journey to the Center of the Earth, La Brea plops Eve and Josh into the sinkhole and seemingly spits them out somewhere a long time ago in Earth's past. Meanwhile, Izzy and her semi-estranged father, Gavin (Eoin Macken) are left in Los Angeles to figure out if their family is forever broken or just weirdly out of time.
SYFY WIRE decided to get deep into the questions of the pilot with executive producers David Appelbaum and Steven Lilien, along with the cast playing the Harris clan to get some intel on shooting the first episode, the family dynamics that will play out, and what to expect from the dual narratives.
**Warning: There are spoilers for the La Brea pilot below.**
SPLITTING THE WORLD IN TWO
David Appelbaum (Showrunner): This story is about this family that's been separated. Half the family falls into the sinkhole, while the other half stays behind in modern Los Angeles. And what was really important for the storytelling is that you have ways to connect these two stories. Even though they're separated, we find different ways that we can connect the story. In this search for how do we tell it in a unified story, that was really the genesis of [the series] idea."
Zyra Gorecki (Izzy Harris): I think it only took a week to film the sinkhole stuff. It took three weeks to film the whole pilot. The most taxing stuff was definitely the constant running. There's a lot of running for a lot of days. And also the scene where I'm hanging over the sinkhole holding on to Natalie — or Mom, rather — your arm gets a wee bit sore after a couple hours of hanging on.
INSIDE THE SINKHOLE
David Appelbaum (Showrunner): Amongst the cast of characters down there, you're gonna find a number of different family units: father and daughter, you're going to find another mother and son, later on, you're going to find sisters. Family is really at the core of the show in a big way, which is something very different from Lost. Certainly, there are comparisons that will pop up. We were just starting to have fun with that in the pilot is we knew that it's inevitable because Lost is such a big show in our culture. But this one really diverges in a lot of significant ways, both thematically and in the world that we're creating.
Jack Martin (Josh Harris): [The mom/son dynamic], you get a clue to that in the beginning with the jokes about her being a "helicopter mom". I think that's pretty accurate. And also, I don't really blame her. I think Josh is pretty dependent on her and I think he needs her. Also in a crazy situation like this, they're the only two people they know. He does need her and I think what is up to Josh in this season is learning how to grow up and be a man, and not become dependent on her anymore, or anybody.
Natalie Zea (Eve Harris): Yeah, [Josh] getting attacked by a wild animal and almost dying doesn't really help Eve's issues of helicopter mom-ing. [Laughs.] It wasn't the best of circumstances for her to release herself from the tether. But it's cool because she's having to deal with these very relatable, modern parental issues that we all have. She's having to rectify that in these extraordinary circumstances. And it's really almost not fair.
Steven Lilien (Executive Producer): The important thing was to make the up-top world — that doesn't have the spectacle and the excitement of the sabertooths and wolves and this untouched Earth — to make that really matter to the story. That was important, so what we worked on is making Gavin matter on a character level, and starting to understand him and his relationship with Izzy, and what happened to this family. And maybe this is a second chance, but to start to dig into why this happened to Gavin, being able to see this [prehistoric] world and why he's connected to this world. I think it's gonna be really, really satisfying because we have those answers, and we're not going to shy away from them. And I think people are not going to see what we have coming and I think they're gonna be excited to learn more.
Eoin Macken (Gavin Harris): Gavin was a pilot and, I think being a pilot, you have to have a certain element of competence and surety. You've got to be very smart and very calm under pressure. And so having all that be destroyed by these visions, and then having his entire sense of identity be destroyed, he's in this place where he's uncertain as to who he is, what he can still do, and if he even has a place anymore. That's a big struggle. And then it's also a struggle, because he hasn't been able to look after his family and be there for them because he's uncertain as to what he's been seeing is PTSD or is it something more? It could be a medical thing. He's suddenly having this sort of slow rebirth as a father, as a man, and as an individual, where he's trying to reassert himself and reconfigure himself as a person. And at the same time, do that while trying to look after Izzy.
Zyra Gorecki (Izzy Harris): In the beginning, I think there's almost disappointment [for Izzy] that these things with her father have happened. And over the episode, you see them start to trust each other again and go, "Okay, maybe this is something more." For Izzy, that is a really big thing because growing up, that's her role model. That's her person and who she looks up to her dad. And to see him fall was really disappointing and for him to be acting crazy, it's rough for your role model to act like that. But you definitely see the hope at the end of the episode that maybe this is okay. Maybe we can work this out together.
Steven Lilien (Executive Producer): Just watch the show, and what character do you see yourself in? What experience resonates with you? There are a lot of great characters and more characters are introduced that have different stories that are incredibly relatable. I think people can hook onto that and be like I totally get that, or I wish I had that second chance. Or, I wish I would have done things differently. That's why people are really hooked on to these characters that are thrust into this amazing situation, but still feel incredibly relatable.
New episodes of La Brea air on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.