Actress Carla Gugino loves mysteries ... which is good, considering that her new series, Wayward Pines, is full of them, and her character is at the heart of this Twin Peaks-esque thriller, which premieres tonight on Fox at 9 p.m. EST.
“The character that I play really is not what she seems in a lot of ways, and I hadn't quite gotten to play a character like this and unspool it as we go along and see how she came to be the way she is,” said Gugino, who plays a woman at the center of the show's mystery, Kate Hewson, during an exclusive interview with Blastr.
“There something about me that has always loved thrillers and mysteries,” she said. And with Wayward Pines, “there's definitely a lot of good mysteries to be revealed, but the kind of ones you don't expect.”
Based on the novel trilogy by Blake Crouch, this 10-episode “event series” is a new psychological thriller from M. Night Shyamalan. The story follows Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon), who is on the hunt to find two missing federal agents, one of them being Kate (Gugino), who seems to have vanished near the quaint town of Wayward Pines, Idaho. However, after a car accident, Ethan wakes up to discover himself among the very strange people of Wayward Pines, including Kate, who says she doesn't know him.
For Ethan, Kate's been missing for three weeks. But for Kate, she says she arrived at the town 12 years earlier, and she's married and seems to be living happily. Stranger yet, he can't seem to leave the town or communicate with anyone outside Wayward Pines. As Ethan falls further into the mystery, he'll learn there's a steep price to pay if he wants to uncover the shocking secrets of this mysterious little town. Wayward Pines also stars Juliette Lewis, Terrence Howard, Reed Diamond and Melissa Leo.
“Blake Crouch, who was the novelist, was involved every step of the way. Chad Hodge adapted his book and did it with him. And Blake wrote on some episodes,” said Gugino. “It does depart from the novel, [but] it is also very respectful to it. What was great about Blake, he seemed to be very excited to see where this incarnation will take it and wanted to be involved in that process,” she said.
“A lot of the stuff from the books has been condensed and used in different ways for the purposes of putting it on the screen. So reading the book will certainly give you some edification, but at the same time there are definitely things that you won't find out even from that, which is kind of cool,” said Gugino.
After reading only two scripts and taking a look at the show's bible, Gugino signed on for the series. So, while she had a clue about some of the mysteries behind the town and her character, there were a lot of things she didn't know until she got each script.
“The writers are also writing as you're acting it out, so they're getting inspired by what you're doing and you're getting inspired by the next script. I know many great television creators who created great shows who don't even want to know what's going to happen later because they want to live with the person who's playing it and see what inspires them from that.”
While sci-fi TV fans have been often burnt by mystery stories that have no ending, including Gugino's own series, Threshold, she promises the story “functions really well in these 10 episodes as a complete story that definitely leaves you in a place where you will be very curious what may happen afterward. But good sci-fi can leave you in that place and have that be the end of the saga, or it could continue on.”
So there may be more than one season of Wayward Pines, or not.
“I think the reason that it wasn't set up as a regular series is that it does work really well in this temporary structure, and yet, of course, as you end up starting to play these characters and the writers are writing these characters, then there comes all of these exciting ideas about what could possibly happen in the future. So, if we're given that opportunity, there may be a future, and yet what's nice is that it does really work on its own as well,” said Gugino.
“I ended up having a conversation with M. Night Shyamalan, who was directing our first episode and producer of the whole piece, and we just connected immediately creatively, and what he wanted to do with it was really interesting to me,” she said.
“Certainly, it is a very different character than I've ever got to play. Unfortunately, I can't really tell you how, because that would reveal things. We're going to see some of Kate's history, and we're going to see where she goes, and I got to play multiple facets of a human being, and I think that's something nice that ten hours allows you to do. And certainly, this whole story is different. I've really never done ... the closest thing sci-fi wise would be Threshold, and yet this was such a vastly different world. So, really, in most ways it's very different than anything I've done,” she said.
The series, which mixes horror, humor, quirkiness and mystery in equal parts, brings to mind Twin Peaks, a series Couch has said he was inspired by while writing the novels.
“I think people will be attached to different elements of it and want for different outcomes, but for sure there are some very satisfying reveals, and by the end you certainly understand much more than when you began,” said Gugino.
The cast was an eclectic group of people, said Gugino.
Having spent months somewhat isolated just outside Vancouver while shooting, Gugino and the other actors “realized we might be becoming our characters. Thankfully, we escaped Wayward Pines alive, with our credentials intact,” she said with a laugh.
“This has been a very interesting last couple of years, because I did a play at Lincoln Center, I shot Wayward Pines, I shot a film in Australia called San Andreas with Dwayne Johnson, which is a huge action/adventure with a lot of heart. And then I just filmed on the season of a new HBO show called The Brink, which is a political satire, very much in the vein of Dr. Strangelove and M.A.S.H., with Tim Robins, Jack Black, Pablo Schreiber and Aasif Mandvi, a really wonderful group of people. As you know, Wayward Pines comes out in May, and San Andreas comes out in May, and The Brink comes out in June, so I guess I have a very concentrated moment of a lot of things I've been working on for the last two years actually finding their audience. So I'm just happy for that, because you want to do it and then give it to the world. ... I really am passionate about all of these particular pieces in very different ways,” she said.
“We're on this journey all together here, you know? I act for myself because I love it so much. It's my favorite thing to do. But you make these things so hopefully people will really love them and be interested in the journey. And certainly with this one I feel like it was definitely blood, sweat and tears. It was a tough shoot. It was a lot of really challenging material, and a lot of people were very passionate about it. So I hope that ultimately that will pay off,” she said.
Here's a look at Wayward Pines:
Are you going to watch?