Fans of Jordan Peele's work — hot off his success of Us — will have no time to catch their breath, as his revival of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone is about to drop on CBS April 1. Those attending WonderCon 2019 heard from the writers, producers, and composers about their approach at the "Reimagining The Twilight Zone for the Modern Audience" panel on Saturday.
In attendance from the production were executive producers Win Rosenfeld and Glen Morgan, co-composers Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts, and staff writer Alex Rubes. Ginnifer Goodwin, who will star in an upcoming episode called "Point of Origin," moderated the panel.
"How do we reinvent it?" was the first question asked when the project began, Rosenfeld said. "Jordan said to me, dude, Twilight Zone's not broken. The more we can honor the original, the more we can be humble with the original Rod Serling series, because it's still relevant. We had 10 different stories with 10 different origin stories."
Rosenfeld continued, "We need to give the feeling that people have watched 10 different movies that are the same show. We do that with tonal things, structure. We constructed each episode as personal nightmares, with people who are flawed, or are messed-up people or are neurotic and add in an element of magic."
"Each one is so different; some have humor, some have that sci-fi feel," Morgan explained. "Look, with Twilight Zone, if you're a writer on TV, that's where it all started. We have a couple of episodes that could have fit in with the classics."
Even the way it sounded was given the same thought and care. Beltrami got the memo about each episode being its own movie, having its own composition and identity. Roberts assured everyone that they would not touch the theme song, but since everyone knows the theme and there will be a narration, the team had to figure out the music that transitions into the story. Also, "every episode had their own instrument and processed those sounds, so each episode had its own world, which meant we got to use the theremin! We're also very conscious of 'How much do we dictate and misdirect?' "
While each episode aimed for the feel and tone of the original, Rosenfeld said that from the way that it looks to loads of Easter eggs, the originals pumped blood through the new series. But, he assured fans, "We didn't do any remakes."
Morgan had a great anecdote about how a crew member was able to get the original Willie puppet — from the classic episode "The Puppet" — to put in the background of a new episode that was in David Copperfield's possession. When Morgan laid eyes on it for the first time, he said that it was shipped in two boxes with the head in one box, the body in the other. "This thing is worth half a million dollars and was an over 100-year-old puppet that had a full career in vaudeville, 30 years before it appeared on the show. Its face was very red because it appeared better on black and white." Eagle-eyed fans will be able to find it this season.
Like Serling's take on the series, Peele appears to be the right visionary to lead the way for the revival because of his understanding of genre, but also his sensitivity to social commentary.
"He's a deeply ethical and moral person, and he's also a master of genre," Rosenfeld added. "This show deals with painful stuff, from immigration to violence to fear of the other. What Jordan is great at is recognizing that the best way to approach those things is through science fiction."
The Twilight Zone will premiere April 1 with two episodes, and then new episodes will drop every Thursday starting April 11.