Making The Leftovers: 8 Essential Takeaways

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Because a post-Departure world is an understandably complex place, HBO recently premiered a one-time special, Making The Leftovers, that details the creation of the drama series. The special is packed with facts; here are the eight most revealing:

1. The series is different from the book. “Though I originated the material,” says author and series creator Tom Perrotta, “I’m very much handing it over.” Amy Brenneman, who stars as Laurie, notes: “What is very different from the book, and was immediately apparent, is that Tom has a little bit more of a satirical quality. The menace isn’t quite as high.”

Other changes include an enlarged role for the Matt Jamison character; the additions of the mysterious Dean and mayor Lucy Warburton; and a job change for Kevin Garvey Jr., who morphed from Mapleton’s mayor into its police chief. Series creator Damon Lindelof explains the decision thus: “It felt like that was a much more dynamic job, and more importantly, if you’re living in a world that’s teetering on the brink of insanity, a cop is going to be dealing with insane people on a regular basis in a way that the town mayor probably isn’t.”

2. As far as anyone can tell, no common trait connects the Departed. Explains Scott Glenn, who plays Kevin Garvey Sr.: “They were from all different ages, races, economic backgrounds. Nothing unified.”

3. Cults are a big part of the new reality. “A lot of characters find that there’s no belief system that they can rely on to explain this,” says Perrotta, “and they find themselves gravitating toward these different cults.” One such organization, the Guilty Remnant, believes there’s no meaning in the old way of life. Explains Ann Dowd, the woman behind its leader, Patti Levin: “The Guilty Remnant offers relief from that and acknowledging, yes, life is over as we knew it. There’s just peace in the truth, and from the Remnant’s perspective, the truth is, we only have right now. There’s nothing to say that’ll fix it, so stop with the nonsense.”

4. Prophets proliferate. Annie Q's Christine is a character tied to self-proclaimed prophet Holy Wayne. “He has this inexplicable power to take people’s pain away,” she says. Paterson Joseph (Holy Wayne) expands: “By the point to which we reach the beginning of this series, he is at the height of his powers but also a fugitive.”

5. Zealots too. Principally, Rev. Matt Jamison, who “feels that he should have been taken because he was true believer, and that was the promise, as far as he was concerned,” says Perrotta. “He becomes a kind of investigative reporter, digging up dirt on the people who disappeared to show that they were not good people, that it could not have been the Rapture because bad people were taken.” Christopher Eccleston stars as Jamison: “He sees it in the way that Job saw the various trials, which were visited on him. He sees himself as the shepherd.”

6. Grief now defines people. Nora Durst, who lost her entire family, “occupies a very elevated position in this town because she’s the most grief-stricken person in this tragedy of tragedies,” explains Carrie Coon (Nora). “When you have a tragedy occur the way what happened to Nora has happened, it becomes your identity. If she chooses to try and let go of that grief and pain, then who is she? And I think that’s the question about her that is really compelling and something that everyone could relate to.”

7. Some people have been committed and hear voices. Specifically, Kevin Garvey Sr., the father of Mapleton’s police chief Kevin Jr. “His father went insane, you know,” says Justin Theroux (Kevin Jr.) “And the big question is: Is his father the most sane person in town? Or the most insane?” Adds Glenn: “I’ve been committed to a high-security mental institution because I’ve started hearing voices, and the voices are from a very profound and high place.” There may be more to those voices than one might presume. “In this world, we have to allow ourselves for the possibility that the voices that he’s hearing are real,” says co-creator Lindelof.

8. The Sudden Departure could happen again. At the least, that is a fear of the people in this new world. Says Lindelof: “The overall effect of, in an instant, 2 percent of the world’s population disappeared is that it could happen again at any time, without warning.”

And to mine more details, here's the special in its entirety:

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