Damon Lindelof Explains the Perfect Strangers Storyline in The Leftovers

When The Leftovers co-creator Damon Lindelof chatted with us last week, we held back one juicy piece from the interview to publish post-premiere: Lindelof’s response about the show’s running gag about all the actors from Perfect Strangers going missing.

In Sunday’s premiere, it was revealed that star Mark Linn-Baker faked his departure. But why though? So we asked Lindelof: What's the deal with the Perfect Strangers thing?

Lindelof explains after the jump.

We introduced a new idea that existed in Season 1 but becomes much more relevant in Season 2, which is the idea of ‘secondary departures,’ or people faking their departures. With 9/11, I don’t know if it’s urban legend or if it’s real, but there’s the idea that people who were supposed to be in the towers actually used that opportunity to pretend to be dead for a couple of weeks, if not months and it’s like, ‘In the moment of a crisis like that, how do you decide to disappear?’

So the Perfect Strangers thing, which Kevin Garvey Sr. sets up in Season 1, it was just sort of a running gag. We were like: If you were Mark Linn-Baker and all the other cast members legitimately departed, wouldn’t you basically be like, ‘This is the perfect opportunity for me to go down to Mexico and start over?’

The arc of the season is: In the real world, if these three girls disappeared, there are only two possible explanations. One is that something horrible happened—they were abducted or worse. The other is that they ran off, which doesn’t seem to make sense considering we’re watching Evie and she seems to be a pretty well-adjusted kid. But in The Leftovers, there’s a third possibility which is: They’re living in a world where people vanish via supernatural means and so that’s the third possibility we put on the table there. This season is saying, “Are we going to even answer where these girls went?” Because this third possibility exists. The Perfect Strangers throughline is away of us articulating that, you know, when people disappear they don’t always stay disappeared and that’s something to think about. And Mark Linn-Baker came and did it, which is the greatest cameo.

We wrote it and basically thought he’d never say yes. Then our casting director said, ‘You should send him an email.’ I got his email address, sent him an email and explained, ‘Here’s what we’d like you to do and here’s how it functions in the larger show. I’m not just saying this, I love Perfect Strangers—I watched it constantly.’ The idea to do the Perfect Strangers thing came from Jackie Hoyt—she’s a producer on the show, she was the one who first pitched it last season and it was just going to be one thing with Kevin Sr. says in the mental institution and that was going to be the end of it, but then it ended up being something we wanted and kept revisiting.

(Reporting by Kara Warner.)