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The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan made his Comic-Con International debut with the presentation for his upcoming Fox limited series Wayward Pines.
Based on the bestselling novel Pines by Blake Crouch, the 10-episode thriller stars Matt Dillon as Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke, who travels to Wayward Pines, Idaho, in search of two missing federal agents. But he soon learns it’s much easier to enter the seemingly bucolic town than it is to leave it.
Following a screening of the pilot episode, Shyamalan and Dillon joined cast members Melissa Leo, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Reed Diamond, Tim Griffin, Shannyn Sossamon and Charlie Tahan, executive producers Donald De Line and Ashwin Rajan, and writer/creator Chad Hodge for brief discussion.
Asked how he established the hybrid Twin Peaks/Twilight Zone tone of the series, Shyamalan said he was attracted to the elements of black comedy and suspense in the script.
“They [the townspeople] are all acting weird for a reason, which you’ll find out as the show goes along,” he explained. “It’s not just a weird world. There is a reason everyone is acting odd and off-center, which is so scary and disturbing for those following Matt’s character. I’ve been enjoying moving towards black comedy mixed with suspense. It was a perfect moment when I got the script and I could do it in a cinematic way with this amazing cast.”
Dillon said he was immediately drawn to the project.
“When I read the first two episodes, I found I was getting into it like a really good book,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly where Ethan was going to end up, but after talking with Chad and Night, I got a general idea of where things were going. I think from the beginning, Night set the tone as a director-driven piece so it would have a texture to it that you’re used to seeing in films more than in typical television.”
Asked abut her character, the sinister Nurse Pam, replied, “I think Nurse Pam does what nurses do — she cares for people. I think her flaw may be that she cares too much.”
As Jones’ Dr. Jenkins appears to know more about what’s going on than the other townspeople do, the actor was asked what he could tell the audience about his character. “Really, very little,” he replied, to laughter. “I think he has everyone’s best interests at heart.”
Gugino said when it comes to her character Kate, “appearances are not what they seem.”
“We’re going to be the cagiest group of actors as we talk about these characters,” she continued. “She is a fascinating character, but I can’t say anything without giving anything away.”
“I can say something,” Diamond interjected. “This panel is like some sort of NSA [National Security Agency] transcript — completely redacted. The one thing I can say is that one of the great things about this story, and the books upon which it is based, is the mystery. In a lot of shows the mystery is not explained and I think a lot of times it’s because the creators of the show don’t even know the answers to what the mystery is. What makes this show so special and unique is that the mystery is explained, and explained rather quickly, and once it is, the show becomes even more exciting.”
“He said nothing about his character,” Gugino said.
“I am secretly very handsome,” Diamond joked.
Shyamalan said that, while filming, each actor had different levels of knowledge as to what was going on. “I’m trying to direct them, and I’m having readings and they’re going, ‘Why is he saying that?’ That’s exactly what you want to see on screen,” he said. “It was a difficult process to disseminate information to different actors on this panel. It’s a balancing act. But at this point, everybody here on the panel knows everything.”
Shyamalan said the audience will know everything, too. “We made a pretty bold decision that we weren’t going to hold back the answers for the whole series,” he explained. “We believe that once you understand what is happening, it’s just as interesting.”
Wayward Pines airs in 2015 on Fox.