“Wayward Pines,” a new show that combines the government conspiracy crime mystery of “X-Files” and the creepy, exclusive small-town community of “Stepford Wives,” screened at WonderCon on Friday to a large crowd that seemed to grow until people were standing along the walls as the screening continued.
The 10-episode Fox show, starring Matt Dillon, Terrence Howard, Juliette Lewis, Reed Diamond, Tim Griffin, Carla Gugino and Melissa Leo, is based on the novel “Pines” by Blake Crouch and produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense,” “Signs”).
“Always answer the phone” is the creepy refrain that many in the crowd were repeating as the lights came up after the screening. A short panel discussion afterward included producer Donald De Line and actors Diamond and Griffin, with Entertainment Weekly’s “Sandra Gonzalez moderating.
De Line talked about reading the book and getting Shyamalan involved.
“It was originally submitted to me as a movie,” said De Line, who noted that there was too much nuance for one movie. “M. Night Shyamalan tried to guess the ultimate twist, and couldn’t. So that made him like it even more.”
The actors were also befuddled by the book, trying to guess what the ending would be. Knowing, or not knowing, their characters’ fates became a bit of a game or obsession on set. Some, like Diamond, were hooked immediately and had to know the outcome.
“I read the pilot script, and I knew that I needed to know what’s going on [later]. I thought ‘I’ll just wait until they cast me.’ But then I thought, ‘What if they don’t cast me?’ Then I downloaded the book and sat there for three hours,” said Diamond. “I see these ‘Game of Thrones’ actors wondering if their character is going to die. I’m like, ‘You can find out.’ It’s like, ‘Hey, I want to buy this house. I should probably read “Dance With Dragons.” ‘ ”
Griffin waffled on his decision to read or not.
“I didn’t think I wanted to know what happened,” he said. “But then, I cornered M. Night on his compound.”
Many of the cast and crew were whisked away to Shyamalan’s Philadelphia farm — which Gonzalez didn’t like to call a compound because “that’s creepy” — for what De Line says was “almost like a limited run on a play.” Once there, other actors’ proclivities toward the novel and their characters were also revealed.
“When we were originally at Night’s compound, Terrence Howard made everyone not tell him if his character was good or bad. So he’s there, delivering lines at the readings … It’s these diabolical lines that come out so charming. It was one of the most fun readings I’ve ever had,” said Griffin.
De Line hinted that the show would not languish too long in letting the audience in on the secret, since it is only 10 episodes.
“There was only one book when we started, but now there’s a trilogy. The big reveal about the truth of what this world is comes at the end of Episode 5,” said De Line. “The 10th episode is every bit as satisfying and revelatory as the first five episodes, though.”
When asked by Gonzalez, Diamond summed up his interpretation of the show.
“In network TV you’re playing more archetypal characters. But here, you can be like, ‘I love you, dear,’ but there’s something much deeper and darker going on.”
WonderCon, held at the Anaheim Convention Center, continues through Sunday.
The annual pop culture expo features panel discussions for movies, television and comics, as well as a cosplay masquerade, a children’s film festival, game demonstrations and plenty of geek-friendly shopping on the convention floor.
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