The Showrunner Chronicles: M. Night Shyamalan Talks WAYWARD PINES


M. Night Shyamalan, executive producer of FOX’s latest hit, WAYWARD PINES has sat down with to discuss what is behind the wall, where the characters will be going, and confirms if there will be a season two.

Last time when I talked to you, you talked about the decision to put the reveal early on of what’s going on. Even because of that, there’s still so much going on in the following episodes after that. Can you talk about keeping that pace going, and did it make it easier having only ten episodes as opposed to a longer run?
Shyamalan: There were a couple episodes that I just couldn’t get enough teeth in it that it felt like I was vamping for the more tentpole episodes. We talked to Fox, and Fox felt the same way. They said, “Well, what do you think about doing ten?” and I said, “That’s probably what this story wants to be at least the one that I’d outlined from Ethan waking up in the forest to the last episode.” I could see it very clearly as ten and how the architecture works with the fifth episode being letting everyone in, at least, on the big picture of what’s happening. For me, Episode 5 and 6 are the answers episodes. Then for me, post that, is the “Oh my God, how are we going to deal with what we know now?” There’s a specific thing I wanted to aim at in my head. I had it in my head that I wanted to get to this big moment that is basically in 9 and 10. I knew I wanted to aim there. For me, when I was pitching it to Fox, what the season looked like, I was like I wanted to get to this—and I’m avoiding saying what it is because I just don’t want to ruin it for you guys—but the format was critical. And I think that’s what’s so beautiful about doing television right now is you can fit the form to the subject and not the other way around which is a great benefit to storytellers.

Do you have a favorite kind of surprise moment or reveal—there’s a lot and there’s a couple big ones…
Shyamalan: Yes, let’s see. I did perversely enjoy when Juliette got it, although I loved her, too. I loved her as an actress. It was so sad because we were having such a great time and I was bumming about doing that to her, but the more that you love her the better it is. So that was probably the most perverse of them, but there’s one to come—that is the thing I’m referring to you—that for me is what the piece has been moving to and that happens in end of 8 into 9—in that area.

A lot of the episodes are directly in sync with the book. Do you plan on continuing that as the series goes on?
Shyamalan: It was an interesting process because Blake hadn’t actually written two. He was writing two while we were writing the season as well, so there was a lot of co-mingling of ideas and inspirations. It was super healthy on both sides in terms of suggesting, proffering ideas of which way the world could go. I think for both of us, for Blake and I, that the subject, it just is so rich and fraught with social ramifications and plot ramifications that we were just really excited about where everybody was going—the writers. I think Blake was inspired by some stuff, and we were really inspired by some stuff. But I think we mutually decided that after the big reveal we could just explore different aspects of it together. I know Blake has been super supportive about everything. There was some invention as we went, but I was hugely aiming at this one idea that happens in Episode 9-ish, that was important to me.

To follow up on that, have you read the reviews online or looked at fans reactions to the story?
Shyamalan: I don’t normally check all of that, but my office has been all over it and so excited. From what I understand, everything has exceeded my expectations. The audience reaction—there’s such an intense attachment to the show from those that are watching it and I hope those who are going to start watching it now after all this—because we keep, luckily for us, growing and as I understand it, that’s a very rare thing these days in television. I’m very proud of that—that the people that have watched it have recommended it so strongly that others are adding on each week. Our last episode was our strongest, and I assume last night was even stronger and it’ll keep on growing. That’s a really great feeling.

I feel like critically I couldn’t have asked for any more, and audience reaction feels pinned in such a positive, supportive way, just beyond my expectations. It’s my first time doing television and to be embraced so generously, it just couldn’t have worked out any better. For me, to some extent, the way we structured even the airing of the episodes so that there was a break right here after Episode 5 was with the hope that at this point—we didn’t know whether we would have a fan base that would talk and spend time and try to tell everybody, the strategic intent was to give it a little break after this, as we get to the last five, to get everybody to get caught up. That’s the beauty of doing ten episodes… We have this break here—which is everybody can watch it on Fox Now and Fox On Demand. The way people consume is so different now and we were kind of counting on it. The nature of the show is one that is addictive and one that rewards you every week and is one that you can grab onto and join on quickly—watch five episodes. We’re imaging there’s a huge amount of audience that is going to do that and then watch the second half with us.

Will there be a second season?
Shyamalan: It’s all very pliable and fluid. I think what’s so great about this format, event series and all that stuff, is it feels so complete and it was wonderful. We have the particular advantage in our case because of Blake Crouch and his books that he kept writing and he kept thinking of stories. We also have the fact that the world that he created is so rich and fertile that it wants more stories, whether we ever decide to or not is a separate thing, whether Fox asks me and we talk about it and all that stuff. I don’t know—I mean, I’m open to it. It’s just I’m so happy that the format, in and of itself, seems to be working the way it was intended, the ten episodes. I can’t speak for other limited series and all that stuff, but it’s a beautiful thing that you can aim with intensity at a storytelling style that I think imbues it with some integrity and if that integrity then merits another story that’s a wonderful thing.

Can you say anything to fans about the future episodes and how the characters will evolve?
Shyamalan: Yes. Oh, I know what I was going to say. Because it’s a very blurry, moral question, that’s where your decisions on who’s a villain and who’s not will come into play. Most probably there will be a division in what people think, like, I would do anything given these circumstances, or you can’t live like that, you should rather die out then do these things.

I guess other than that, that we’ve really hoped that the excitement about what they’ve seen will cause everyone to tell their brothers and sisters and cousins and they can catch up on the five episodes and binge watch them. When we were editing them I used to binge watch them to see how they played if I was the one binge watching them, and I loved the arcs of what you see when you watch them together. You’ll see more of the things that we talked about, either this time or the last time we were all talking together, the architecture of mystery to the reveal of the tentpole of the answer, and then subsequently where we’re going to go to in 9 and 10. So it plays in a long form as well. It plays in these little pieces like the TV viewer format, but because of the way you consume content now, it almost has to exist in a different form and in this kind of watching it in binge form. So hopefully everyone will enjoy that form as well. I want to thank everybody for coming on and talking about it.

Catch WAYWARD PINES on FOX Thursdays at 9pm EST.

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