From executive producers Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel, The Strain) and Raelle Tucker (True Blood), the A&E drama series The Returned focuses on what happens when several local residents of a small town suddenly reappear, after having been long presumed dead. Their arrival has consequences for both the returned and their loved ones who have already mourned their death and moved on without them.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, Mark Pellegrino (who plays Jack, a man deeply and painfully affected by the loss of one of his twin daughters, that has now suddenly returned) talked about wanted to reunite work Carlton Cuse, what attracted him to this particular project, what he thought of the original French series this is adapted from, how his daughter’s return will affect Jack, and getting resolution to some things but new questions about others.
Collider: How did this come about for you?
MARK PELLEGRINO: Right after The Tomorrow People ended, I had three auditions for shows, and this was one of them that I had to audition for out of Vancouver. Out of the three, of course, I wanted to do this above the other two because it’s Carlton [Cuse], and I have a relationship with Carlton. I’m in good hands with him, and I enjoyed working with him on Lost. I wanted to rekindle that relationship, so I really was hoping that all the cards would fall in the right places for this, and they did, luckily. We were done with The Tomorrow People in April or May, and then I went home for a quick run at the Shakespeare play Twelfth Night, that my wife directed. We did that for a week, and then we came back and started on The Returned.
Was it very jarring to go from The Tomorrow People to Shakespeare to The Returned?
PELLEGRINO: It was jarring. You don’t have a chance to mourn the loss of one thing, and then you’re immediately thrown into something else. I’m a workaholic, that way. But you develop relationships with people, and suddenly a family of actors and crew that you became so close to are now not around anymore. You do need a little bit of downtime to lick your wounds that the show didn’t work out and that the people you really cared about are not really going to be in your lives until the next project, if you happen to see them, and you move onto the next thing. I didn’t have the mourning time for that. I’m not too sad about it because I got to move on to something else, but it’s sad the way these things turn out.
Do you feel a sense of satisfaction with how The Tomorrow People ended, as far as the resolution to the story?
PELLEGRINO: There was a suggestion that John’s story and my story was going to continue, and we were going to be partners, in some way. That was nice. It was nice to see the hope. But maybe that’s worse because you see the possibilities and that the writers are intent on pushing forward to the next season. The powers that be didn’t see it the same way, so in a sense, you’re more disappointed. But it was nice to see that they were moving in the right direction.
What was it about the story and character in The Returned that interested you, whether or not Carlton Cuse was behind the show?
PELLEGRINO: The character is very complicated and not what most people would consider a bad guy. So many people have labeled parts that I’ve done in the past as the villain of the piece, or the bad guy, which I protest against. He’s a lost guy. He’s alienated from his family and he’s in an emotional abyss. This miracle happens in their little community, and it changes that and puts him in a different dynamic with everybody around him. I think that’s a very compelling thing. To me, this show is about the idea of grief, and how one deals with grief, and how different people deal with grief. Because we have such a large ensemble cast, you get to see many different people, at different stages of grief, dealing with their losses and/or moving on in their own speed and time. That individualness, in each of the stories, is really, really compelling. You also get to see how a character responds to the miraculous, and that says a lot about who they are. I really want to explore how that miracle affects Jack’s life and his relationship with his wife. I’m definitely interested and probably would have been interested to explore these characters whether or not Carlton was involved, but Carlton being involved makes you feel safe. He’s such a creative force that you know something really compelling and shocking is going to happen, at some point, in the story.
This show is adapted from a French series. Did you decide to watch that, at all?
PELLEGRINO: I think this show has its own signature, for sure. It has its own style, even though it takes some of the best elements of the French series. I’ve done a couple of shows that were remakes of other shows, and this is the first time that I actually watched the original show. I didn’t do that with Being Human. I found the French series to be very compelling, and I think this takes some of the sparseness, the simplicity and the mystery aspects of that show and just gives it an American spin and feel and look. It introduces different characters, and it has different story arcs for the characters.
Because you do so much genre work, do you typically find yourself fighting against that, and then you read a script and get sucked back into the genre again, or have you accepted that you’re a genre guy now?
PELLEGRINO: Genre is not so pigeon-holing anymore, I don’t think. The stories are so sweeping and the themes are so universal that it’s not something that just a small group of people do anymore. It’s extending its tentacles out into a lot of different avenues. A lot of different people are very drawn to the sci-fi genre, in particular because of the way that it can confront issues that maybe other genres can’t, and do it with impunity. I watch a show called In the Flesh. It’s a great show, but what better way to deal with bigotry and prejudice than through a zombie genre show, where the zombies are reintegrating into a world where they were monsters and are now trying to be human again. I love that. I love that big issues can be dealt with, and that genre is not so genre-y anymore. It’s original spins on not only old themes, but characters that had one mythology for many years, and are now changing and becoming more interesting and relevant to everyday people.
Jack had to deal with his daughter’s death, and now she’s back and he has to confront that again. What can you say about how that will change him?
PELLEGRINO: Jack goes through quite a few permutations and has to deal with quite a lot. I can’t reveal anything, but it’s a very, very complicated situation. Life changes. When you experience loss like that, there are things that are irrevocable that happen. Is it possible to go back? Is it possible to reignite a relationship that has died, itself? Is it possible to re-establish a relationship with a daughter that I’m alienated from? I don’t know. These are the things Jack is going to try to find out. Jack lived a life, previously to the story, of passivity. Miracles have a tendency to not just change your perspective about things, but to give you the boot in the butt that you need to maybe take control of your life, in a way that you never did before.
Will we learn what’s going on, or will there just be more questions?
PELLEGRINO: It’s going to leave things boldly unanswered, and it’s going to answer some things. What makes a show good for me, personally, is a mystery that just doesn’t quit. I want to know why. Why did this happen? Why is this phenomenon occurring? Why did that person do that? A series is really good to me that takes its time in answering those questions. And this will take its time. Not everything is going to be summed up in every episode, by any stretch of the imagination. I actually feel like you’re going to be hanging by the seat of your pants, half the time, which is great. It’s got a big task ahead of it. It’s posed a number of questions that it has to somewhat get through, by the end of the season, or maybe Season 2.
The Returned airs on Monday nights on A&E.