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The Leftovers - Series Finale - Post Mortem Interviews

Please read the full articles on the various sites, there is so much detail in them, I'm certain you all would appreciate it.

IGN: In the second-to-last episode, Kevin comes to this realization at the end of his trek in the Underworld when he blows that whole spot up for himself and learns what he's done wrong and his propensity to want to flee, but then we learn by the end of the finale that he's gone back to Australia every year on his vacation to look for Nora. It's been so many years. Is this almost a penance that he's paying? There was a huge chance that he'd never find her but he was still willing put himself through this on the off chance that he would. Was this a form of self-inflicted punishment or was he just overly hopeful?

Lindelof: I feel like I have to talk articulately now for two minutes in order to satisfy what you just said. No, I'm being honest. I couldn't give a more articulate or insightful version of what you just said than you. As you were talking I was just nodding my head and going like "This is the writer's dream." When the observer, particularly someone like yourself who really watches this stuff on a much higher level, not to diminish any other member of the audience, but you are a professional for a reason. You just said everything that was our intention. So the answer is yes, to all of what you said. It's a self-imposed penance. I'll give you some commentary behind it though, which is that there was a scripted line that we had Justin [Theroux] say in the early takes when I was down there in Australia and he was shooting the scene where he was basically yelling at Nora when he comes to the house at the end and he's explaining what the intermediary years have been like for him. And he said the line in the first couple takes but he kept tripping up on it and the reason I think was because it felt very expository and very writer-y. It was coming off as forced.

So we we told Justin to just stop saying it. You don't have to say that part anymore. But the gist was every year I come out here on vacation and show your picture around and the line was "And I tell the people at home that going mountain climbing or fly fishing because I feel too pathetic to tell them what I'm actually doing." And the line was sort of important because it gave Laurie cover. Because then Laurie didn't even know Kevin was searching Australia for Nora so it made it feel less like she was keeping a huge secret from him. But also sometimes you over-write things and so when an actor is tripping up -- and Justin is totally game so it's happening for a reason -- we just had to ask, would he actually say that to her in that moment? I understand why the audience might want that information but why is he telling Nora that he was embarrassed to tell the people back home? Also that his excuse was mountain climbing or fly fishing? It just took you out of the moment, so we cut it. But just because you gave such an insightful restitution of what we did I feel like it was important to give you a little nugget of data on that end.

When you got the script for the finale, what was your reaction?

The first thing I thought was, I was impressed and surprised that it went quiet and personal, as opposed to explosive and apocalyptic. And the second thing was, “Oh, no! What a long monologue.” If I’m being honest. But I got that script much earlier than I got any other script, so Damon (Lindelof) gave me more time to sit with it, which I needed. It’s like doing a one-act play. So I immediately commenced learning the speech in the few weeks I had to prepare.

Damon and Mimi have both said that you didn’t ask them much about the monologue in terms of whether it is true. When you initially read it, did it even occur to you that it might not be?

Yes. It occurred to me that it might not be because one of the first lines of this episode is, “I don’t lie.” And I thought there are many times Nora has lied. It’s the knights and knaves conundrum in logic. We took a straw poll in the crew, and they were split about 50-50 as to who believed it and who didn’t. And the only thing I knew is that I would never tell anyone what I believed. Because it would rob the viewers of the experience for themselves. We do want answers. We are built that way, and I am not supplying an answer to that question. The whole point is, it reveals more about the viewer than me. But I certainly weighed both.

There’s this very telling line during the conversation at the end where she asks if people still call Jarden “Miracle,” and he says not so much anymore. That says to me that however many years past Departure Day this is, the world has moved on. Even something this huge and this cosmic, people are able to get past.

I hope that’s true, and it’s true theoretically about The Departure, right? Just imagine twenty years from that October 15th, whatever that Ground Zero is, has it worn off, but I think there are analogs in our own history and our own contemporary history. Not just with 9/11, but looking at something like Vietnam, or the Holocaust. Some people call it resilience, others call it denial, but once you are one generation removed, by the time that Nora and Kevin are the age that they are in the finale, Jill now has kids, and those kids don’t give a shit about the Departure, because it happened before they were born. My son Van, who’s 10 years old, I have to show him a video of 9/11 and be like, “This is what happened,” and he’s like, “Oh, those buildings fell down, that’s scary,” and you go, “You have no idea how scary it was.” Not if you weren’t alive and experienced it when it happened.

What direction, if any, did you give them before you shot the slow dance scene at the wedding?

Oh boy. That’s hard to remember. Kevin’s character was, of course, still pretending and still very much intent on keeping to his new version of their life. We find Nora not wanting to play this game, but still intrigued and opening up. The cracks are starting. It’s undeniable. She’s been living this monastic life and holding everything in, denying herself of love and connection, and is truly found at the end of the show, at the end of the season, at the end of everything. Love wins. The things I believe I told them were when they dance, they’re dancing together for the first time, and I think Kevin’s character wanted to forget the past and start anew, start fresh. Carrie’s character, Nora, hadn’t touched anyone in years, has just denied herself of any connection, and theirs was a deep one. I just asked them to find it, and they did.

It’s often very technical when you direct these pieces where you’re going around them and dancing with the camera is an art, like knowing when the camera is on you, knowing when you’re sinking your face into someone’s neck, when you’re releasing your body into someone’s chest. It was very much felt, and it was very much real, and I wanted it to feel like the first time. I think it does. I just loved it so much, I didn’t want to stop shooting it. I knew I had it, but I didn’t want to let it go.

The episode ends at a really beautiful moment. Surprisingly, what really hit me was Kevin telling Nora, “I believe you.” That sentence, in a show about belief, felt like such a period at the end of the sentence.

It’s really interesting you dialed into that. I completely agree. I think that “I believe you” is even a more powerful [phrase] than “I trust you.” It’s just like — I don’t know. They imply two entirely different ideas. I think that “believe” sometimes involves some level of magical thinking, or imaginative thinking. And “trust” is just this much more concrete idea — that you’re not going to do anything to hurt me, or I trust that you know what you’re doing. “I believe” seems to construe, like, there’s a faith-based element.

Sometimes we talk about these things ad nauseam in the room. And sometimes simple is better. I think Theroux’s performance … I mean [Coon] basically gives this incredible performance and talks for seven or eight minutes straight and then he gets to say two things. He just nailed it so hard.

So, if you believe Nora, this episode offers up the clearest idea of the mechanics of the Departure. I saw that Tom Perrotta also worked on this episode. Did you both develop this vision of what happened on October 14 before this episode?

Have you read the novel by any chance? It’s almost like the novel has a disclaimer, although it doesn’t literally, but it’s like very clear once you’re like 25 or 30 pages in — that it’s not going to answer where everybody went. It’s sort of like, this is a family drama and it’s three years later. It ends with Nora with the baby in her arms saying the same exact line and dialogue [that ends Season 1]: “Look what I found.” I felt both immensely emotionally satisfied and moved by [the novel,] but still surprised that even though I knew that it wasn’t telling me anything about the departure that he was still … it was an act of bravura to just never even address or to deal with it.

DEADLINE: But that broken binary has been the internal dilemma of The Leftovers from almost the beginning, trying to find a way forward and go back at the same time, even at the end of the world, literally and figuratively…

LINDELOF: We’ve watched these people now for three seasons go on very individualized journeys but if there is an answer it’s that at least we care about I think as storytellers and certainly I think that the actors echo this is, is finding meaning in the relationships that we have with one another. That’s the only way to achieve any kind of fundamental true grace and that points to where it all ends up. It’s let’s stop being away some place, let’s be here. It’s, let’s be in this.

DEADLINE: Justin, how did you see that fear and anxiety playing out in the Kevin we meet in the series finale? Here’s a man who has been search for years for the woman he loves, a man who at first played a role when he finally found her in the Australian outback after all that time Nora had been away, and, as we discovered, really away.

THEROUX: I think it’s that intermittent time period and all the time that he spent looking for Nora, I think he’s become in her absence a more realized person. In the finale Carrie’s confronted with her own stuff and has gone through the process that she’s gone through, you know, she’s become sort of this hermit. So when they finally have this initial strange reaction, the flirtation that Kevin provides for her is not, you know, ‘let’s have dinner, let’s have a date night,’ it’s he essentially approaches her at the wedding by talking about his family and how well they’re doing or her husband had troubles. I think that he was trying to draw her to water in saying, and eventually of course in the end by just telling her he loved her. And it was sort of as simple as that all along for him.

Were the show's writers divided on how they felt about Nora's story?

Yeah, I mean, we’re still discussing it. From when we first talked about it at the beginning of the season to when we talked about it again when we were actually writing the finale to the script of the finale being written and then sitting in the editing room. Once I had a cut that I wanted all the writers to see, they came in and all I’ll say is that people changed their minds once they saw Carrie do it. Both ways. And I would ask you another question. Let’s say that I said one thing like, "I don’t believe Nora’s story," and Carrie Coon says, “I one-thousand percent believe Nora’s story.” Then which is true? Whose intention wins? And what about what [director] Mimi Leder thinks? The reality is that Carrie and Mimi and I never had the conversation that you and I are having now, quite purposefully. We wanted to let Carrie make the choice that felt right to her. I saw her last night and we still haven’t talked about. I haven’t said to her, “Carrie, do you think it’s true?” I don’t want to know what her answer to that question is. You can ask her. But I don’t know. She still hasn’t seen it, by the way.

What did she add to the finale as an actor that wasn't on the page?

There's just an incredible amount of intelligence and depth in Carrie as a human being that always translates to Nora in her performance. And while I’m not entirely always sure I can tell what Nora’s thinking, I know that she is thinking — and she’s thinking about a lot of different things. You can almost feel the subtle, silent moments with her, when the camera’s just holding on her face in terms of what she’s thinking and it’s much more intense than just like, “She’s in distress,” or, “She’s confused." I don’t have a stopwatch but what I think is interesting about this finale is that it's a 70-minute episode and there may be as much as 20 minutes of the episode where Carrie is on screen saying absolutely nothing, where she’s not speaking at all. That’s how compelling her performance is. Like, you take a scene of when she goes up the hill to free the goat from the fence, and because Carrie is such an amazing actor, you know exactly why she’s doing that, how she feels about this, why she’s putting the beads around her neck. Maybe you can’t articulate that into words, but it emotionally makes sense just because of Carrie’s performance. And she's also kind of not afraid to be the butt of the joke. When she’s on the phone with Laurie [Amy Brenneman], and Lori is saying, “If you’re calling me to tell you that it’s ok to go with Kevin to the dance, that’s fine. You can go.” And she’s just like, “I do not want to go to the f—ing dance!” It’s really funny. Carrie has to know that that’s a comedic reading, but Nora would not want to be laughed at in that instance — she’s so frustrated. And that’s what I think is really interesting, for someone who is so clearly in control of her own life, she keeps doing these crazy things — whether it be hiring a prostitute to shoot her in the chest or getting the Wu-Tang tattoo or locking all the doors in her house as if Kevin is going to try to get in a window. She does all these irrational, unreasonable things, yet she seems completely and totally sane and under control when she’s essentially behaving like a crazy person. I don’t know how Carrie does that. I think that if you were to ask most people, “Do you think that Nora Durst is crazy?” They would say, “What? No!” But I would like to read you from the list of 10 things that Nora Durst has done and ask you that question again.

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