When Special Agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) finds himself in Wayward Pines, Idaho, it looks to be a quiet, bucolic pocket of seeming perfection. But considering M. Night Shyamalan is the executive producer of this Fox 10-episode miniseries – created by Chad Hodge from the book by Blake Crouch and co-starring Melissa Leo, Terrance Howard, and Juliette Lewis – you may not be surprised to discover that all is not what it appears to be. In fact, things are downright weird and possibly quite dangerous. We asked Shyamalan, seen here directing Dillon in the pilot, to tell us a bit more about what’s going on with Wayward Pines.
On his inspiration: “When I read Chad’s [Hodge] script I immediately thought: Gosh, I know how to do this,” he says. “It struck me as having a Twin Peaks-y vibe. David Lynch’s achievement with that show – especially in the pilot – was some super audacious filming. It’s the kind of thing where you have these quirky over-the-top performances that are still resonant. He balanced that line in a way only he could to. So when I read Wayward Pines, I found that same mix of humor I’ve been dying to do.”
On working with Matt Dillon: “He’s an icon! He’s just one of those guys – like Travolta – who when they walk and talk and move, everything they do, is iconic. When I tell 10 people that I’m doing this thing with Matt Dillon, eight of them will be like, ‘Cool!’ and then two of them will just lose their minds. They go crazy,” Shyamalan says. “Matt does the straight guy thing. He’s super funny.”
On directing from someone else’s script: While Shyamalyn usually works from his own writing when he directs, for Wayward’s pilot episode, he worked off Hodge’s script. “This is the first time and, as you might guess, I’m not as precious with the words,” he says with a laugh. “Don’t tell Chad I said that!”
On doing TV for the first time: ”Everyone’s been telling me that I’d like the way the medium is going, how it’s character-based and darker in tone,” he says. “There’s been this shift towards the things I love: atmosphere and not black-and-white characters. Unresolved, open-ended stuff. It’s the same reason why I like smaller movies. It’s proving that leaning on characters and tone makes things resonant.”
To see another exclusive image from Wayward Pines – and to read the rest of our 2014 Preview issue spotlighting 98 other hot new releases in movies, TV, music, and books – pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, which hits stands on Friday, Jan. 10.