Though The Returned hews very close to the French original, Les Revenants, the producers behind A&E’s adaptation promise that the new series will differentiate itself.
The Returned tells the story of a small town that’s turned upside down when several presumed dead locals suddenly reappear, bringing with them both positive and detrimental consequences.
“The starting point is similar,” executive producer Carlton Cuse told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s winter TV previews. “I think the same is true of The Office. Over time, our show becomes quite different. The French show became very genre and incident-heavy at the end. While we start at a similar place, the show is fairly distinctly different by the end of the first season.”
However, those who did watch Les Revenants will find that the plot line is somewhat similar, since the characters are near carbon-copies from the original. Mark Pellegrino portrays patriarch Jack (Jérôme in the French version), Sophie Lowe plays Lena (versus Léna), Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Rowan (versus Adèle), India Ennenga as Camille, and Sandrine Holy as Julie. (The latter two have the same character names.) “I do think that their performances are quite different from the original French series,” executive producer Raelle Tucker says. “I feel that each one of these people brought the essence of the character. I think over episodes, you will see how those characters are quite different and shift a lot.”
After episode six, Cuse promises that the series will take a turn, while the second season would be a wholly new creation since Les Revenants has only aired one season. If that sounds familiar, that’s because the producers behind Fox’s Broadchurch adaptation Gracepoint promised a twist on the original, though viewers didn’t really stick around to see the end result since the story was so similar to the lauded British version.
“We felt like there was a way to take this show and over time make it something that was very distinctly our own,” Cuse says. “In the French show, there are some choices that are made in terms of what happens towards the end of the first season of the show. We don’t make those same choices, so it’s a fantastic premise and it’s a great idea. There’s a small fervent audience that watched the French show, but I think there is also a large audience that have not seen the French show that will really enjoy seeing the story unfold in English, with this set of actors, with a spin on it that over time becomes increasingly our own.”
Adds Tucker: “We didn’t come into it saying we have to make this different just to be different. There are a lot of similarities. The idea of losing someone and having them come back to you, that is such a universal concept and there are so many ways to play that and look at that. The changes might not be hugely dramatic in the first four or five [episodes], but our characters’ reactions and the experiences that they bring to it are different.”
In that same vein, Cuse was cautious when it came to the comparisons between The Returned and ABC’s Resurrection, which shares a very similar premise. “Very consciously we didn’t watch Resurrection,” he says. “We felt that wouldn’t be good for our creative process.”
The Returned debuts Monday, March 9 at 10 p.m. ET on A&E.