Kyle Killen‘s Lone Star was a critical darling but ultimately failed to produce the ratings it needed to survive broadcast television. In this newly-released interview, Killen explains why the dual-reality Awake is a total reaction to Lone Star and why he believes it has a better chance of succeeding with audiences.
Note: the following interview took place at Comic-Con 2011, but it’s still interesting nonetheless, particularly the LOST and Lone Star comparisons.
For those wanting to get up to speed, the basic premise of Awake is this: Michael Britten exists in two realities. In one reality his wife dies. In the other, his son.
Killen, on his hope that Awake will get viewers invested in both of Britten’s realities:
My hope is that unlike something like Lost, which I loved, where you wanted to move down that treadmill toward, “Finally, tell me what’s going on.” I think what happens here, if we do our job right, is that you become so invested in the two sides that you like [Michael], you start saying, “Now I don’t want to know.” At some point, knowing means I have to give up half of this story, half of these worlds. Trying to build that dichotomy is both the challenge but an interesting way to approach the show. Instead of being about making you want to pull apart the mystery, we’re going to make you afraid of the mystery, just like he is.
On what he learned from Lone Star:
I learned a lot. In many ways, this is a total reaction to what happened with Lone Star. Lone Star‘s intent was to have a super-serialized, cable-style show with an anti-hero who you loved despite what he was doing.
It was definitely tricky and hard. [Awake] has a procedural element, but if the first time you join us is episode 8 you may not understand everything that’s going on in his personal life but you’ll see a detective solve crimes in a way no other detective on television is doing. With the pilot itself, one of the things with Lone Star, you didn’t get what was actually going on until the last frame. Here I wanted you to understand what the show was about at the end of the first 10 minutes, that was the goal I set for myself. It’s the exact opposite of an anti-hero, with someone that not only do you root for but you sympathize with [through] this terrible situation that he’s in, this heroic approach that he’s taken to solve it. He refuses that one of those people has been lost [and] he’ll do anything he can to keep them alive and I think that’s an easier thing. There’s not a lot of grey area about whether or not you get behind that character, the way there was with our Lone Star character. For all those reasons, Lone Star was a tougher sell on network than I hope this is.
On the biggest challenge facing him on Awake:
It’s definitely that the premise, hopefully by the time we get it to you, it’s as simple and understandable as it can be. But when you work with the two cases and the two different worlds and the things that inform each other and crossover you have to be careful about what he could know when, what could betray, what must be a dream, what must be real that it requires that you come up with the story and turn it upside down and say what if the other one was real and the other one was a dream? It has to pass all these tests that you don’t have to do on other shows. It doesn’t get easier; you’ll have a whole new set of nightmares next week.
I’ve said it before, but I remain very intrigued by Awake. I’m not expecting a super-serial off the bat, but I’m interested to see how Detective Britten navigates his way between the two realities, where he ends up at the end of the season, and what the larger conspiracy (that’s been alluded to) means for the overarching story.
Of course, I hope that by the end of the season Awake has stirred into a more serialized entity (and successfully so), but on network television the trick is often the entry point. It’s going to be an interesting journey, I suspect.
Awake premieres Thurs, March 1 on NBC. Watch the pilot online now.