USA is rapidly becoming the go-to network for genre TV fans, with Mr. Robot and Colony offering the kind of excitement that was once the sole domain of indie cinema. Falling Water is the latest addition to the network’s growing catalog of thinking-man’s thrillers. Debuting Thursday, October 13th at 10/9c, the series’ stars Lizzie Brocheré (of Guillermo del Toro‘s The Strain), David Ajala (from Fast and Furious 6) and Will Yun Lee (of Hawaii Five-0) as three troubled souls drawn together in the world of their dreams. But as show’s executive producers — The Walking Dead‘s Gale Anne Hurd and Brotherhood co-creator Blake Masters — assured us at Wednesday’s TCA (Television Critics Association) press tour in LA, Falling Water is in no way the head trip of Inception. As viewers will, at no point, have trouble distinguishing between its dream sequences and its waking world. As Masters explains, the show was actually conceived before Inception‘s release!
“Henry [Bromell] and I came up with this in 2006,” said the exec, referring to his late producing partner, and the co-writer of Falling Water‘s pilot. “The way we came up with it is: we were drunk. It was actually my bachelor dinner. Henry had this theory about how our dreams reflected our collective unconscious. Then across the table this friend of mine said, ‘Henry, that’s a show!’ In 2008, the writers strike hit. We were bored, we walked around Santa Monica, and went, ‘Can we make that a show?’ This is before Inception, before any of those other things.”
“In 2013 I had a meeting with Gale and we were talking about projects we had. Two weeks later Henry died, from an aorta rupture. I lost my partner on the show, I lost my brother, and then I didn’t touch the script for a year. Then I said, ‘I have to finish it.’ So I went back to Gale and did a small polish based on the script we did in 2008. [Director] Juan [Carlos Fresnadillo] came on and added this whole cinematic visual layer, and USA came along and said, ‘We want this.’ I cannot tell you how it’s grown since then, for an idea that’s as interesting and forward-looking as this.”
“Juan, who you may know from 28 Weeks Later,” added Hurd, “created a very cinematic look for the show.”
Falling Water‘s three protagonists — trend-spotter Tess (Brochere), New York detective Take (Lee), and security chief Burton (Ajala) — are (according to the actors who play them) broken, everyday people who find the tools they need to begin healing themselves in the surreal landscape behind the show’s titular waterfall.
“Tess,” explained Brochere, “has a very heightened power. She is very troubled because in her dreams she sees a boy, her son. She’s convinced she had a son she sees in her dream. But in reality she doesn’t have a son. That’s what’s gonna drive her.”
“He’s ex SAS [Special Air Service],” said Ajala of Burton, “who is now head of security at a national institution. He has this really passionate fleeting relationship with this woman he loves very dearly. Then one day he wakes up and she’s not there and he’s trying to work out if she exists in his dream world or if she’s in his waking world. He’s fully of the belief that she exists in his waking world. As the series goes on he has to face many different obstacles [on the way] to the truth.”
Of the cast, Lee was forced to undergo the most difficult preparation for his role. “Blake called me and said, ‘If you want to do do this you have to eat pizza and you just cannot go to the gym.’ That’s kryptonite for me. I gained 22 pounds for the pilot… Part of it was just breaking me down. Basically, he falls into his dreams because he’s so broken. That’s his escape. What happens on the other side of this falling water, this waterfall is the dream side, are ultimately the things that helped him become a good detective. He’s known as ‘The Hunch.’ But as he falls deeper into the dream he starts getting clues that link all of our characters together. He becomes obsessed with this dream group. All our flaws bring us on the on the other side of falling water, but it all starts bleeding back into the real world. That’s how we all find each other.”
Of all the cast, Lee may be the most overjoyed at the opportunity his character provided him, according to the actor himself.
“Blake said, ‘You’re not gonna kick, you’re not gonna fight, you’re not gonna do all the things [you’ve] had to do throughout [your] career.’ It was never the focal point of any of our characters — being a woman, being black, being Asian. For him to have me not try to take down James Bond and do a roundhouse kick for some strange cinematic reason was the biggest blessing.”
That’s not to say Falling Water won’t provide its share of excitement as its heroes navigate the new terrain they in which they find themselves.
“The basic premise of the show,” explained Masters, “is we’re all dreaming parts of the same dream. Each individual dream is a tile in a mosaic. How we follow-up the meaning of that set-up — that’s what the show is gonna be. We set up the fundamental idea of the show, that these characters can walk into each others dreams, dreams can cross over. The other piece we set up is that what happens in your dreams isn’t a Greek chorus in your life — it’s the other half of your life. If you have a fight with your girlfriend in your dream and you wake up, you’ve fought and you wake up in a bad mood. So you can go into other people’s dreams, you can manipulate those dreams and affect behavior in the waking world.”
Masters assured us that, despite its limitless premise, Falling Water will offer concrete resolutions to some of the mysteries his “metaphysical thriller” establishes in its first season. So don’t expect an Inception-style headscratcher for a season finale.
“There are answers to the set-up,” Masters explained. “Like, who’s that boy that Tess dreams of? All those things. By the end of the first season we’re gonna give you all of those answers. We’re not gonna hold back our answers. Because we think these three fabulous people are interesting enough that you’re gonna keep watching… I’m not interested in keeping secrets from the audience.”
“Our hope,” added the producer, “is that we create enough of a cinematic language that you’re never confused. Our goal is not to trick the audience. There are moments when we want the line between waking world and dream world to blur. But we’re always very clear about ‘This is a dream. This is reality.'”
To which Hurd agreed, “There are signposts. The promo starts with an eye opening. [But] until you can understand what that visual grammar is there are very definitive clues as to what is a dream and what is going to be a dream.”
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Images: USA Network