What if those you thought were gone weren’t really gone?
Several television projects have posed that notion lately, one being ABC’s “Resurrection” … and another being “The Returned,” a French series based on the movie “Les Revenants” and shown in America by SundanceTV. That story gets its third screen iteration as A&E’s Americanization of “The Returned” debuts Monday (March 9), exploring what happens to a town when the victims of a school-bus tragedy start reappearing several years later.
Executive-produced by “Lost” alum Carlton Cuse — whose “Bates Motel” has its third-season premiere right before “The Returned” begins — and Raelle Tucker (“True Blood”), the new show’s ensemble cast includes Jeremy Sisto (“Law & Order,” “Suburgatory”) as a psychologist who leads a support group for the victims’ survivors. Mark Pellegrino (“Lost”), Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sandrine Holt (“Hostages”), Kevin Alejandro (“True Blood”), Agnes Bruckner, Tandi Wright, Carl Lumbly (“Cagney & Lacey”) and Sophie Lowe (“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”) also are among the stars.
“I love genre things where the characters are way out in front,” Cuse tells Zap2it of giving “The Returned” a revision. “When Damon [Lindelof] and I were doing ‘Lost,’ people said a lot about the mythology, but we spent far more time in the writers’ room talking about the characters and their journeys. Had it just been a show about mythology, I don’t think it would have been as big a success as it was.”
Along those lines, Cuse adds he appreciated the original “Returned” series for its “very high-pulp-concept idea that people inexplicably come back from the dead, but the way it was handled was very nuanced. To me, it was sort of the perfect format for doing a character-forward drama, but something that had an eeriness and a mystery that would really compel the audience to see what happens next.”
The premise also attracted Sisto, returning to dramatic TV work after three seasons on the ABC sitcom “Suburgatory.” He allows his character has “hidden layers that will be revealed as the show progresses,” which he deems a nice change from his norm of playing someone basically spelled out from the start. “A lot of the shows I’ve been on made it much more clear — a. what my job was as an actor, and b. who the character was. This is a kind of experience I haven’t had for a while, since ‘Six Feet Under’ or ‘Kidnapped.'”
If Sisto is kept guessing about what’s coming next in “The Returned,” Cuse hopes the effect will be the same on viewers — even those familiar with the earlier versions.
“In a lot of the ways, it follows the trajectory of the French show for the first five or six episodes,” the producer reports, “then it veers off into its own territory. The French show turns left at Episode 6, and we go right at that same juncture. We’re in virgin territory, charting our own course, and that’s exciting.”