Amy Brenneman
Amy Brenneman

April 25, 2014

Leftovers: 1

I really had a plan to write about this one, diary-style, for day one.  A play-by-play, like the ones I love to read.  But here we are, two months in, and I have chronicled not one thing.  Except for my tweets about the frigid NY winter and the occasional pic.


I did not see this one coming.  After “Private Practice” I was developing a series for myself – like I did with Judging Amy.  I had several irons in the fire, and figured my next character would be witty!  Urbane!  Charming!  Sexy!  And appealing to every demographic under the sun!


Then I met Damon Lindelof and read the pilot for “The Leftovers.”  Such as it was – I mean, my character is mute.  So the script “read” was, well, reading between the lines of a soulful and complex woman.


“Here’s why you shouldn’t take this part,” Damon said to me over coffee, “It shoots in New York, you can’t wear any make-up, and you don’t speak.”  For an actor looking for her next challenge, he had me at hello.


It seemed the Universe had other plans for me than being witty, urbane, charming, sexy and appealing to every demographic under the sun.  It seemed that I was being called into active duty to be of service to something greater than my own vanity.


So we shot the pilot last June – a wild and wooly caper captained by crazy Captain Ahab-Peter Berg whom I knew well, as they say, “back in the day” when we were all unruly puppies together.  We shot in 100-degree heat, 100 percent humidity.  We shot without a safety net and yes, I didn’t speak and wore no make up.  Not the “no make up look” as in network television.  Actually no make up.  Quite a different thing.


Then we disbanded.  Damon, Tom Perotta and the team slaved away and I returned to my day job of raising my own two unruly puppies, namely Bodhi and Charlotte.  We heard HBO picked us up.  Then I started getting the calls from agents, managers and television executives who needed to – no other way to put it – emotionally process watching the pilot.


I hadn’t yet seen it. (There was a plan to screen it a couple weeks hence.)  “I haven’t seen it,” I’d say to the callers who spoke on, needing to talk.  “Why is it so intense?” I asked.  To a one they’d answer, “Not sure.  Hard to explain.  But I can’t get it out of my mind.”


Then I sat with Michael Ellenberg at HBO who spoke openly and emotionally about seeing the pilot and summed it up in a way that I began to understand its impact.    “There’s so much talk these days about pushing the envelope in television, about being edge-y,” he said, “and honestly, what that usually means is more gruesome violence, more amoral behavior and of course, more sex.  But ‘The Leftovers’ is truly edge-y because it doesn’t hide behind a cynical demeanor.  ‘The Leftovers’ is about broken hearts and you guys all are broken hearted, truly, on screen.  And I’m proud of that.”


A week later I saw the pilot and I agree with Ellenberg.  And I am also proud.


“The Leftovers,” based on a provocative novel by Tom Perotta, is about the humans that are left behind after 2% of the world’s population vanishes.  It is about the ways in which individuals choose to deal with an unprecedented event in human history; it’s about the courage, depravity, honesty and confusion that is a natural expression of such an event.  It doesn’t look away.  I truly hope you watchers won’t either.