Damon Lindelof: HBO's The Leftovers Is About 'What Happens Now?' Versus 'What Happened?'

HBO Orders The LeftoversFormer Lost boss Damon Lindelof has a message about the central mystery of his new , Rapture-esque HBO series The Leftovers: The answers to the big question aren’t that important.

Based on Tom Perrotta’s best-selling novel, The Leftovers revolves around what happens when two percent of the world’s population disappears without explanation. So what can the man behind some of TV biggest puzzles offer about this mysterious premise?

“Our answer to it is fairly simple: Just watch the show,” Lindelof said at the show’s Television Critics Association winter press tour session. “Hopefully, what you’re going to care about more and more is how these characters are dealing with this world rather than what happened and where everybody went and why.”

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He continued, “These characters are not actively searching for what happened in the departure. They’re searching for what they’re supposed to do in their lives.”

For the 10-episode first season, “We’re more interested in what the world is like three years later than what happened in that moment,”  executive producer/writer Perrotta added, noting that while the series is “very much based in the world of the book, it is this new thing we’re creating.” As such, the pilot will feature characters who aren’t in the source material.

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Speaking of the novel, both book fans and non-readers alike will be able to enjoy the show, the producers insisted.

“The assumption has to be that people haven’t read the book, even if it was a massive phenomenon,” said Lindelof. “And as a storyteller, you don’t want to make people feel left out. So there was certainly an effort on our part in the storytelling to bring the audience in. … There are clearly deviations between the book and the series that we have to do” to give the show legs, to exist on for years, “and then there are beautiful things in the book that have to happen in the series.”

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Lindelof, though, did let slip with one “spoiler”: “The Leftovers will answer what the dome is in Episode 2, just to f—k [the CBS series].”