We had the chance to sit down with series creator John Griffin and executive producer Jeff Pinkner to talk about how the show has been received by fans and critics, if there will be a second season and just who is the actor who plays Smiley!
***Possible spoilers if you haven’t seen episode 10**
Pop Culture Principle – You never know how viewers will react to a show when it’s released, but viewers have really taken to FROM. How have you enjoyed the reaction to the series and the FROM community online?
John Griffin – You never know how people will respond and you hope they enjoy what you are doing. All you can really do is make the best version of the show you want to make. It’s been amazing to see the type of community that has sprung up around the show whether it be on Twitter and the very active Facebook group. These folks are not only along for the ride, but they are cheering you on as you go, it’s really special.
There are so many shows out there for people to watch and we live in a time when there is a very rich landscape of entertainment and for people to have chosen our show to come along for the ride, it really matters. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we really value and appreciate everyone out there whether it’s the live tweeting sessions or people reaching out saying that they enjoy the show, it means the world.
Pop Culture Principle – There have been rumors online that the show has already been renewed for a second season and started production already. Can you give us the status of the show right now in terms of a second season renewal?
Jeff Pinkner – Episode 11 will drop tomorrow. 😊 Just kidding. I wish we were secretly in production, that would be the greatest thing ever. The honest to God answer is despite the endless surprises of this business, I will say all signs point very solidly towards us being in production on the second season in the very near future. We wouldn’t be here continuing to promote the first season if we didn’t believe we would be doing this for a while. We believe we are in this for the long haul.
To your first question, we love doing this. John and I have a mutual admiration for each other along with Jack Bender our third partner. Making this show has been an out and out joy. We aren’t doing it for ourselves, we are doing it for an audience, and we are telling stories that will hopefully connect with people. The fact that viewers are engaging with it and not just watching it, that’s a victory for us and that’s what we want and what EPIX wants. People are seeking out the show and it is becoming a part of their conversation. As long as they are there, we think EPIX will keep supporting us and we will keep making more.
Pop Culture Principle – Some fans are comparing FROM to LOST. Do you see that comparison as somewhat of a double-edged sword?
Jeff Pinkner – LOST is a show that both myself and Jack Bender were incredibly proud to be a part of, but we were not in charge. Any viewers who are coming to this show because they were fans of LOST is fantastic! Any way we can get people in the room, that is great. It is now our job to keep them there and tell them a story that they are interested in.
LOST provided many lessons in things that were done right and things that could have been done differently, if not necessarily better. One of the lessons for me was pacing answers and having those answers lead to more questions. It wasn’t necessarily about whether or not you have the answer or if the answers feedback to characters or plot and mythology. Having a very purposeful deployment of those answers and making sure those answers lead to new questions and making sure the show is well aware of the questions that the audience is asking and acknowledging them. Being incredibly mindful of the viewing experience is something that we have brought to the table as we tell this story and it’s something we are constantly reminding ourselves of. So, that mindset and point of view is something that LOST was really fertile training ground for.
John Griffin – Just in terms of the approach that we have taken here in regard to making sure we are looking at this type of experience and this type of show from a slightly different angle than other shows like LOST or Wayward Pines or Under the Done. One of the things that has been fun to play with in terms of how the show is built, is that often in shows like this, you either have a place where people have existed for a while, or you have something where the experience is beginning for everyone all at once. So, to be able to have both play out at the same time where you have the people who are already immersed in this experience and then you have the Matthews family who is sort of a conduit for the audience, it allows you to drop the audience into the experience all at once.
Pop Culture Principle – Many fans initially were skeptical about this show having a plan because of LOST. Have you plotted out several seasons worth of stories and do you know where the show is heading?
John Griffin – Yes. The analogy that I like to use is that a show like this is a like a contract that you are making with your audience because there is a large investment of time and it’s a journey. The audience is investing their time and they are investing their care and the contract is come along with us for this ride because we know where we are taking you and you are in good hands. This is not going to be a journey to nowhere and keep looking out the window because the answers to all your questions are out there.
Now, will those answers come at the rate that will satisfy everyone? No, of course not. None of us want to tell a story where we know all the answers ahead of time and we know exactly what every episode is going to look like because that is boring. It would be boring for us to create, and it would be boring for you to watch. But, knowing the blueprint, exactly where we are going to begin, where we are going to end up and all the milestones that will take place in between, that allows us to go off road every once in a while and allows us to take some twists and turns as they present themselves because that is what the best storytelling is and what we aspire to do.
The answers will sometimes come to quickly for some people or they will come to slowly for other people. The only way we could make this show is if we knew where it was heading. You can’t dive into something like this blind. The show is sort of created so that the characters and the audience are asking the same questions at the same time.
Jeff Pinkner – Every book my mom read, she would go to the end of the book first and read the last page. She hated suspense and hated not knowing what the ending was going to be and it drove me insane. If we told you all the answers you would be like ok but watching the journey and how those answers affect the characters, that’s where the value of the story comes from.
I’m a viewer, I’m a fan and I’m a reader and I like answers to, but the journey is the reward. Television and telling stories is really hard because all of us as viewers watch things and kind of sniff out or sense or fear that the storytellers don’t know what they are doing and think they are making things up as they go along. Part of the willingness to take the journey is scary particularly when things get cancelled and we understand that because we are viewers too! All we can do is try to reinforce by the nature of the story that we are telling, we have a plan in place. Things can always happen, and we are taking it on faith to that we are going to get to tell the end of the story. All we can do is do it the best we know how, and we are approaching it as if we were the viewers would we be satisfied by this, if yes, ok, then let’s do better and that’s what we are trying to do.
John Griffin – This was a ball that we were pushing up a hill for a long time. We were developing this and trying to get in production for five years because it’s not always easy to get stories like this on the air and you can’t create this type of story fearing that you might get cancelled. You either have to be all in or not in at all. If you are telling the story fearing you are not going to have enough time, you are going to end up with something rushed. One thing that we always keep at the forefront of our mind, you can have the most clever twist or story or puzzle and the most ingenious mythology or mystery and none of it matters if you don’t care about the characters.
One of the most rewarding things about the fan reaction has been people really investing in the individual characters and everyone identifies with a different character, and this is so rewarding to see because that is something we see when we make the show. The hope is that everyone who watches the show sees a little bit of themselves in our ensemble.
FROM Fan Questions
Pop Culture Principle – If there is a second season, will you go more into back stories to say what the characters did leading up to arriving in the town i.e., flashbacks to major incidents in their life etc.? – (David McAlpine)
Jeff Pinkner – Yes and no. 😊 The answer is thus far we have maintained the rule of we are only going to see things that took place in town. Even though we flashbacked to Boyd and his family’s arrival in town and the drive up to it, so far, the true flashbacks have all taken place in our town. Now, whether or not we are going to maintain that or not, I don’t want to say because hopefully there are some surprises and discoveries for the audience.
We have spent a bunch of time revealing backstories of characters that they have narrated themselves to the extent that there are still things we don’t know about the characters, and we will continue to unpack that. Anyone who has gotten to the end of the first season could guess that there is something showing up which presents more opportunities. So, where these people are from matters and who they were matters. We are constantly going to be delving into and exploring and speaking to who they were before they got here.
Pop Culture Principle – If there is a second season, will there be an episode from the creature’s perspective? – (Roger King)
John Griffin – I would say that nothing is off the table. We know all of the answers that we want to provide, and the fun is finding inventive ways to provide those answers.
Pop Culture Principle – Will there be any FROM related merchandise to purchase in the future?
Jeff Pinkner – The short answer to that is EPIX has told us that they have gotten a lot of requests for merch and that they are talking about how to satisfy those request. We know that the talisman is one of them. So, the answer is hopefully yes, but as of yet, we haven’t seen anything. We have talked about opportunities for giveaways and sweepstakes and things like that. The idea that people would want FROM merch delights us and we want to satisfy them.
John Griffin – If it were up to us, there would already be a store to buy show related merchandise. 😊
Pop Culture Principle – Does time in Fromville move faster than the outside world? As in them aging faster? If so, does that mean time flow here vs the outside world is different? – (Chris Hutchinson)
John Griffin – Unfortunately, most questions about the mystery or the way things work – your current question included – tend to fall under the heading of “you’ll find out in due time”. 🙂
Pop Culture Principle – Fans want to know the actor who plays the creature they have dubbed Smiley?
John Griffin – He has very quickly become one of our more iconic creatures. The name of the actor is Jamie McGuire. You should all know, there is no digital enhancement and when he smiles, that is all him. When he doesn’t put on the creepy, he’s a very pleasant and normal looking fellow, but when he smiled for us, we were like wow!
You know, it’s a challenge for the actors who play the creatures because there is a certain level of humanity to them. It’s a very delicate balance that they have to strike playing these creatures and they are all doing a wonderful job. They all conveyed that very creepy and familiar vibe that we were going for.
A huge thank you to John Griffin and Jeff Pinkner for taking the time to talk with us! You can catch the season one finale of FROM this Sunday at 9/8c exclusively on Epix!
**All photos courtesy of Chris Reardon/Epix**