Omar Epps, Kurtwood Smith, Landon Gimenez
ABC's Resurrection is not related to or a rip-off of The Returned, but it is adapted from The Returned. Confused yet?
The midseason drama is based on Jason Motts' book The Returned and follows a dead 8-year-old boy Jacob (Landon Gimenez) who wakes up more than three decades later. Its back-from-the-dead premise is not unlike that of the critically acclaimed French series The Returned, which aired on the Sundance Channel, and the show's executive producers made sure to steer clear of it.
"I have never seen The Returned," Michele Fazekas said Friday at ABC's Television Critics Association previews. "We knew about it when we came on and we deliberately avoided it. I didn't want it to unduly inform what [we] do."
In fact, Motts' book won't inform the series that much either, apart from the initial set-up. On the show, Jacob wakes up in rice paddy fields in China and eventually makes his way back to his hometown in Arcadia, Missouri, with the help of immigration agent Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps). His parents, he claims, are Harold (Kurtwood Smith) and Lucille Garland (Frances Fisher), whose son Jacob drowned 32 years ago.
"That book was obviously the impetus for the series, but it was very much a starting-off point," executive producer Aaron Zelman said, adding that it is not a genre show or story. "Halfway through [reading the book] I realized this wasn't a sci-fi book. It's a study of grief and loss and bigger questions about life and why we're here and what it means to be here. [I thought] 'That's a kernel right there.' ... What does faith mean to different people? It means different things to different people. You don't have to be specific ... if you [approach it] from the standpoint of every human who's ever been born has questions about how we got here and who or what is possible."
Emotion is the star of the show, Zelman added, especially the relationship between Harold, Lucille and Jacob. "[Jacob coming back] tampers with the memory of the child that he's lost," Smith said. "It forces him to reexamine what he's done with his life the last 30 years. Those things cause a emotional stew in his life and it affects his relationship he has with his wife because she is so much more immediately accepting of the boy."
Though ABC has positioned Resurrection, which has an eight-episode Season 1 order, as a limited series, Fazekas said that the show has a continuing story line that would carry over into any future seasons. Producers, however, do not ever want a full season. "I'm happy that we've had eight episodes," Fasekas said. "I think we can do 13 ... but more than that, it starts to dilute it. I really loved the opportunity to be able to focus on great stories."
One person who loves Resurrection's stories? Brad Pitt, whose production company developed the show. "I ran into him not too long ago," Fisher said. "I said, 'By the way, I'm working [on Resurrection].' And he said, 'I know, I know! I've seen all the episodes. I love it!'"
Resurrection premieres Sunday, March 9 at 9/8c on ABC.