Sarah Treem Q&A: ‘The Affair’ creator
"We had three seasons when we pitched it, with an idea of what a potential fourth season could look like," says Sarah Treem about her outlook for "The Affair" when she and co-creator Hagai Levi pitched the series to Showtime. "The first season is the sin, and the third season is the cost. We've been playing a long game for a long time; in some ways that's been good … and in some ways it's been a little hamstrung. We've boxed ourselves into some corners that I wish we hadn't … but sometimes that's where the ingenuity comes from."
The series follows New York City writer Noah Solloway (Dominic West) and Montauk waitress Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson), who are married to others, but meet one summer and begin an extramarital affair. The story is further complicated by the fact that every episode is told in two parts: one from Noah's point of view, and the other from Alison's.
"That was kind of the writing exercise that we started with at the very beginning, this idea that in any conversation, interaction or relationship that two people are having, they're never having the same experience," says Treem of the show's two-sided approach. "I always thought that there was just as much distance between two people in one love affair as there would be in the seven kingdoms on 'Game of Thrones,' that there would be just as much space and story and drama if you really dove into it."
She admits that the drama's unique style has been a "steep learning curve," but after "a little mental gymnastics … I actually love what we came up with in the end. I don't think the audience is ever going to see it coming, but when you look back on it in retrospect, I think you're going to realize it has been embedded since the beginning of the show."
This isn't the first time Treem has worked on a series that has been a unique writing experience. She and Levi also worked together on HBO's "In Treatment," which was built around a series of therapy sessions. That drama was "totally paradise for a writer. It was my first job in television, so I didn't know quite how good I had it at that point. I thought, television is amazing, just like writing plays except you get paid."
Treem is currently hard at work on season two. "I think the first season is the tip of the iceberg," she says. "We have a lot more story that we want to tell … I want us to get better. I want the second season to be better than the first. I want the third season to be better than the second."