John Hlavin (‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ co-showrunner) on the ‘tricky algorithm’ of avoiding ‘cliched plot moves’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“It was 200 days of filming, for 10 episodes. It was through COVID, which was unfortunate for a bunch of reasons,” declares executive producer John Hlavin, who shares showrunner duties on Showtime’s limited series “The Man Who Fell To Earth” with series creators Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet. “It’s such an amazing cast,” he proclaims, adding for our recent Q&A, “we were so lucky, (a) because there was great material for them to react to, and (b) because they were available.”

We talked with Hlavin as part of Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2022 Emmy Awards contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

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“The Man Who Fell to Earth” is based on the iconic 1976 David Bowie-starring film of the same name, which in turn is based on the novel by Walter Tevis. The 10-episode limited series is adapted by Kurtzman and Lumet (“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”) as a sequel rather than a remake of the original film. It centers around an alien named Faraday (Oscar nominee Chiwitel Ejiofor), who crashes deep into the oilfields of New Mexico with a mission. He must find the brilliant scientist Justin Falls (Oscar nominee Naomie Harris), the one woman on earth who can help save his species. Even as he struggles to adapt to our world and to become more “human,” her faith in humanity has taken a hit over the years, plummeting to rock-bottom with the onset of her father (BAFTA nominee Clarke Peters) falling gravely ill. Alongside unexpected ally Hatch Flood (Emmy nominee Rob Delaney), they discover that in order to save his world, they must first save ours, in a race against the mysteriously sinister Spencer Clay (Emmy nominee Jimmi Simpson) and Drew Finch (Emmy nominee Kate Mulgrew). BAFTA winner and Tony nominee Bill Nighy also co-stars as Thomas Jerome Newton, the character portrayed by Bowie in the 1976 original. The limited series has scored an impressive 81% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with the site’s critical consensus noting that “a commanding Chiwetel Ejiofor gives this space oddity an earthy gravitas.”

“When I sat down with Alex and Jenny, we talked at length about what the plan was, and it changed about a million times,” Hlavin reveals. “But at least initially we talked about that this is the direction the show is going, and it’s still felt very character focused. That is the thing that surprised me, even in breaking the show down and then in making the show, how we would continually talk about what characters were doing. And as Alex has said, we put orange cones around the typical or cliched plot moves that we’d all seen a million times, and avoid them at all costs. It’s a very tricky algorithm, and if I do say so myself, I think we achieved it.”

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