The dead are rising once again in the American remake of Les Revenants
American television doesn’t have the best record trying to adapt European television series for US audiences ( look at Life On Mars), but that doesn’t stop producers from trying. The latest attempt has executive producers Carlton Cuse ( Lost, Bates Hotel) and Raelle Tucker ( True Blood) adapting the hit French genre mystery Les Revenants into The Returned.
Both series are set in secluded mountainous towns that suddenly find their long dead friends and family walking back into their lives as if they were never gone. The troubling/ miraculous occurrence has a devastating ripple effect on everyone in town as long- buried secrets unfold among the many residents that make up the ensemble cast.
After watching Les Revenants, Cuse says the set up and character- based storytelling completely hooked him. “I thought it was such a great idea and a really cool premise,” he enthuses. “We’ve seen a lot of stories about people coming back from the dead where they are intent on murder and mayhem. This took an entirely different approach as a character- oriented story all about these people dealing with the most profound issues of life.”
Cuse acquired the rights, and with Tucker, set about faithfully translating the narrative arcs of the French series. “In terms of [ our series] starting in the same place, I thought if it’s not broke, why fix it?” Cuse explains. “But that being said, Raelle and I spent a lot of time talking through the characters and their arcs. Some of the characters were incomplete in the French version and we filled in their details and added new connections with other characters. It worked out really well in terms
“I thought it was such a great idea and a really cool premise”
of making something that is derived from the French show but that very quickly becomes something original.
“For me the model is always The Office,” Cuse continues. “The British Office and the American Office started in very much the same
place but it didn’t take long for the American Office to become its own show. With this, there’s really only six episodes where there is overlap. We don’t progress our narrative in the same way that the French show did and there’s only eight episodes in total with the French show. After that we are in wholly new territory.”
With a 10- episode first season, Cuse promises those new plot threads and character revelations will be juicy, but that audiences also shouldn’t expect tidy answers by the season’s close. “The mystery and mythology of why people are back is not a narrative focus,” Cuse assures. “The show is really dealing with the consequences of what happens now that they are back. We’re not really investigating why this happened.”
And that means there will be less of the supernatural too. “There is a little bit more unexplained weirdness and mystery in the French show,” Cuse concedes. “We have some elements of what Raelle and I refer to as a magical realism but I think less than the French show.” He says it will help distinguish the shows even more as a second season of Les Revenants is expected later this year. “We set our story in motion and have our own characters and narrative momentum. The two will now exist parallel to each other but independent from here on in.”
The Returned airs on A& E from 9 March.
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