Drama follows people left behind after mysterious event makes 2% of population disappear; Tyler's character Meg seems lost and is stalked by members of a cult
It sucks to be left out.
Just ask any of the restless and unfortunate souls from HBO's new series "The Leftovers." The bleak drama follows people who have been left behind three years after a strange event caused millions to suddenly vanish.
The infamous Oct. 14 date when 2% of the world's population disappeared is referred to as 10/14 and most everyone left behind has issues.
"The Leftovers" comes from "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof and is based on Tom Perrotta's novel of the same name. The show's life-altering event, an obvious metaphor for 9/11, appears to be the Rapture, which frustrates those still on Earth as they struggle with why some people disappeared and others did not.
On the show, much like our own post-9/11 world, people have become deeply polarized. Many have tried to move on, while others dwell so deeply on the event and its ramifications that they've joined strange cults and stalk would-be members to join them as they wait for the end of the world.
Justin Theroux plays Kevin Garvey, the chief of police in a fictional New York suburb, and heads an ensemble cast that includes television veteran Amy Brenneman and Liv Tyler in her first TV role.
"The thing about 9/11 is that we know what happened," Tyler tells The News. "But what happened in the real world had some kind of closure to it. People (had) a place to channel their anger and their mourning and their grief. (But in 'The Leftovers'), they have no explanation of anything. There's so much uncertainty, no one knows what's going on and it's really interesting to see the human behavior - how people cope with that."
Tyler, who lives in Greenwich Village, didn't want to directly compare the show to the Sept. 11 attacks - and even without a connection to a horrific event, the series is gripping in that everything that happens after the sole supernatural event feels absolutely real.
Lindelof says he was attracted to the Rod Serling-esque quality of Perrotta's 2011 book - which no less an expert than Stephen King called "the best 'Twilight Zone' episode you never saw." He learned that HBO had optioned the book and got himself attached to the project.
Tyler also jumped to get on board. "I'm always attracted to things that are a little bit dark and off," Tyler says. "One of my favorite things about this show was that it reminded me a lot of 'Twin Peaks' and 'The Twilight Zone.' This is so up my street that if I wasn't on this show or a part of it, I would be watching it and really be obsessed with it."
Tyler, whose dad Steven Tyler has been fronting the iconic rock band Aerosmith for around 43 years, has appeared in about 30 films since 1994. She says TV is different - and in this case, more grueling.
Much of her pain came from filming outdoors starting in February in the midst of the polar vortex that gripped the East Coast. "Most of the time we were outside at night and it was just intense," she says of the weeks spent filming in Douglaston, Nyack, Harrison, Mount Vernon and Hastings-on-Hudson, where the temperature hovered well below freezing for months.
"It was the coldest winter I could remember," she says.
Still it was worth it, Tyler says, admitting she has been mesmerized by the quality and characters in shows like "Orange Is the New Black" and "Game of Thrones" lately and wanted to make the move from film to television - it just came down to finding the right part.
"I keep feeling that if this had been a movie we would never have gotten it made," she says. "But the beauty of television is that we could pull this off as a series.
"Then this came along and I was drawn to it and especially my character, Meg."
In the pilot, Meg is engaged to be married but seems lost. She's also stalked by members of a cult who dress all in white, do not speak and are always mysteriously seen in public smoking cigarettes. "I fell in love with her," says Tyler. "It's so similar to meeting someone and knowing right away that they're going to be your best friend. There's just something about her that I was instantly connected to - I felt her in me and I know how to be her, which is strange because she's got a lot of rage inside of her and is a bit of a loose cannon, which is so different from who I am."
For Tyler, at least part of the appeal was getting to work with Theroux. "Justin and I were friends before and he's such a sweetheart. He lives around the corner from me and we hang out.
"He looks like a movie star but his real personality is more like a writer or a director," she adds. "He doesn't have a huge ego and is someone who is comfortable being behind the scenes, and that is a beautiful quality for us to have on the set because he sets the tone for how we all interact and connect with each other."