Wrapping the third and final season of the drama about the disappearance of 2% of the world’s population in Melbourne, Theroux found the experience slightly unsettling. But he declined to detail the similarities for fear of revealing spoilers.
“They literally happened to me in my hotel suite in Melbourne. There were all these weird parallels. I can’t really say what they are but (when I looked at the script) I said ‘That happened to me on my first day in Melbourne!’” he explains.
“Some very specific things that went wrong for Kevin Garvey when he arrived, went wrong for me.”
“Nobody has wanted a Selfie yet!”
Theroux and The Leftovers cast shot from July – September 2016, relocating the HBO drama after previous seasons in New York and Austin, Texas. Producer Damon Lindelof and Mimi Leder were heavily influenced by Australian new wave films, Walkabout, Wake in Fright, Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave. The Leftovers based its third season -both on and off-screen- in Australia for reasons which will become evident as the story unfolds.
“After S1 and S2 I learned to trust Damon and Mimi,” says Theroux. “They were both saying ‘This is where we should go,’ so I tried not to be a stick in the mud!
“The experience of the previous two locations had been so rewarding, so there was no reason to see that it wouldn’t be the same.”
When we spoke early in his shoot, Theroux was missing the US summer but enjoying a shift from fan attention that follows him in the US. Aussies were far more relaxed about his celebrity.
“They say something very sweet or nice and then shuffle along. As opposed to the US where they just point a camera at you. (But here) nobody has wanted a Selfie yet!” he laughs.
Season 3 takes place four years after the events in Season 2 and nearly seven years since “The Departure.” Both the Garvey and Murphy families are desperately grasping for systems of belief to help better explain that which defies explanation. But something big is about to happen as the series barrels headlong towards its climax.
Kevin Garvey has also settled since the events of previous seasons. Theroux had to question some of the show’s heightened scenes in order to play them truthfully.
“Am I seeing things? Am I suffering a schizophrenic breakdown?” he asks. “But Damon always said, ‘No, this is actually happening.’
“I think in his mind the worst has already happened to him.
“It’s like surviving a crash –you either become more frightened by it or you settle and say ‘Life is good.’ I think that’s where we pick him up.
“What I love about the show…. is that it mimics your life more than you think, with its spiritual elements. It’s completely universal in that everyone has to grapple with ‘How long are we here for? What’s the point? What’s the purpose of grinding on?’
“Damon’s just chosen to shine this light on it, in an uncomfortable way, at times.
“A lot of people just hum along… going through life not examining anything beneath the surface. But eventually we all have an existential element either early on, mid-life or late in life.”
“The stuff that Damon writes is so vastly different to the things I write.”
Theroux is a writer himself, having penned screenplays Zoolander 2, Rock of Ages, Iron Man 2 and Tropic Thunder. But on The Leftovers, he lets Damon Lindelof take the reins as showrunner on a drama based on a Tom Perrotta novel.
“The stuff that Damon writes is so vastly different to the things I write. These scripts come in so perfect, that you really just want to service them as an actor. I might ask to change a word or drop a line ….but nothing thematically,” he continues.
“We never have that argument. He knows my character as well as I know my character. Sometimes better, obviously. It’s that wonderful thing where you get scripts and you start to feel like you’re being pushed in the direction where you wouldn’t have anticipated you would go, but it makes total sense. Or he puts you in an uncomfortable or compromising position where you think it will be really hard. I see it as a challenge, and it’s more fun.
“If you try and bring scripts to your comfort zone it’s death to the show, and death to the actor.”
The Leftovers returns 8:30pm Thursday on Showcase.