When TV Fanatic had the chance to jump on a Zoom call with FROM creator and executive producer John Griffin and executive producer Jeff Pinkner, the second season renewal was days away.
The idea was also to get some thoughts on the finale from the guys behind the wheel. Surely, they could shed some light on what went down.
Well, they wouldn’t. Even with so much to discuss and the possibility that the show wouldn’t be renewed (a slim one, at that), they offered tight lips and teased that this would be one boring interview.
The good news for you is that this drops earlier. If they didn’t spell secrets, there’s nothing to spoil.
But we did get some context about the meaning behind the show and why, although they could have discussed some plot points, it just doesn’t matter from their perspective.
Foremost, that’s because FROM is a character drama. It plays against a background of sci-fi and altered reality, but that’s just a foundation from which to operate.
Griffin said, “Really, for me, the show began as a way to explore the idea of what your day-to-day reality would become and what kind of person you would become if your life literally became a nightmare.
“If everything that you knew about your daily life, you know, we invest so much of ourselves, and we self-identify so much with the context of the reality around us. And what if that was all to be ripped away and replaced by a nightmare?”
The nightmare itself doesn’t matter. What does matter is how you choose to behave once it begins.
Griffin first got the notion after 9/11 when he realized that “And if you don’t really know who you are in the absence of all of that, then when that stuff gets torn away, you find yourself adrift.”
Marrying the character drama and the sci-fi drama is a careful balancing that Griffin, Pinkner, and their fellow executive producer Jack Bender discuss often.
“People don’t watch TV, just for plots, or more mysteries or the answer to a mystery. And I’d said this to John, a very wise television, or a writer, a friend of mine once said that people fall in love with TV in order to fall in love with characters and watch them suffer,” Pinkner said.
Pinkner further detailed the difference between procedural television, which uses locations (hospitals, courtrooms, police stations) as background and characters in those places as a “conduit” to the story of the week, and those about the characters first.
Pinkner said they’re attracted to the latter “about characters, and exploring ideas through the characters, the mystery, the suspense, the McGuffins, the puzzle box, nature of the show, is super fun for us. It’s really, really important, but if it were to become more important than the characters, then we’d be doing something wrong.”
While you and I are eager to understand the mythology and the mysteries, they may be putting less emphasis on it because they know exactly where it’s going. The enjoyment for them is in making us care about the characters.
Griffin said, “We have always known exactly where the show is going and exactly what the answers to the mystery are. We’ve also been equally aware that if you don’t care about the characters, it’s not going to matter.
“You know, this mythology that we have, and we’re unveiling, it only takes you so far. But you could have the most clever, the most shocking twist in the world, and if you don’t care about the characters, you just don’t care.”
Pinker said, “The mystery matters to us only insofar as the mystery affects the characters in the show.”
To Griffin, genre programming is a “great way to explore and talk about very human themes.” He has always been more attracted to telling human stories against an unlikely backdrop.
“I think a lot of the times, some of the more mundane, or some of the more nuanced aspects of those stories become much more heightened when the stakes are much higher.”
It is also important that the literal monsters come in human form. They don’t run or yell. They smile and ask for an invitation, initially charming their victims. Griffin hoped that embracing the monster trope with that spin would be more chilling.
Pinkner said that there’s a little more to it. “And when ultimately the “mythology,” when everything is answered, it becomes more overtly obvious why they needed to look for why they look the way they looked. It’s a little bit like what comes first, the chicken or the egg.
“It wasn’t just a what’s going to be the most effective means scaring or terrorizing the rest of our characters. It’s equally, why they look that way is part of the controlling idea of this whole place.”
Seeing their story come to life has been wholly gratifying. There isn’t a single actor they left out when effusing about how their talents have brought the story alive.
Filming FROM on the tail end of COVID in a remote area of Halifax, the cast leaned on each other for support and grew close through impromptu get-togethers.
Experienced cast members have shared their knowledge with the inexperienced so that whether seasoned professionals or relatively new to the profession, the producers have “just been blown away.”
Pinkner said, “There is nothing that we’ve imagined doing that we haven’t done because we didn’t think an actor or our cast couldn’t pull off. It’s been the opposite. Like as soon as we started making the show, we realized we can go so many more places than we thought we’d be able to.”
And yes, FROM Season 2 is on the way, and they’ve got it all planned. Griffin said, “Rest assured, this is a show very much about the journey and about the peeling back the layers.”
It was important to them from the beginning that viewers know that their investment in their story and its characters would be rewarded.
“Any show is sort of like a contract with your audience, you know, and it’s like, you’re saying; Hey, come with us on this journey. We know where we’re going. And we’re going to make sure you enjoy the ride,” Griffin said.
“And keep your eyes peeled because all your questions are going to be answered along the way. I know that there are probably a lot of specific questions as far as like, when is this going to be answered? And when is that going to be answered? And as a blanket, the answers are all coming, and some are coming in season two.”
Be sure to watch the FROM finale tonight on EPIX at 9/8c and return tomorrow for some insight into the finale from Griffin and Pinkner. It turns out they had a little something to say about it, after all!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.