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We talk to The Mist showrunner Christian Torpe about the Stephen King series

06.20.2017by: Eric Walkuski

The Mist TV show Spike Stephen King Christian Torpe interview

Christian Torpe was hired to develop a series based on Stephen King's novella The Mist back in the fall of 2015, and on June 22, 2017, he'll see his efforts fully realized when the pilot airs on Spike TV. He was not the obvious choice to be the person overseeing such a series. When approached for the job. Torpe made it clear to executive producer Bob Weinstein (who, along with brother Harvey, produced Frank Darabont's 2007 feature film of the same name) that he wasn't a horror guy. Torpe was known in his native Denmark for crafting the dark comedy series Rita, which received mountains of acclaim, but The Mist would be his first foray into the world of tangible horror. But those who might be nervous about the prospect of an "outsider" taking these particular reins should remember that The Mist is about human relationships in the face of unknowable catastrophe even more than it is about the terrors slithering in the shadows. The monsters standing next to you could be worse than the ones outside, and you might live and die by how well you get along with your neighbor.

But does the show actually include monsters; tentacled beasts, Lovecraftian creatures, flying abominations and the like? It's unclear at the moment. What is clear is that Torpe is making The Mist his own - new characters, new town, new shocks - while being careful to do justice to King's nerve-jangling tale. Whether it attracts the type of fanbase that makes horror series such as The Walking Dead and American Horror Story major hits remains to be seen, but Torpe has several seasons in mind; Season One will not be a one-shot deal if the showrunner has anything to say about it. In fact, he's already working on Season Two.

In the below interview, Torpe talks about taking The Mist in bold new directions, getting Stephen King's blessing, how FX's Fargo helped inspire this series, how it reflects the political landscape today, and, of course, monsters.

The Mist TV show Spike Stephen King Christian Torpe interview

What came first for you, reading the novella or seeing the movie?

I had read the novella a long time ago, when I was way too young to read it. Then the Weinsteins came to me and asked me if I had any interest in developing it into a TV series, and I went back and re-read the novella and watched the movie afterwards.

What was the process of becoming the showrunner like, you say the Weinsteins came to you first?

I did a show in Denmark that Bob [Weinstein] really enjoyed. It was more in the dark comedy genre, but I guess there was a darkness in the characters that he appreciated and he thought it was interesting for a project like this. He read another script that I had written that was darker, and then we had some meetings and talked about it and he asked me if I had interest in Stephen King, and I said I love Stephen King, I grew up loving and devouring every piece of his writing. But what about the fact that I am not a horror writer, by nature? It is something that I love to read and something that I love to see, but I had never written in that genre before. We just had some very open, honest conversations about I asked if he was okay with it being less of a genre work and more of a story that allowed itself to be sometimes a drama, sometimes horror, sometimes mystery, sort of go back and forth between genres. He was on board with it.

Have you had many conversations with Stephen King?

I emailed back and forth with him, and at a certain point I had to have the big conversation about how we depart from the source material, which is always a terrifying conversation to have because you want to be respectful of the source material, and in particular someone as great as King. I sat down and wrote an email about what I proposed to do and I got the kindest, most generous response back, and he gave me his blessing to do what I had proposed.

One thing that has been rumored is that there are no actual monsters in this season. Human monsters, yes, but not the abominations from the book and film. Are we going to see that kind of stuff in the show?

I don't want to reveal too much about what we see in there. What I can say is, it is more a show about how people react to what they see than what is actually there. It becomes boring if you know everything that's in the show, so we were mindful of not going full-blown monster show like the movie did. I still hope we will deliver to the hardcore genre fans.

What's interesting is, the book and movie have very different endings; one is very hopeful, one very dark and sad. Which did you find more satisfying?

That's kind of the wonderful thing about adaptations, you don't have to pick and choose. I think what Darabont did was brilliant, I'm so impressed that he got to send that ending out there, he did something different. I really, really appreciate what he did that, but I love that we live in a world where there's two endings. If I want one ending, I will read King's novella, and if I want the Darabont ending, I'll watch the movie. And now I get to provide a third ending. We're not taking anything away from the other endings, we're just adding a different interpretation of it.

Will we see both endings reflected in the show, the hopeful aspect along with the pessimistic?

I don't want to reveal too much about how we end Season One, but I can say that there are definitely elements of both endings at play.

Do you know how this series ends already, do you have several seasons planned out?

I have an idea of where I want to go, I have an idea of what the mist actually is, but how many seasons we will need to tell that story, and how many answers we feel it's necessary to provide, we will have to see as we move along. I definitely know where we want to go.

The Mist TV show Spike Stephen King Christian Torpe interview

Are you already working on Season Two?

We're sort of breaking Season Two, coming up with the overall beats and character arcs, so we know which way to go in case we get a Season Two pickup.

I don't know if you've seen Fargo the TV series-

Yeah, I love it.

It's such an intelligent show, and they reference and pay homage to not only the movie Fargo but other Coen brothers titles in such clever ways. I wonder if we'll see The Mist going doing similar things?

Fargo was definitely an inspiration from the beginning. Obviously, two very different shows, I won't pretend to have any similarities with Fargo other than the way they approach adapting one of my favorite movies for TV. What I love about it, they actually succeed in taking- pretty much none of the stories and none of the characters, and yet it still felt completely like Fargo. They get the DNA so perfectly, I think they did a brilliant job. If I can achieve fifty percent of that, then I'm the happiest camper in the world. But it's definitely not the same approach that we have decided to take. We have created all new characters, we have a different storyline, but at the same time it's characters and a storyline that sort of communicates back and forth with the original storyline, and also with other works of Stephen King.

Will we see how The Mist is affecting other parts of the country, or world, or are we confined to this one town?

You will have to wait and see. [Laughs]

Maybe we'll have The Mist: Miami some day.

Yeah, I think I'd go for The Mist: Hawaii. I'd be up for that.

The Mist TV show Spike Stephen King Christian Torpe interview

The political landscape in our world right now is so crazy and alarming sometimes, is that present in the show or in the back of your head when you're writing The Mist?

It's the reason I said yes to The Mist. One thing is, I love Stephen King, but I didn't want to adapt one of his novels just to adapt it, I wanted to adapt it if I thought it had a purpose now and it spoke to something current. It struck me as politically timely, a story about what people do when they're blinded by fear and how they look for someone to blame. It felt like such a perfect metaphor for our times.

Talk a little bit about our protagonist Kevin (played by Morgan Specter), and how he acts as one of our main points of view throughout the series?

Well, he's sort of a modern day liberal man, believing he has the right values, and in a way I'd say the whole story is about testing his convictions. That's an underlying notion, that it's incredibly easy to be a perfect, moral human being if you've never been tested. I didn't want to create the traditional alpha-male, supercool action hero. I thought it was far more interesting to take a quote-unquote ordinary, well-meaning person and test how he reacts under pressure.

In the book and in the movie, perhaps the most memorable character is Mrs. Carmody, and you do have a character in the first episode named that, but she's not in it very much. Do you have a sort of mirror version of Mrs. Carmody in the show?

We have the mirror version. It's not the same character as in the book, which is why I wanted to pay a little homage to her by putting her in the pilot, she has a different fate there than in the book. But there's definitely a character that takes on parts of that role, with a twist that I don't want to reveal too much about.

Is that your favorite character to write?

That was. Mrs. Carmody is such an incredible character, and I was incredibly inspired to do a modern day take on her.

Thanks so much for your time, good luck with the season as it plays out.

Thank you!

Extra Tidbit: The 10-episode season of The Mist begins June 22nd on Spike

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