"Under the Dome's" executive producer Jack Bender helmed "Lost" as a producer and director for six years. But despite the involvement of Bender and writer Brian K. Vaughan, don't mistake CBS' high-concept new series for "Lost 2.0."
As we draw closer to the June 24 premiere, The Huffington Post will take you inside the epic summer drama, based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, introducing you to each of the show's major players through our series of on-set interviews.
Whether you're a fan of the book or a newcomer to King's world, the series has plenty of surprises in store. For the uninitiated, "Under the Dome" centers around the fictional town of Chester's Mill, and explores what happens to its inhabitants after an impenetrable dome of unknown origin cuts them off from the rest of the world.
Below, Bender tells The Huffington Post about the process of adapting King's weighty novel, what he learned from "Lost," and the show's moral gray areas.
What initially attracted you to the project, since you joined after the show was greenlit and the script was written?
I got a call from Brian Vaughan, with whom I worked on "Lost," and Brian told me about this crazy show he was doing. I had taken some time off and turned down a bunch of stuff that wasn't feeling right and this was the first script I read that I loved -- or I should say that felt right for all the right reasons. Not unlike "Lost," when I saw that pilot and J.J. and everyone had asked me to run it in Hawaii, I went, "Wow, I'm really fascinated by these characters." Because I think, ultimately, television is at its best [when it's] about the people, whatever microscope they're under. Whether they're on an island ... or they're under the microscope of this Stephen King inexplicable dome.
It's ultimately about how the people respond to the world they're suddenly in and [how they respond to] each other. I love the characters, number one. Neal Baer was somebody I wanted to work with in the past, and he with me, and it didn't work out. Dreamworks the same. So, for a lot of reasons, it seemed like it was the right thing to do and I'm glad I said yes. And one day at a time, we're building the pyramid, one block at a time. I feel like we're making a good show. It's all you can do. You're never sure how the world is going to react to something. All you can do is the best you can do every day.
Because of your involvement and Brian's, it seems like people have inevitably started comparing "Under the Dome" to "Lost." What did you learn from "Lost" that you're hoping to bring to "Under the Dome," and what are you hoping to do differently?
I mean, I've been a painter since I was 12 years old. And what I could say as an artist, and a filmmaker, and a producer, and a director, I learned many things guiding "Lost" for six years, which I didn’t know before that. And that was because I'd never worked on anything that long. Just allowing people around you to bring everything they can to the party. The same way you can't control a drip of paint on a painting that's alive, you also shouldn’t control every drip of paint -- whether it's working with actors continually for six years ... many times we had arguments, but there was also respect and love behind the arguments.
So as a person, I grew a lot on "Lost." I think the only similarities are that you're dealing with a group of characters who are under the pressure of survival suddenly -- and how those people will react as a community, as a tribe, as individuals, and how some rise to the occasion and some fall to the occasion. But I think "Lost" was "Lost" and "Under the Dome" is "Under the Dome." And I think every day you have the opportunity to do it better and I know this will be its own thing, and hopefully it will have a long life, and it'll have a life it should have. Except for Brian's involvement, where occasionally we look at each other and go, "Oh yeah, remember that?" -- I carry the experience of "Lost" inside me as a person and being in Hawaii and all that as part of my life and who I am as a person, and as a director, and producer. But I don’t think there are that many similarities beyond that.
You can't really replicate "Lost," anyway -- so many shows have tried and failed since.
Why would you? In fact, Damon Lindelof's got a new show on HBO ["The Leftovers"] that he's spoken to me about, and it's very much in Damon's wheelhouse, but it ain't "Lost." He doesn't want it to be. And what Carlton [Cuse] is doing now isn't "Lost." So "Lost" was "Lost." It's over.
The book takes place over the span of a few days, which you're obviously going to go past. What are some of the other differences in your adaptation?
Our episodes are kind of a day, day and a half. So it's similar in that way, but also Brian and Neal have taken it down different alleys, brought in new characters, stretching things out. The nature of episodic storytelling is very different than a novel. And Stephen King ... he was obviously communicating with Brian and then Neal long before I was involved, but his whole approach is, "Hey, take the book and now make it a television series, and make it better." And he was never apparently all that satisfied with the ending that people gave him shit for. I hear it's pretty dark. I've read three-fourths of the book and I'm working my way to the end, but it gets confusing, only because we're not doing that and I have trouble keeping all the episodes in my head anyway. So he's been very generous about "take it and run." And we're also in Anywheresville, America, as opposed to Maine, which Stephen writes from. So there are different things, different characters.
And what are you determined to keep from the source material?
There is no question there are definitely characters and moments and things that are the same, that are true to the spirit of the book, or true to the character, or a specific plot point of the book. But, you know, Big Jim is revealed to be a pretty evil son of a bitch pretty quick. And we're walking a fine line, and Dean [Norris] is doing a beautiful job [of] being the guy that you trust, and the guy that maybe you shouldn't trust, and all of the above -- which you want. And that's true of most of our characters. And we have a really exciting cast of a lot of people who have not been overexposed, which is great. Including Alex [Koch], who just walked out of DePaul drama school. He walked into our office and we were like, "Holy crap, who's he?"
From what I've read of the book, the motivations of the characters are laid out fairly quickly, but from what Mike Vogel was telling me, Barbie is portrayed as less heroic at the outset, while Big Jim is less overtly villainous ...
That's true. I think that people are painted with less bold strokes in our series. There's a little more blurring and watercolor in order to stretch out what's going to happen in this season, like who's going to rise, who's going to fall, whose true nature is a good nature as opposed to a bad nature. What you know at the beginning and what you know at the end will be very different. I think season by season, it will be different.
"Under the Dome" premieres Monday, June 24 at 10 p.m. ET on CBS. Come back to HuffPost TV every morning for a new interview with a member of the cast.