During Comic-Con, I was fortunate enough to sit down with the two creators of SyFy’s (then Sci-Fi) hit mini-series, The Lost Room.
In the interview we discussed the past, The Lost Room mini-series and planned television show, the present, the cult-following and internet resurgence, and the future, their upcoming Red 5 comic, The Lost Room: Season 2 – which makes its way to shelves in 2011.
At the time that we sat down to talk, Christopher Leone and Laura Harkcom had yet to publicly reveal The Lost Room: Season 2 comic book. So, in order to discuss their upcoming announcement (and subsequent details of The Lost Room), we had to accomplish the impossible at Comic-Con – finding a quiet place to talk (where there wasn’t anyone around).
After pushing through the many geeks in attendance and passing knights fighting in full armor (literally), we finally found a section of the San Diego Convention Center yet to be taken over by attendees dressed up as their favorite niche anime characters.
After stealing a few chairs, Christopher, Laura, and I finally came to rest under a set of palm trees outside the upper level of the convention center to talk about one of my favorite shows and their opus (in my opinion) – The Lost Room.
The Lost Room Mini-Series & Planned Television Show
Laura Harkcom & Christopher Leone
Note from Laura Harkcom regarding Paul Workman: Paul was a co-creator of the project with Chris and me. The three of us created “The Lost Room” universe and storyline together, and then Chris and I wrote the scripts. The idea of a motel room that existed outside of space and time as we know it, and most of the properties of the room, were Paul’s original ideas. He also came up with a lot of the objects and their powers — he’s a master of those kinds of mind-bending ideas.
Could you explain how the The Lost Room originated? I’ve read previously that it stemmed from a thought experiment.
Christopher Leone: Paul [Workman] and I used to work in the library at college and he would come in with these thought experiments – we weren’t even thinking about a story at that point. So, he came in and said, “I have this idea: what would be the most powerful superpower that I could have, with the least effect.” His whole idea was if I could teleport into this hotel room and I could just get room service – I wouldn’t need to have a job, I don’t have to pay rent.
Laura Harkcom: You don’t need money because you can just go into any restaurant and eat wherever you wanted. You could break into a bank vault.
Christopher: Originally, I think you could only come out the door that you went in and it wasn’t attached to the key or anything. His other idea was a superpower where he could transport anyone to Fort Wayne, Indiana and they’d have a bus ticket back to where they came from. So, it would be frustrating to you, but it wouldn’t be devastating.
Laura: Right. It wouldn’t necessary hurt the victim and they’d have a way back home because they’d have a bus ticket.
Christopher: Then, years later, Laura and I were working on this movie idea and we were just kind of stuck. It was about this kid who got a glass eye and does magic. Basically, the scene with Joe and Wally in the diner on the first night – where Wally lays out all the objects – that was originally supposed to be between the kid and this other guy in the original movie. We knew that the eye was really powerful, but we didn’t know what the whole universe was. We just knew that there was this whole war going on in diners and bowling alleys.
I think Laura, at one point, suggested that we bring Paul’s ideas in, but those were almost like superpowers. So, [we thought] what if they were attached to objects so that people could steal them – what if the motel room was actually the key and then it just exploded because all that logic just ripples out.
Laura: The idea was now that we’ve assigned powers to these objects, how will these things play out in the real world. We always wanted this story to be grounded in the real world and be more of a noir-type story than a superhero or superpower story. So, if these objects actually existed in the real world, how would people react to them? That’s why you have some people assign them religious values, some people would say, “No, no, no… They’re so dangerous, we have to get rid of them.” Everybody would have a different idea of what they were and what needed to be done with them.
Of course, then there would also be the people who just wanted to steal them for their own personal gain. Then it was pretty easy from there to extrapolate if you’ve got a guy that has the most powerful object – the key – what kind of position could we put him in.
Since the mini-series was originally planned as a back-door pilot for a television show, how much had you planned out in terms of the story following the events seen in the mini-series?
Christopher: We had a lot. Ultimately, it’s a really big universe and we had a lot of stories planned. What we really wanted to do is follow the story of the key. You’d actually have a different protagonist (motel man), so different characters could come in, but the secondary characters would stay the same.
You’d actually get a new protagonist with each season and all of a sudden they would have a whole new set of problems. So, a whole new guy gets the key – or girl – and they get sucked into this world, too. Say that the protagonist from one season with the key might lose it and still be a character on the show, but not the motel man anymore.
It’s kind of like how the mini-series was. We get Joe’s complete story and now that Joe is an object, he’s still part of the world, but he wouldn’t be the protagonist next time.
How long was it after the mini-series aired that you found out Sci-Fi wasn’t going to go forward with a television series?
Christopher: It was a little while – six months.
Laura: Yeah, six months.
Was the decision based solely on ratings?
Laura: Yeah, because creatively [Sci-Fi] and [Lionsgate] were behind it. So, it just didn’t get the numbers that they needed to justify the budget of the show.
In the mini-series, “the event” that created the room was speculated, but never fully revealed. While writing the story, did you have in mind what “the event” is?
Christopher: The short answer is yes, but usually things like that you don’t find in the beginning. You don’t say, “What if this happened.” You think of the objects first and then work your way backwards.
Laura: Given these rules, given these objects, how does it all deduct into [the event].
Will you ever just come out and reveal what “the event” is?
Christopher: Yes and no. All the logic, the reasoning, what the objects are – you will understand what the objects are and what their functions are [as the comic book progresses], but I think the show in the weird way is about if the universe is broken over here, what is the universe and how does it work. So, a lot of those answers I think are unanswerable in a weird way – you’d have your own answer.
People will ask is, “Do you have the answer?” Actually, the answer is too simple. The answer kind of sounds [simplistic] like [in movies, when they say], “It’s aliens – aliens did it and that’s it.” It’s much more like the logic of it is all worked out. It’s a really rule based show and we understand the logic of it. I think – especially when people buy the comic book – that the longer we go on, that logic will be explained.
But, even the logic leaves room for interpretation in the sense that everyone has a different interpretation of the universe – if you believe in God, you interpret the universe one way, if you don’t believe in God you interpret it in a completely different way. Knowing the rules of the show, [each person] would interpret the rules differently.
It’s not a simple answer. If I just told you, it wouldn’t make sense – we’d actually have to talk about it for a while.
Laura: In the same way that The Order and The Legion have opposing view points about what the objects represents – what they are – the explanation of “the event” could be interpreted differently based on the way they view the world.
It’s more our theory about how the universe works and, therefore, this is what created the event.
How many objects are there in the motel room?
Christopher: It’s over a hundred, but probably in the hundred range – give or take. I wouldn’t say that we know every single object. In a lot of ways – creatively – it’s not as fun for me, because I like that I can still make up a new object… but we know A LOT of them.
Laura: We’re definitely introducing [objects] in the comic that were not seen in the mini series.
Was there a big difference between what you wrote in the script and what made it into the mini-series?
Laura: It was really pretty close. Some things had to be changed for budgetary reasons.
Christopher: All the rules, all the conceptual stuff is there. I think the big one was that [The Lost Room] was originally going to be eight hours. There’s actually two hours that got cut before we started shooting.
I don’t actually miss the later hour, but there’s an hour in the middle – a fourth hour – that’s all about finding the motel. That was a really cool episode.
Laura: Yeah, a whole hour to that and to Jennifer’s story.
Christopher: Once we had to cut it down plot wise, it was easy to lose. Character wise, it hurt, but plot wise it was easy because it was easy to just have Wally show him where the motel was.
I think the great thing about the mini-series is that the cast was phenomenal and we completely scored on everybody.
- Yeah, almost everyone is now on a hit television show.
Christopher: Right! [Peter] Krause had just come off of Six Feet Under and that was a coup, I think. Julianna [Margulies] is obviously huge, Kevin Pollack, Roger Bart – all of those guys.
- ..and Peter Jacobson was perfect as Wally.
Christopher: And he was the hardest one to cast too because it’s such a weird part.
Laura: He nailed it!
Christopher: He was everything we dreamed of.
Since you were also serving as executive producers, did it help to have input on the casting of the characters you created?
Christopher: There’s a lot of people involved, but we had our voice.
Laura: We have to give props to Mary Jo Slater and Steve Brooksbank who did a phenomenal job and brought us people that we either didn’t know or would not have thought of for some of these roles that were just perfect.
In the second half of the mini-series, you began to combine objects in order to tackle different obstacles – The Collectors vault, specifically. How did you handle the inclusion of so many objects at once and how did you go about creating the various steps needed to gain access to the vault?
Christopher: You have to be careful because once you do a story about magic forks and stuff… it can become really silly.
Laura: Yeah, it could be like Wizard of Oz – let’s gather Dorothy and Toto and storm Kreutzfeld’s castle.
Christopher: You almost didn’t want to talk about more than one or two objects per scene, because it becomes preposterous. Arguably, it’s all preposterous, but it becomes really preposterous when you talk about more than one or two at a time. Once you’ve collected five, as long as you’re just grouping them together, it’s fine.
Laura: For getting into the vault, we loved the idea of the scissors – something that rotates things. So, it seemed like a natural way to break into the vault.
Christopher: The vault was specifically deigned by The Collectors. So, what could they do with the objects that would essentially be a security system that somebody without the key couldn’t even find. You need these three items to get through the system that they created.
Internet Resurgence, Cult Following & The Totally Rad Show
How do you feel about the resurgence of The Lost Room via the internet? It’s always been there, but Dan Trachtenberg and The Totally Rad Show really put a voice to it.
Christopher: It’s awesome.
Laura: Yeah, we couldn’t be happier with Dan and The Totally Rad Show guys for, like you said, putting a centralized voice to it.
Christopher: It’s funny because we actually got in touch with him over Twitter. I saw on Twitter where Dan had said how much he loved [The Lost Room] and had just re-watched it. So, I just Twittered him back completely cold and said, “Thanks!”
Then, we started talking and met him for lunch. He’s a commercial director and I’m a commercial director, so we have a lot in common – we hit it off, so it was a natural thing. Then, they were like, “Do you want to make this announcement (of The Lost Room: Season 2 comic ) at our panel and I was like, “Yeah, that would be great!.”
That’s the interesting thing. It seems to have gained a more cult reputation.
Laura: Right, on DVD and since [The Lost Room] airing in more and more countries – it has helped the DVD sales.
Have you ever thought about recording your own audio-commentary for The Lost Room and releasing it online?
Christopher: That’s interesting, I don’t know. Maybe we should think about it. In a way, I’d hate to talk about it too much and ruin it for people or explain everything – “When he says ‘this,’ he means ‘this.’” – because some of the fun is leaving that kind of [ambiguity].
Laura: It might actually be good to get more distance, more time. Maybe wait until after the comic comes out.
Christopher: It would be interesting, even now, to revisit it – I haven’t watched the [mini-series] in a while. One of the things is that if you [rewatch] it, there are certain scenes – not the rules or logic – where you’ll go, “Did that scene stay in there? Did we cut that?” It’s like a surprise to me because we had ten-thousand different versions of it, at one point.
Laura: Yeah, things we had to cut for time, had to cut for budget.
Christopher: Yeah, or things you just revised.
Laura: Yeah, the ripple effect of revising something… some scenes are obsolete.
The Lost Room: Season 2 Comic Book
With your announcement of The Lost Room: Season 2 comic book with Red 5, are we going to see what would have happened if The Lost Room had been picked up as a television series on Sci-Fi (now SyFy)?
Christopher: Yeah, we published a comic book with them called “We Kill Monsters” and had a good time with them. They brought up [creating a comic based on The Lost Room] to us – we had sort of talked about it a long time ago, but [Red 5] brought it back up to us and Lionsgate was game and gave us the license.
Laura: We’re starting with a new protagonist.
Christopher: And picking up about a year later.
Laura: Several of the characters that were established in the show (Wally, Weasel ..etc) will come back. Maybe not necessarily in the very first issue, but in the life of the comic – we have stories for all of them planned.
Christopher: I think that we can say Weasel comes back early in a really different way that I think is cool. That’s the cool thing – these characters still populate the universe and they can pop up.
Laura: Even Joe, who’s not the protagonist anymore – we talk about where he is and what’s going on with him.
Are you going to try to obtain the likeness rights of the actors that were in mini-series?
Christopher: Yeah, it would be nice because I like the consistency.
Laura: Yeah, but that’s something that’s still being worked out.
How often will you change motel men?
Christopher: The next protagonist will probably be in two or three [trade paperbacks - 8-12 issues].
Laura: Yeah, It’ll take that long to tell his story.
If you’re going to introduce a new motel man, how are you going to bring his character into The Lost Room universe and inform him of all the “rules?” You obviously can’t retell the same story that we saw in the mini-series.
Laura: That’s a question that we’ve discussed.
Christopher: Especially with the comic-book, you have to reset it for people who never saw the mini-series – we want them to be able to pick it up and understand it. Of course, we want [new readers] to go back and watch the mini-series, but at the same time – for those that are already up on the rules – you don’t want to bore them.
We don’t want to reveal it, but we have a fun way…
Laura: We have a really cool way to reset the story and explain the rules to everybody that shouldn’t be boring. It’s something the [people who’ve seen the mini-series] haven’t seen before.
Even though Kroitzfeld disappears into the motel room at the end of the mini-series, is there any chance that we will be seeing him again in the comic?
Christopher: We may actually see him again – in a way.
Laura: Yeah, in a different way than we knew him in the miniseries.
Since Joe killed the original Occupant in the room, that means that there’s a dead body hanging around one of the versions of the motel room. Will you touch upon that in the comic book?
Christopher: In a way, yeah – we were actually talking about that. I’d say that once the Occupant is dead that he’s not actually important anymore, in that way.
Was there ever a thought about dedicating a series of the comic to show the origin of “the event” and the story of the original occupant?
Christopher: There is actually a little jump back in time in one of the comic books, but I like keeping it in the present. In the mini-series when they find out about room 9 and what happened to the collectors – you’re discovering the history in the ongoing story, which I really like.
I like that we started the story forty years in – we didn’t start with “the event,” there’s this whole history. There’s cabal wars that came and went, there’s cabals that exist that we haven’t even seen yet. So, the fact that you’re in the middle of that, as you go on you can discovery certain history.
Laura: Yeah, elements of [the history]. Unless we’re fortunate enough for the comic to run fifty to sixty issues, I don’t think that we’ll devote an entire trade to the history, but all through-out there will be elements of the history revealed in the same ways that it was in the mini-series.
Christopher: Going back to your question earlier. If we get to explain all of the logic on all the rules then you will learn more about “the event.”
Laura: Yeah, that’s kind of part and parcel for explaining “the event.”
How many issues are you planning for The Lost Room: Season 2?
Laura: We’re thinking four [issues for the first trade paperback, 16 or 20 issues in total for Season 2 - as long as the sales support it].
How far are you into writing the comic book?
Christopher: Early stages – first book, basically. These are all stories that we’ve had in mind for a while, so it’s not like we had to sit down and…
Laura: It’s not like we had to sit down and say, “Oh, what happens in issue number two?”
Christopher: Yeah, exactly! We have so many ideas that it’s kind of like, “What do we do first?” In an ongoing series, you inter-cut things a lot more, you might inter-mingle [ideas]. I think that in a comic book – especially when we’re going to do the first trade and see how that goes – it’s more of a self contained story, at first.
How soon can we expect to see the first issue of The Lost Room: Season 2?
Christopher: We’re looking at 2011, by the time it comes out.
In total, our interview ran 30-minutes and I can’t thank Christopher Leone and Laura Harkcom enough for placating me and my incessant fanboy-esque questions. Out of the 50 interviews that I had scheduled during the course of Comic-Con (next time, perhaps I should cut that number down a little), this was my favorite and easily the most captivating.
For fans of the series, the news of The Lost Room returning as a comic book is more than anyone could have hoped for. In the world of television, once a show is dead, it stays that way – completely. Thankfully, their experience writing the comic book We Kill Monsters with Red 5 Comics has given them a way to continue the wonderful universe they created so many years ago.
You can expect to see The Lost Room: Season 2 released in 2011 from Red 5 Comics
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