The bomb that dropped on Episode 5 of Under the Dome transformed everything outside of Chester’s Mill into a wasteland, but things weren’t as nearly dire when the cast and crew of the CBS summer hit talked to the media at Comic-Con International. They even dropped a few bombs of their own, discussing long-term plans for the sci-fi thriller and the evolution of the Dome as a “sentient” character.
On hand for the first of two roundtable interviews were showrunner and executive producer Brian K. Vaughan, joined by fellow executive producers Neal Baer and Justin Falvey. They talked about the future of the series – short- and long-term – and what it’s like working with Stephen King. (Note: The interviews took place before CBS renewed Under the Dome for a second season.)
“It’s definitely the hope that we will get to do many more than this [season],” Vaughan said. “Stephen King told us, ‘When I wrote the book, I imagined it to be like these people are trapped in this dome for years, not just weeks.’ So we’ll see, if viewers stick with us, and CBS wants us to come back, we’d love to do more.”
The producers explained that whether they’re adapting elements of the story directly, or taking license with the giant-sized novel, King remains very involved in the process, reading every script and watching every cut. The author will even write the Season 2 premiere.
Falvey told his favorite moment of working with the legendary novelist.
“My favorite moment with these guys, that I was fortunate enough to be a fly on the wall – being able to hear the conversation -- was they were pitching something to him, and there was a pause. It was a big idea, something that wasn’t in the book,” explained Falvey, “and there was a big pause on the other end of the line, and he came back on the line and said, ‘I wish I had come up with that.’”
“We steal as much as we can from the book,” Vaughan said. “We use a lot from each chapter, and then some of it is wholly vented. I think by the end of this first season, we’ll already have probably gone further than Stephen King did in the book – so then that’s when we’ll have to start picking Stephen’s brain, to give us more ideas for things to do.”
When asked how they plan to handle adapting the novel’s end game, and the origin of the Dome, Vaughan said, “It’s different, I think we can say. […] I love the ending of the book. It’s a really dark, sort of nihilistic ending. We talked with [King] and said, look, if we have the show on for 10 years and we get to know these characters, we can’t do that ending. That ending only works in the book. We’ll have to do something a little bit different. That means we might even have to come up with different reasons for why the Dome is here, and so that’s all been with Stephen King’s blessings.
“It’s the same characters, and more importantly the same themes that we’re trying to say,” he continued. “I think we’re trying to say the same things Stephen King was trying to say about our country, and where we’re headed.”
The mysterious origins of the Dome will start to become a little clearer before the 13th episode concludes.
“We can say by the end of the first season, you’ll start to get some answers – where this came from, and who’s behind this,” Vaughan said.
The producers said they have a potential ending for the series that Vaughan pitched King, as well as “a cache of cool things” they’re holding onto for later seasons.
Looking ahead for the rest of the summer, episodes 9,10 and 11 will see some new characters played by actresses Natalie Zea and Mayer Winningham. They said the future of Under the Dome is also dependent on the rest of the population of Chester’s Mill.
“There’s 2,932 people we haven’t met yet,” Falvey said.
Three of Chester’s Mill’s most pivotal players have been the power-hungry James “Big Jim” Rennie, the mysterious enforcer Dale “Barbie” Barbara and investigative reporter Julia Shumway, played respectively by Dean Norris, Mike Vogel and Rachelle Lefevre, who discussed their characters’ immediate futures.
“Big Jim just sees the Dome as his opportunity to realize his dictatorial ambitions,” Norris said of his character, who’s becomes a key power-player in the series. “A lot of people sing in the shower, I think big Jim recites Churchill speeches in the shower, and hope one day he’d get his shot.”
“I think he think he’s doing something right for the town -- and at times, he does,” he added. “But at the end of the day, he’s figuring out ways to consolidate his power.”
Lefevre addressed how her character will deal with her husband’s murder. “She has her own demons to figure out and her own relationships to untangle, and as the series goes on, she gets -- not all answers, but gets some answers,” she said. “And I think she has a shift in focus and I think she starts to realize that they might be in here for quite a while and that civilization matters, and starts to becoming more involved with the community as a whole, and starts to realize she’s not just a visitor in Chester’s Mill. … She’s now home for good, potentially. So she starts to get more involved with the Dome and Chester’s Mill.”
Vogel, whose “Barbie” got trapped in Chester’s Mill after murdering Julia’s husband, discussed his character’s struggle to function within the town. “That comes with navigating some difficult waters, certainly with [Julia],” the actor said. “There’s some interesting relationships and scenarios that begin to reveal themselves to with Big Jim and Junior. And I think things throughout the season, the lines get a lot more clear for where everyone stands.”
Vogel added that the action picks up and heightens as the Dome starts to take on a life of its own. ”Initially the Dome is a kind of like a device -- it just seals a bunch of people in, and you think, OK, we’re going to see a bunch of people in chaos and how they react, but I think as the episodes progress, you’ll see that the Dome takes on a life of its own, and it becomes a huge part of the show.”
“My favorite moment Julia has with the Dome … is the first time she’s willing to entertain the idea that the Dome might be a sentient being,” Lefevre teased of an upcoming episode. “There’s a moment in one of the episodes where she allows that moment of doubt, of [thinking], ‘Is it possible that it is a sentient being, that it is impacting us and influencing us, and that it might be here for a purpose?’ And I really like that moment, because there’s a shift in her for the rest of the series.”
“The concept, it’s an allegorical show,” Norris said. “It’s not just what would happen if a dome actually went over your city because it is never going to happen. But as an allegory, you start to understand how people act and react to crises. And as the Dome takes on greater character, which is does, then it really becomes interesting. […] Who put it there, was it God? Is it good, is it bad? Whose side is it on, how smart is it, what are its powers, what can it do? And we start to look at that, and it makes the whole thing more complex.”
“It has this premise that it’s just so implausible, yet all the questions that the show asks are really relevant,” said Lefevre. “We ask all the basic questions in the beginning; that part of what I think is wrong with society, and humanity right now, is that we’re not asking these questions enough…How do we distribute clean water, how do we make sure everybody gets food, how do we get security, and safety, what is personal property and what is communal,” she said. “Not that the show is like a university course, but it certainly can be discourse and we hope that people will watch it and be excited, and be into it, and the characters, and then maybe turn off the TV and go, what would I do?”
Under the Dome airs Mondays at 10 a.m. on CBS.