EXCLUSIVE Interview with The Lottery Creator Timothy J. Sexton [+ Series Premiere Preview]
[Warning: General spoilers in interview, images, and preview].
Lifetime dives into the Dystopian with their newest drama series, The Lottery, which premieres Sunday night at 10/9c immediately following Witches of East End.
Set in the United States in 2025, where no children have been born since 2019–and then, there were only six babies–the series follows fertility specialist Alison Loman (Marley Shelton), whose scientific breakthrough has yielded viable embryos ready for transplant into women selected by a national lottery. Other pieces of the puzzle include Kyle (Michael Graziadei), the single father of one of the last children born in the country, James (The Vampire Diaries‘s David Alpay), Alisonâ€™s colleague and lab assistant;Â and Darius Hayes (Martin Donovan), a calculating government official willing to bend and break rules for the greater good. Also look for Lost Girl‘s Athena Karkanis as the White House aide who makes a plea to Alison.
We chatted exclusively with series creator Timothy J. Sexton, who was Oscar nominated for his thematically similar script, Children of Men, about how the film and series differ and what to expect this season.
The show was born (no pun intended) out of Lifetime’s desire to diversify and evolve their brand. “They were looking for something that would both land with the audience they have and expand to an entirely new audience as well, and we became that project for them,” he says. “They’ve been really passionate about it. The mandate was never to be more like Lifetime–it was the opposite. Their whole direction has been, ‘go for it.’ They’ve been good partners. They’ve been true to their word. They don’t want to pull back; they want to push forward.”
Where Children of Men was deep in the infertility crisis, The Lottery is the beginning of that story. “For me, they both have the same point of departure, but they’re different explorations. I didn’t want to repeat precisely what the film did,” he says. “I wanted to take infertility as a point of crisis and see how people are coping. [Here], the world is at the tipping point and in Children of Men, the world has already tipped.”
Sexton says casting on the show was hard work and dumb luck. He wrote Donovan’s character with the actor in mind, and referred to him that way, and then got him. “I’m going to try that trick more often,” he says. He also gives credit to his production team for a keen casting eye. “Dawn Olmstead [Parouse] andÂ Danny Cannon have a very good instinctual touch for casting and they are astute in the matters of who the audience will respond to. Danny is a master stylist and gifted director.”
The show films in Montreal, and Sexton says the city’s rich film history was a key reason. “That legacy endures. We got a great crew. Montreal is a city with a lot of varied looks and juxtapositions between contemporary and traditional, which felt good for our show,” he says. “We didn’t want to set it miles in the future and be disconnected from our present. We wanted to give a nudge to our future but feel like we were telling a present day story. [Practically speaking,] there’s also less competition for crews and locations given that there are less productions.”
Sexton explains the first season will be driven by a couple of story engines. “In this world, the source of power will be these embryos. He or she who controls the embryos controls the future. There are a lot of power struggles and the one main expression of the power struggle is the lottery– the idea that the future should be democratic,” he says. “The lottery is an expression of that democratic hope, but when you peel back the layers, there are a lot of agendas asserting themselves. And the stakes are extinction. What it speaks to thematically is what’s essential to human beings. How does hope exist where so much violence thrives?”
Looking at the characters in the show, Sexton says Kyle, as the father of one of the last generation of children, will be the access point for the larger ideas. “There are a lot of concepts in this and we needed to ground it with an everyman that everybody can relate to,” he says. “Ultimately, you want to do what’s best for your kid [as Kyle does] and in our story, the world thinks it can do it better. [These children, and his son] are of interest, scientifically and emotionally, in our world and what we’re trying to explore [is], ‘in aÂ time of crisis, what rights does a government have to insert itself in the name of the greater good?’ It lands with the father and the son, and is ultimately the most human and accessible story of a world that in its confusion is trying to take his son and he’s trying to holding onto his son.”
Sexton says Alison is driven by her own lack of family. “She never knew her parents or her own blood line; and her sense of loss will propel her forward to discovery in our world,” he says. The First Lady’s story has a familiar theme for career women who wait to start a family. “Hers is the core emotional dilemma. She postponed having children to focus on her career and by the time she was ready to have children, it wasn’t humanly possible anymore,” he explains. “She’s living with a choice she made that was not informed by what would actually happen and that will twist her in interesting ways.”
The Lottery premieres Sunday night at 10/9c on Lifetime and repeats throughout the week. Here’s a sneak peek, and the first ten minutes of the pilot:
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