[Warning: SPOILERS for the season finale.]
Well that’s the first season of SurrealEstate in the books and I very much hope we get to go again because it’s been such a fun summer find. While we wait to find out about a second season, get comfortable and read on for my one-on-one chat with series creator and showrunner George R. Olson about the season, some of those lingering questions from the finale, and where he’d like to go if they get a renewal.
First up, Olson gives a shout out to script supervisor Tom Pepper for tracking all the arcs this season. “He did such a wonderful job of being the institutional conscience and memory of our show. He knew the mythology of our show so well,” he shares.
“And he was so good at raising his hand and saying, ‘No, you can’t say that because we said this in 103. When you have some of these more complex mythologies, it’s just really helpful for somebody to really be familiar and be the canon cop and keep us from stepping into it.”
To keep with the real estate theme, “The House Always Wins” took Luke down to the studs–Megan asked for a break, he found out it was not actually his mom in the Donovan House, but the soul of the stillborn twin sister he’d known nothing about, and after her attempt to bodyjack him fails and she’s yanked into the void, Luke has lost his gifts. And then he seemingly takes a time out from his agency. It’s a very hard reset for our hero, but to be very clear, he is still Luke.
“One of the fundamental rules of drama is that you put your protagonist up on a tree and you throw rocks at him. I threw a bunch of rocks at Luke in our finale. I wanted to see him at the end really bereft and I wanted to leave a little bit of a void [at the agency] that Susan would start to step into,” Olson says.
“I thought that would be a really fascinating opportunity for Susan to come into her own, to really see Luke at a low and say, ‘Okay, well, where do we go from here?’ He can no longer do what made his company special. What now? What next? And the fact that his mom’s out there somewhere.”
Olson says having such a terrific cast lent itself to everyone getting a turn with the Donovan House’s mindfrak a la Flatliners (my comparison, not his). “We have such a wonderful group of actors. That’s not something that you would try if you didn’t really trust your actors. Our brilliant ensemble is so bloody good. So it was really fun,” he explains.
“The house feeds on this kind of thick, nutritious, emotional soup that came out of the reunion of Luke and his mother. So that struck me as, ‘Okay, why would the house not try to duplicate that by bringing in the unfinished business of these other characters, the lost loved ones who keep them up at night.”
“Those are such emotional moments that shed light, not only on who the characters were and their backstory, but who they are now. With Susan, who is so driven and buttoned down, anytime we show that vulnerability, which Sarah [Levy] plays so heartbreakingly beautiful, that’s a fun thing.”
While Susan’s closure with her dad is warm and fuzzy, Phil’s with his figurative father is anything but. “Phil has a backstory that Adam [Korson] and I talked about over and over and over and over again, about how he came to do what he did and why he left,” Olson explains.
“I originally thought that the Padre would absolve him and they’d kind of ride off [into the sunset]. And then I was like, ‘Well, what if he didn’t?’ Phil is so strong that I felt like he was the one guy who could take it. And so we gave him an unhappy backstory. We gave him yet another rejection and everybody on the crew was really mad at me for being so mean.”
“And the actor who played Father Diaz, who did a beautiful job, you just felt his heart breaking. But then later on when they’re helping August through the tunnel, Phil says he didn’t see anyone special. He just throws that away. But it shows his resilience throughout this, and we know what he’s been up against. I think it surprises people. It surprised me when I wrote it, but it just felt right. Not all endings are happy endings, at least right now.”
One mystery that was unclear to me was who the physical woman presenting herself as Luke’s mother actually was. Was she someone random who had been bodyjacked? Was his mother ever in the house as herself? Olson explains, “My own mythology was that when Luke’s mother moved back to town and went next door, the house, in the form of that wonderful gentleman who played him, senses an absolute smorgasbord of emotion and loss and regret and everything like that. And basically used her presence there to interrogate and conjure up the spirit of the sister.”
“When his real mother entered that house, it got a sense of what she looked like that it took from her and templated. [The woman Luke meets is based on] a guess of what his mom looks like now. And we do have that shot of her [in an episode] without her long wonderful jacket wearing just her blouse and her hair is tousled and she’s walking out of the house [later so she is still alive].”
“The sister’s spirit was confined to the house or she was somewhere until she was summoned by the house. [Luke’s dad] didn’t know about that. He knew that he had a stillborn daughter and he knew that his wife was absolutely distraught and had that combination of horrible postpartum depression and the voice of her last daughter tormenting her. Plus all of the little playmates that Luke had and all of that was just too much. And that’s why she left.”
Exploring the sister also sheds light on Luke’s otherworldly abilities. “What we loved about [conjuring the sister] was the mythology of, ‘Okay, well, where does Luke get his gift from?’ It’s from her, the connection that twins have, even in utero. When she died, he developed or gained a connection to the world beyond the veil,” Olson points out. “And that’s where he gets this connection to that world that he’s felt ever since he was very small right up until now. When the sister’s pulled down, back into the portal into God knows where, [she takes the connection with her]. So now what?”
Exploring who Luke is without his gifts, and what his relationships are, will be part of the focus if we get a second season. “Megan stepped away from Luke because of her trouble dealing with that part of his life. Without that, it becomes kind of interesting. Who is he without that? Is that something that you can just extract and he’s the same wonderful, kind, compassionate, funny, nice. reasonably attractive guy that she fell in love with or is he different?” Olson asks.
“Can you just extract that like decaffeinating coffee? I don’t think so. So who does he become without that? And is that someone she loves? That is, I think, part and parcel of where I hope we get to go.”
He also hopes to do a deeper dive into the Donovan House. “The house itself has a completely separate path that we’re hoping to have some fun with,” he says. “It had been inhabited by a number of other people before, before Megan’s grandfather was ever there. That will be a little bit of busy work for Father Phil.”
Here’s hoping The Roman Agency returns for Season 2. Tell Syfy and CTV Sci-Fi that you want it!
SurrealEstate Season 1 is streaming on Syfy in the US and CTV Sci-Fi in Canada. The first nine episodes are available now on the networks’ websites, and the finale will be up tomorrow. You can catch our previews and interviews with Tim Rozon, Tennille Read, and first interview with George R. Olson here.
[Updated 10/8/21: The entire first season of SurrealEstate is now streaming on Syfy and fuboTV in the US and CTV Sci-Fi and Crave in Canada.]
[Updated 05/10/22: RENEWED!!!
Photos Courtesy of Syfy and Adam Korson’s Instagram.
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