The most ambitious new drama of the fall, ABC’s thriller Last Resort launched tonight from co-creators Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek. Below, the duo talk about the pilot’s nuke-tastic ending, where the story is going from here, and debate the eternal dilemma: The Hunt for Red October or Das Boot? Spoilers for those who have not watched the pilot.
Entertainment Weekly: So how did this idea come about?
Gajdusek: My father was a WWII vet and I always wanted to do something in the submarine world. The modern version of these subs holds the same power that defines a nuclear nation. It’s such a powerful object.
Ryan: The idea of a global community connected by the threat of war appealed to me. The biggest thing we talked about for a long time was [the decision to defy the nuclear launch order]. We didn’t think these characters were secretly peaceniks. The people who get on these submarines are prepared to do that. So we came up with an order that’s technically correct but delivered in an irregular way… We talked to captains and were told captains are actually told to question these situations. There’s a reason why these decisions are not computerized, like in War Games.
Gajdusek: Getting that moment right made the series right.
Was the concept tough to sell to networks?
Ryan: A lot of people still think there can’t be women on submarines. A couple people we pitched it to were like, ‘Oh you’re going to have a show without any women on it?’ … There’s a fear I have that people will see this as a military show for guys. We consider this a very emotional epic. What we’re striving for is the stories like the ones James Cameron has told in these world’s in crisis like Titanic and Avatar.
How much of the show will be on the island vs. the boat?
Gajdusek: They need the power of the boat and the eyes and ears of the station. So they will move back and forth.
Ryan: It’s about 60 percent island, 20 percent submarine and 20 percent D.C.
How much of the story do you guys know at this point?
Ryan: Every reporter has asked that. You guys get bullshitted all the time by writers who say they know where they’re going and that the whole series is going to be great. We’re going to say essentially the same thing. But what really it comes down to is the episodes — they’ll either work for you or they won’t. Flashfoward was a great pilot, The Nine was a great pilot, The Event was an okay pilot. Lost was a great pilot — and it was really the only that followed through. So it can be done. We hope we’re the ones to get it done. We think we can. There’s no reason you should believe us. You’ve been lied to far too much.
What’s your all-time favorite submarine movie?
Gajdusek: I’d say Das Boot.
Ryan: Das Boot is pretty great. I like Hunt for Red October. Another one I hadn’t even heard of [until recently] was On the Beach with Gregory Peck. What’s great about that, and it’s a little similar to our thing, is there’s people on the island and they go back and forth. It’s a depressing movie; the whole world dies.
Red October and Das Boot are great. But the one that always pulls me in when it’s on cable is Crimson Tide, which also has some similarities to your pilot. Could Capt. Chaplin really fire a nuke and the U.S. would be powerless to stop it?
Ryan: [D.C.] can’t stop it once they’ve given them the codes. A lot of this information is classified. Are there some safety mechanisms that the government has? Perhaps. But they’re not public knowledge.
Gajdusek: The subject has actually been debated in Congress.
Doesn’t having the missile strike the ocean prove, though, that the captain wasn’t seriously targeting D.C.? Wouldn’t it have made the point better to blow it up before it reached its target, because then Washington wouldn’t have known for sure…
Ryan: His language is very specific: ‘I have a bird heading toward DC,’ not at DC.
Gajdusek: If he had blown it up, [the brass in Washington] would have thought, ‘That guy is too crazy.’ This is the correct amount of crazy. This way it doesn’t harm anyone.
Well, unless you’re on a fishing boat.
Ryan: We have discussed the fishing boat scenario. We have decided, as showrunner gods, that there was no fishing boat … now watch, the final episode of the series, the widow of the fisherman comes in — boom boom boom!