'Under the Dome' producers: Stephen King book is 'a jumping off point'

Producers from CBS’s upcoming summer series Under the Dome, based on the novel by Stephen King, took to the WonderCon stage Saturday night to give the crowd a taste of what to expect from the series, starring Mike Vogel, Dean Norris, and Rachelle Lefevre.

On the show, premiering June 24, a small New England town is inexplicably cut off from the rest of the world by an enormous transparent dome, leaving the town to deal with both the larger implications of their new predicament (dwindling resources, how the heck it got there) and smaller, character-based conflicts (lovers are split, personalities clash). But there’s much more to it all. Check out 5 highlights from the panel, which included Norris, Lefevre, and executive producers Neal Baer (ER, Law & Order: SVU), Jack Bender (Lost, Alias) and Brian K. Vaughan, who also acts as showrunner for the series.

+ It will deviate from the book
Vaughan said King gave them his blessing early on to expand the scope for the series. “He told us, ‘Really use the book as a jumping off point. Use the characters, use the themes, but don’t be afraid to go to new places.'” said Vaughan. In fact, Vaughan joked that during one of King’s visits to the writer’s room, the author was “really supportive of some things we changed from his book which I thought he was going to stab me for.”

+ This isn’t Lost, but we want to ‘rip off from lost as much as possible’
Even though Dome features Lost alums both in front of the camera (Jeff Fahey, who played Frank Lapidus, plays the sheriff in the pilot) and behind the scenes, don’t expect too many nods to the sci-fi staple. “The plan is for us to be us and to do a different show,” Bender said. But that doesn’t mean a few creative cues won’t be taken, added Vaughan. “All I know is that [after] Lost, there were a lot of shows that came on that were like, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do that’s better than Lost. We’re not ending up like Lost.’ And those shows are all gone,” he said. “So  what I hope to do is rip off from lost as much as possible.” That starts with characters, he explained. His goal is to have those take center stage in the story and for the sci-fi element to merely compliment it. “Every week the characters get a chance to show you who they are,” said Lefevre.

+ We’re NOT a post-apocalyptic show
“If this dome landed today in LA, it wouldn’t be post-apocalyptic,” explained Bender. Dome is much more about ongoing chaos, they added, and among the biggest players in that unrest will be Norris’ Big Jim, a car dealership owner who seizes an chance to take control of his small town after it’s sealed off. “The Dome allows certain types of people — Big Jim being one of them — the opportunity to become a bit of a dictator and exercise his power because they are cut-off from anyone who would check that power,” he said.

+ There will be science behind it all
“We really want to follow the rules and make it as real as we can,” Baer said, talking about how the team consulted real-life scientists about the dome to find a grounding element to its mythology (what can pass through, its size). When King was presented with the findings, however, he offered some wise feedback. “He paused and said, ‘You know, you can just make s–t up, too,'” Vaughan said to laughs from the crowd.

+ They know how the show will end
With a 13 episode order and a big story to tell, producers said they’re, naturally, hoping for a long run. Whenever the end does come, however, “we have a final episode in mind that’s different from the book,” says Vaughan. “There’s a very cool, unexpected end to this dome, I think.”

An extended trailer for the show was also shown; it is expected to be released wide on Monday.

Related:
‘Under the Dome’ teaser revealed during Super Bowl

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