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Tom Perrotta Brings 'The Leftovers' To HBO

Think for a second. Say there is a rapture — a Bibilical event in which people around you


What would you do? Wouldn’t you wonder a little, “Well, why not me?”

In Tom Perrotta‘s novel “The Leftovers,” there are hellish questions on Earth after millions are whisked off to heaven.

And now, “The Leftovers” is an HBO series. Perrotta isn’t new to having his work adapted to the screen. Previously, Perrotta’s novels “Election” and “Little Children” were adapted into Academy Award nominated films.

But this time, Perrotta is behind the wheel of the adaptation: he is the show’s co-creator and executive producer, and he co-wrote the pilot as well.

Here & Now’s Robin Young talks to Perrotta about the process of bringing his book to television.


Interview Highlights

On adapting “The Leftovers” for TV

“I’ve had books turned into films before, and in that case what you’re doing is trying to compress the story so that it fits in a 2-hour format. Here, we have ten 1-hour episodes for the season so the book has grown beyond its boundaries. We’ve created new characters, we’ve invented new stories to tell. It’s really been a process of transformation, creating something new.”

On what’s changed in the adaptation

“I think one of the things that really happened in this transformative process is that the quietness of the book was amped up … I think readers will find that ‘The Leftovers’ has been given a shot of adrenaline.”

On the book’s deeper meaning

“There’s something crazy about this idea of people just disappearing. But, there’s also something very true about it.”

“I know people who’ve died suddenly. I think the first time it happens to you, the world feels different forever. So I wanted to use it as a metaphor, but I also wanted to sort of undermine apocalyptic conventions and really create an internal apocalypse. The world looks fine, but the people are deeply shaken.”

“My father died in a car accident. It was ten years ago, but still, he was there one day and he was not there the next. It took me a very, very long time — I don’t think I still have fully absorbed that. You just fear for the people you love in a different way once that happens. And it happens pretty much to everybody in some way or another.”


Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Perotta. (Gracie Mckenzie/Here & Now)
Tom Perotta. (Gracie Mckenzie/Here & Now)

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