It’s a little bit hard to interview a showrunner who’s overseeing a hit drama when you want to remain spoiler-free.
So, when I sat down to talk to Neal Baer about “Under the Dome,” the conversation was a bit cryptic, but that’s the way I wanted it. I told him from the get-go that I was enjoying the show so much that I didn’t want to know what’s coming.
This may sound like a disservice to my readers – to not get any scoop per se, but the truth is, I got plenty of inside information from Baer, just nothing that will ruin tonight’s season finale for diehard fans.
So here we go…..
Baer revealed that in this first season, there was no shortage of story ideas for the residents of Chester’s Mill, the town trapped under the dome. “We’ve had a fire, riots over food, medical emergencies, and several characters have died. These are big plot points that move the story forward, but the most important thing in each episode is really about relationships and how each of these events affects everyone.”
One of those characters is --The Dome. Yes, says Baer, the dome is definitely a character in the show. “It does things, but what things exactly is a bit vague. Like, did it make it rain in episode six? Did it cause Alice’s heart attack (in episode seven)? The Dome clearly has a relationship with the residents, but that relationship is not the same for everyone in town. It’s different for each individual.”
Coming up with every plot point has been “challenging and a lot of fun,” says Baer. “It’s definitely a ‘room show’ where all the writers work together to flesh out each episode. It’s not one writer pitching a complete episode; it’s all of us working together.”
Baer has often said that when he writes he doesn’t think about the audience, only about the story that he wants to tell. “I don’t know how to please the audience,” admits Baer. “We (the writers) can’t get too wrapped in thinking about what the audience wants; we just stay focused on telling a good story. It’s all about creating a compelling, continuing story for appealing characters.
Viewers are clearly onboard as CBS has ordered a second season of “Under the Dome.” Given the high ratings beginning with the premiere episode, Baer and his team knew fairly early in the first season that there would be another and had already begun to lay the foundation for the continuation of the story as they were crafting the remainder of this season’s 13 episodes.
While keeping a town trapped under a dome seems like a difficult premise to sustain, Baer assures that this is really not the case. “There are lots of people under that dome. There are 2000 inhabitants of Chester’s Mills and obviously we’ve only met a small portion of them, so there are plenty of directions to go, plenty of stories to tell.”
The mastermind behind the source material, horror master Stephen King, has pretty much given the showrunner free reign with the material.
“Stephen has been wonderful,” explains Baer, “He reads all of the scripts. He emails me with comments from his home in Maine, but he makes no demands. He said, ‘it’s your baby, run with it.”
In fact, King has written an open letter to fans, many of whom expressed dismay that the novel had been turned into a television show and that the course of the show had deviated from the text. In the letter, King confirms that he’s approved the changes wholeheartedly and offers reasons that the readers of his work should give the show its due. The full contents of the letter can be found here.
And, in a move sure to please King fans, Baer revealed that the author will be writing the premiere episode for season two, which the two men will begin working on in November in Maine.
As for what viewers will see in Season two, Baer was tight-lipped but offered this, “The bottom line is that the whole show is about sustainability, but it’s not a message that we’re going to bonk you over the head with. It’s a parable for our life – the atmosphere being depleted and what could really happen. Stephen wrote it as a parable about that, and that part we staying very true to.”
Season one of “Under the Dome” concludes tonight at 10e/p on CBS.