If you saw The Returned in its original French incarnation, odds are you haven’t forgotten a moment. The eerie character study about a small town unmoored when a handful of its dead return seemingly unchanged explored matters of life and death and devotion in a gorgeously quiet, emotionally rending way.
Now the series is getting an American reboot from writer/producers Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) and Raelle Tucker (Supernatural, True Blood). The pair says that, rather than re-create the original, they used it as a starting point for more expansive storytelling as “the returned” and their reeling loved ones navigate their new reality. “What we felt is, by adding our own voices and our own experiences to this really incredible world and these wonderful characters, it would organically transform into something new,” says Tucker.
Like its predecessor, The Returned opens with gripping introductions to its core characters.
The Winship family (Mark Pellegrino, Tandi Wright, Sophie Lowe, India Ennenga) — fractured when one twin daughter perishes.
Traumatized doctor Julie (Sandrine Holt), who finds a mute and abandoned boy on her doorstep.
Single mom Rowan (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), unable to forget her daughter’s dead father even as she finds new love.
Grief counselor Peter (Jeremy Sisto), who knows more about his charges’ suffering than he’s letting on.
“Everybody has dealt with grief, and everybody understands that people grieve in different ways. But is it possible to go back?” says Pellegrino of the show’s emotional wallop. “Is it possible to rebuild something that’s broken — or would you even want that? Often, when a family breaks up to this degree after a loss like this, something is wrong from the get-go.”
“My character is the only one where it’s not a loved one that’s returning — it’s a complete stranger who literally shows up at my door. And it awakens her,” says Holt of Julie’s struggle to shed her practiced stoicism and bond with the silent Victor (Dylan Kingwell). “She has empathy towards him and she relates to him,which is different from a lot of the other characters. Because, in a way, she feels like she’s dead, too.”
Playing the town’s only outsider — and the only one who may know if a miracle has taken place — Sisto found Peter’s motivations more unsettling than any matter of mortality. “He’s capable of a lot of compassion and caring, but he ultimately wants what he wants — and he really wants to be accepted by this town,” Sisto says. “By the end of the four months, I was like, ‘I gotta get out of here!’ because I was feeling so disjointed. And I don’t think it was about life or death.”
The Returned airs Mondays at 10/9CT beginning March 9 on A&E