The Leftovers Season 2 premieres Sunday, Oct. 4 at 9/8CT on HBO.
As Regina King waited to find out if John Ridley’s brilliant ABC anthology American Crime — which scored the actress her first Emmy — would be renewed, she received a script from a pair of equally compelling storytellers. Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta hoped King would take a lead role in Season 2 of their family-centric HBO spine-tingler The Leftovers, which will further expand the story culled from Perrotta’s best-selling book.
“I sat down and talked to them and they’re just so smart — and they want their actors to be involved with the creative process,” King recalls. “That was very exciting to me. So it was one of those things: ‘Well, if American Crime comes back, all you can do is hope that they don’t conflict with each other.’”
King’s good luck held.
With both shows shooting in Austin and all parties agreeable, she happily signed on as The Leftovers’ Dr. Erika Murphy, who lives with her husband John (Kevin Carroll) and their twin teens in tiny Jarden, Texas. The burg is nicknamed Miracle because it appears to be the only place left untouched by a mysterious “Departure” that sent 2 percent of the world’s population into the ether.
And it’s the very place to which now-retired lawman Kevin Garvey (Jennifer Aniston’s new husband, Justin Theroux) leads his teen daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley), his traumatized lover Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) and the baby — likely Holy Wayne’s progeny — that Nora found on Kevin’s doorstep.
The newly formed family moves next door to the Murphys, into a charming, sunny house with a big porch and the promise of the fresh start everyone desperately needs. And though the new neighbors seem friendly enough — and provide insta-pals for each of the new arrivals — all is not as it seems. Because there are no miracles in Miracle. And Erika knows it.
“As light and bright as she was on paper in that first episode, they assured me that this is a woman who is complex,” says King, “So often you have no idea what a woman is going through, no idea how she is just holding it all together, and if you pull one string, the entire family will implode. You got to see a bit of that Carrie’s character in Season 1 — like, ‘Oh my God, is she going to freaking lose it?! Is she going to turn into a crackpot?! She’s gone!’ It’s exciting! You can’t wait to get the scripts and see where it’s going.”
So — though King couldn’t reveal particulars — suffice it to say that the neighborly get-togethers are about to get real.
“It’s going to be very interesting for the audience to see what type of fireman my husband is,” she teases. “It’s going to answer a lot of questions from the first season as far as why there weren’t more people other than Matt Jamison (a returning Christopher Eccleston) that were really, truly, hardcore questioning the Departure. It almost felt like Matt was the only one, but you just didn’t know what the hell was going on with him! I think John Murphy is the voice of a lot of those audience members.”
Asked if she found a connectivity in being part of both American Crime’s and The Leftovers’ complex examinations of faith, family and community relationships, and the mortally dangerous nature of secrets, King says she is mostly just grateful.
“You just don’t often get to do this as an actor — to be able to be on two shows at the same time with creators who are brilliant,” she says. “They definitely get how important it is to layer their stories, because that’s when you start to get some really meaty stuff!”
Including some stuff that hits close to home for the mom of 19-year-old college student Ian.
“It’s interesting because on both shows — on American Crime and on The Leftovers — I’m dealing with teenagers, so I think it’s great that I am the mother of a teenager, because I can pull from those real, gut-wrenching moments,” says King. “Like the first time it was two in the morning and Ian hadn’t come home yet. You cannot go to sleep! The thing is, you want them to be teenagers and you want them to learn life and enjoy it through their eyes, but there’s just so many pitfalls that they don’t get are out there. Those conversations and those debates that I have with him that drive me crazy — because there’s just sometimes he just doesn’t get it. I just have to trust and believe and pray that he makes the right decisions.”
Just like his Emmy-winning mama.
The Leftovers Season 2 airs Sundays at 9/8CT beginning Oct. 4.