If you’re questioning whether we need an HBO series version of The Time Traveler’s Wife, after the book and 2009 movie, Theo James and Rose Leslie are still able to suck you into six episodes of the popular story (on Crave in Canada May 15 at 9:00 p.m. ET, with episodes released weekly.)
“Doing this book episodically means that we are able to delve into the characters [more rigorously] and really get a scope of their realities, and how they interact with people in their lives,” Leslie said. “I feel that because of that, because of the incredibly complex situation that they find themselves in, we are able to delve into this kind of wonderfully fantastical tale of this out of sequence relationship that these two characters share.”
“We're able to kind of have these nuggets of brilliant chapters in the book that didn't quite make the film.”
James highlighted that the series was really able to bring the humour from the book into the show, which does come through as a viewer, including a particularly cringe-worthy scene where Henry’s father walks in on 16-year-old Henry using multiple versions of himself to his advantage, so to speak.
“I haven't seen the film, I've heard great things, but I think we really wanted to make it because it's a doomed love story,” James said. “It's a tragedy in some ways, but then it's filled with hope and love, and humour, and I think those things balancing one another, it's what makes it a unique story.”
Directed by David Nutter (Game of Thrones) and written by Steven Moffat (Dr. Who), The Time Traveler’s Wife, tells the love story between Claire Abshire (Leslie) and Henry DeTamble (James). Henry is moving through time (arriving naked in every time period he lands in, so be prepared to see Theo James’ butt frequently in this show), and sometimes even coming into contact with his older, or younger self. Claire first meets Henry as a child and he gives her 152 dates of when he comes to see her, which lasts until she’s 18. The pair will then meet each other two years later, when Henry is 28, where Claire has to explain to that version of Henry that she’s been seeing him all her life.
'All love is doomed, it’s on a timer'
Steven Moffat agrees with Theo James that this is ultimately a “doomed” love story between these two people who started their relationship, in the most literal sense, at the wrong time.
“All love is doomed, it’s on a timer,” Moffat said. “Your fun and romance comes out of the fact that it's not forever, you're dancing on a cliff edge and you are going to lose your footing, and we carry on dancing.”
“That's what life is like. You're not getting out alive, so party on. That's who we are, that's where humour comes from, that's where love comes from. It’s clinging to the day before the sun sets.”
Producer Brian Minchin says it’s a love story that is “doomed” from the beginning but we all know that the person we love will eventually die.
“The series is a way of exploring something we all face, which is a thing [that] brings us hope will also end in the worst way,” Minchin said.
The way David Nutter describes it is that a piano has 88 keys and a story like The Time Traveler’s Wife needs to “hit every note.”
“I think if you want to be funny, be funny if you can be dramatic, be dramatic and hold nothing back,” he explained.
“What I love about this show is the fact that Henry doesn't know where he's going to go or when he's going to go,...[and] we talked about this being an affliction. He has a disability,...every time things get too intense, or too involved, he basically vanishes and has no control over that, or no control of where he's going. We have something that is beyond his reach, beyond his control, and that, to me, made it very exciting.”
'We think about the places that we cannot go'
Stories based around time travel have always had a grasp on us, as consumers of stories, whether in books or on screens. As Steven Moffat describes, having also worked on the time travel-based show Dr. Who, “we think about the places that we cannot go.”
“We cannot go to the past, even yesterday, we can’t go five minutes ago, you can’t go back to this morning, those are shores beyond our reach,” he said. Human beings, we’re explorers, and if you tell us there's somewhere you can’t go, we imagine it.”
“We can go to the near future but we have to go slowly, one day at a time, and the past is unreclaimable. So it is a very basic human fantasy to say, ‘Can I go back and see that again?’... Another thing I think that is powerful about it is our memories are so poor… I'm quite obsessed by memory,...I'd like to go back and check what I said on my first date with my wife, I haven't a clue, obviously it worked.”
For Natasha Lopez who plays Charisse, initially Claire’s friend, later Henry’s friend as well, she loved working on this series because it doesn’t fit into one box in terms of the genre.
“If you like drama, if you like romance, if you like thriller, if you like a little suspense, I think there's something for everyone, and I think the concept of Henry not being able to control it is really, I think, that's really the story,” she said. “The not being able to control it, and the consequences that come with that.
“One of the coolest things is how we're dealing with imperfect humans, we're dealing with messiness, we're dealing with challenges in relationships where there's plenty of missed connections,” Desmin Borges who plays Gomez, another friend to Claire and Henry, added.
“We're pairing the genres, we're also pairing the messiness of humans together in different ways, and that personally attracts me, those are things that I want to watch and connect to.”