Falling Water, the newest show on USA that hails from producers of Homeland and The Walking Dead, is a metaphysical drama that questions what would happen if people had the ability to enter, wander around and manipulate the dreams of others.
Or, simply put, what would happen if Christopher Nolan’s Inception existed, but for an hour every week?
Executive producer Blake Masters said they’re aware of the similarities between Nolan’s acclaimed film and their new series, but countered that there are plenty of differences between their take on the dream world. Plus, Masters argued, the conception for the series first came to him and his late creative partner Henry Brommell in 2006.
"We were very drunk," Masters said during a panel for the show. "It was 2006 and it was my bachelor party. I heard him talking about metaphysics and dreams and yelled across the table, ‘Henry, that’s a television show!’
"In 2008, it was the writers’ strike and we were very bored. One day we were walking around Santa Monica and we asked each other, ‘Could we make that into a television show?’ So we ended up writing the pilot then.’"
It wasn’t until years later that they approached USA with the concept for the show. Just two weeks after they agreed to shoot the pilot for the network, Brommell died and, having just lost his creative partner and "my brother," Masters walked away from the project entirely.
A year later, Masters said he realized he had to finish the project for Brommell and returned. Despite the long road it took to get the series on the air, Masters said it couldn’t have come at a better time, when television is returning to what it was in 2006.
It was that era that allowed shows like Lost and metaphysical themes to really prosper. Masters said he wants to return to that era of storytelling and bring back elements of absurd storytelling through more realistic, scientific-based elements.
"The story and the concept that we’re introducing is rooted in reality," star David Ajala added. "It’s three characters that have a very simple, but profound experience within these dreams."
Even with the very sci-fi feel the show carries, Masters and the rest of the cast are adamant that it is not a science-fiction show. According to Masters, the definition of a sci-fi is that it couldn’t necessarily happen. It doesn’t include aliens, zombies or something so technologically strange that the concept is more fantastical than believable. Falling Water, Masters argued, is rooted in a concept that is actively being explored by scientists and could potentially be true.
"This is a story about humanity," Masters said. "It only has one metaphysical leak and it’s a drama premise more than it’s a sci-fi premise. We’re not approaching it from a technological standpoint. The approach is heavily rooted in human drama."
The decision to not have it focus on the more scientific or technological aspects of the show is one of the reasons they decided to go with USA instead of Syfy. Masters was adamant that they never wanted to have the focus be on the technology, and to a larger extent, on whether the audience was being tricked or not. Unlike Inception, which kept audiences guessing as to whether what they were seeing was real or a dream, Falling Water won’t ever do that.
"We're never going to play that game," Masters said. "There are moments where we want the lines between waking world and dream worlds to blur, but we're always clear of whether this is a dream or this is reality."
Falling Water premieres Oct. 13 at 10 p.m. ET on USA.