Andy Siara wants to make you laugh, and then cry, and then laugh again. And with his latest series, “The Resort,” which he spent eight years developing, he’s hoping it’ll do just that.
The executive producer describes his comedic thriller, which begins streaming this Thursday on Peacock, as “having one foot on the banana peel and the other in the grave,” he told TheWrap in a new interview.
“The Resort” follows Cristin Milioti’s Emma and William Jackson Harper’s Noah who decide while on their 10th anniversary vacation to try and solve a case about two young people who went missing from a nearby hotel 15 years earlier. But really, it’s also a reflection of Siara’s own journey with trying to recapture the past and his realization that nostalgia isn’t always a positive force. Hence the crying.
“It’s a bunch of people who are trying to capture a feeling or recapture a feeling of home and that might not be possible anymore,” he said.
In TheWrap’s Q&A with the producer, Siara unravels the journey to get “The Resort” to the small screen and explains how he gets audiences to experience a full range of emotions in the span of a single scene.
TheWrap: You’ve said this was initially written as a movie. How did it become “The Resort”?
Andy Siara: It started out like eight years ago. I wrote this movie. It was about a kid who goes on vacation with his parents to a resort, and over the course of a week, strikes up an unlikely friendship with this older couple [who are] there on their 10-year anniversary. And these were earlier versions of Sam and his family and earlier versions of Emma and Noah. And the script wasn’t very good. I didn’t really share [it] with anybody. But there was something about the core idea, emotional idea that I was attracted to and drawn back into — this couple that is, through this friendship, kind of trying to recapture their own youth in a way. Every year, I’d go back to it. After several failed attempts of putting it away and bringing it back up, finally around 2019 or so I realized that I was looking at all of it kind of through this nostalgic lens in a way. I was trying to recapture something myself that couldn’t really be recaptured. And so I realized, ‘Oh, that’s probably what the story really is about.’ So I split up the characters over these two timelines … and then it kind of just blossoms from there. I remember when I first brought in the phone idea, we were moving and I was cleaning up the garage and I found my old cell phone from, like 2008. So I did basically exactly what Emma does in the show. I was just looking through photos of my past and it was strange to look at photos of my life and not really being able to remember anything that happened the second before or the second after I took those photos. But I vaguely remember taking those photos in strange ways. And it just started bringing up memories.
Wow, that’s so interesting to know that there is such a personal connection there.
Oh yeah. I opened the pitch when I talked to Peacock with: Think about what is home for you. Home, for me, is sitting in my backyard with my wife and two daughters and just kind of doing nothing other than just being there. If I lost any piece of that, to what lengths would I go to get that back? And that’s pretty much what the core of the show is. It’s a bunch of people who are trying to capture a feeling or recapture a feeling of home and that might not be possible anymore.
In your initial statement about the series, you say that it ‘doesn’t take itself too seriously, but can get pretty serious.’ How did you nail that sort of tone with this?
It’s really hard. Hopefully we can hit it right away. I don’t know. I think that like anything I do, I feel like it needs to have some comedy in it. Because I think life is both funny and sad. One of the things that we were talking about on ‘Palm Springs’ was having one foot on the banana peel and the other in the grave. When that can happen within a scene, where you’re laughing and then by the end of the scene you want to grab a tissue box, I think that’s a goal to try to hit I think at some point for me, but it is very tough. Sometimes things get a little too goofy, and so we want to pull it back from that. But then sometimes, if anything starts to feel too melodramatic, I always want to try to undercut it with some type of joke or levity. I think the levity is so important. From the writing of it and through the production, we’re always seeing what works, what doesn’t — and then even into the editing. We take some big swings in the show, especially in the second half of the show that I feel like probably only works if that tonal balance is locked in place and you’re along for that ride.
I’m interested to see what you might be referring to.
It gets ridiculous. I mean, I think [Episode] 4 gives you a taste of like, ‘Oh, this is a left turn.’ And then we continue to take left turns. It feels like the adventure movie that was inevitable from the beginning, perhaps, but maybe not as predictable as it might seem.
I think even in the first few episodes, there’s a ton of anxiety but also these brief moments that break the tension which almost allows you to dig deeper because the audience isn’t so wound up.
I like for it to feel like a ride in a theme park, but not like a roller coaster. Like a good log flume raft ride, where there is a story that’s told and there’s some drifting down the river parts, but also there’s some drops in there that are scary. The Jurassic Park Ride at Universal is a great ride [that] I think hits all those important beats. I think I looked at this whole entire thing like, ‘How do we create the feeling of being on a ride where you’re going to hopefully laugh and then feel some deeper emotions and feel thrills and frights and all that stuff?’
And you secured pretty much the perfect cast to tackle that kind of tone. Did you go in search of them? Did they come to you?
I’m totally looking for actors that we know can do that. Cristin, obviously, she’s worked with it before. We went right to her on this one, and I pitched it to her. I was talking about it with her when we were filming ‘Palm Springs,’ back in 2019. Will also was perfect at riding that line. I think Ben shares the same tonal goals that I do. I went to him for this because I love ‘High Maintenance,’ where in the matter of five minutes, he can make me laugh and cry. He also really knows the kind of actors to look for, for this thing too. We would just meet on Zoom with actors and talk about, like, exactly what we’re looking for with the tone and then hear what they had to say about it. … It was kind of top down.