Chad Hodge is the showrunner of "Wayward Pines," a twisty, turny show that moves at an incredibly fast pace.
A mystery with an actual good ending
Hodge first read the book the show is based on in 2012.
"I read that book in a day and a half, tore through the whole thing, couldn't believe what I was reading. All the sort of twists and turns, and compounding mysteries, and things that didn't make sense. I thought, 'There is no way that this is going to have a good ending.'"
Hodge's pleasant surprise: The ending wasn't "total BS."
"When I got to the end and realized where he was going, and what the reveal was, and what the truth of this whole story was, I was so blown away."
He talked with the producer who gave him the book and told him he wanted to write it immediately. Hodge was so excited that he offered to write it for free, which the producer gave the thumbs up to do.
"Even if nobody buys this, this is what I want to do with the next four weeks of my life."
"Wayward Pines" wasn't something Hodge wanted to just go around and pitch to network executives, he says, because he thought trying to explain it in that way would take away what's great about it.
"If I had to sit there and explain what everything meant, and why there was a confusion about time, and why there was a confusion about why he can't get in touch with the outside world, and all of these things that you'll see in the show, it would ruin it. Also, I felt that I had such a clear vision of what I wanted to do in the adaptation, it sort of just came to me the moment I read the book."
Getting M. Night Shyamalan on board
Hodge spent four weeks putting it together, and after he had a spec pilot, both he and the producer agreed that it was pretty good. They knew they needed something else to sell it, so they made a list of directors they thought could execute the show's tone. On that list: M. Night Shyamalan.
"We both thought, well, there's no real way he's going to do this, because he's never done television."
It was also 2012, before feature directors like David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh had started focusing on television.
"It's much, much harder to make a film these days, and a lot of film directors are finding that they can tell the stories they want to tell in television."
While they were at the beginning of that trend, they sent Shyamalan the script. They thought they'd have to wait four weeks — but they heard back the next day.
"He loved the script, and he said to me, 'All right — as long as they're not all dead, I'm in.' And then I got on a plane and went to meet him at his farm compound in Philadelphia."
Hodge was getting a tour when he made a funny discovery.
"It's a beautiful, beautiful place, and I said, 'Well your home is amazing,' and he said,
Oh this isn't my house, my house is three miles up the road.' This was his office."
No plot holes and airtight logic
The episodes raise more questions than they answer, and some cast members on the show may get to clean out their trailers before the season ends.
"If there was any design to it, it was that every time something is answered, another question is raised. And I think that the best writing for thrillers and mysteries essentially can be boiled down to that: asking questions, and then answering them later. But answering them, and that I think is the key to this show that makes it different."
Hodge promises you'll never see logic problems in "Wayward Pines."
"There's never going to be, 'Ohhhh, there's a plot hole there, I could drive a truck through that thing.' It is absolutely airtight."
While Hodge says he loved "Lost," he wanted to make a different kind of show. Rather than waiting for even the end of the 10-episode limited run, Hodge put the big reveal of "Wayward Pines'" mysteries halfway through at the end of episode 5.
"Let's take a show that feels like something you're going to have to sit around and wait forever for, and give you that answer, and then because that answer is so insane — what you find out 'Wayward Pines' is, the story only becomes more interesting, and so I wanted to keep going after that."
The show has taken hits from frustrated critics who want the answer sooner, but Hodge thinks it's worth the wait.
He's been involved in other shows that haven't worked, including "Runaway" on the CW and "The Playboy Club" on NBC, and Hodge says it comes down to the hardest part of a showrunner's job: balancing vision with making the studio and the network happy.
"You're told they want a creator with a vision and a passion and a clear understanding of what they want and of the story and all that, and that you should fight tooth and nail to get everything that you want. And then you have the other thing, which is you have to play with the network, and they're paying for it, and the studio, and they have ideas, and all of that. So finding the balance of that, and being able to give them the show that they're telling you they want, which is in your brain, and that's why they're paying you to do this, but they also have their own agendas."
Hodge says that finding that balance is something that he's learning and will likely continue to learn until he stops making television. Watch how that balance came out on "Wayward Pines," premiering Thursday night on Fox.