Mystery Abounds In The Resort

Stars Cristin Milioti and William Jackson Harper open up about their genre-bending mystery

Stars Cristin Milioti and William Jackson Harper open up about their genre-bending mystery

A weary married couple on their 10th anniversary find their excitement for each other revived over solving the mystery of two guests that disappeared from a neighbouring resort 15 years prior.

But in investigating what happened to young Sam Lawford (Skyler Gisondo) and Violet Thompson (Nina Bloomgarden) in 2007, will Noah (William Jackson Harper) and Emma (Cristin Milioti) come to discover that they always were the teammates the other needed, or will the life-threatening situations they face seal the deal for their divorce?

The dark comedy from Andy Siara and Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail mixes elements of The Amazing Race—where you discover your life partner is not necessarily your greatest collaborator—and White Lotus-like absurdity with a good old-fashioned mystery.

For Harper, it was the project’s eclectic mixing of genres that appealed to him. “It was just weird as hell,” says The Good Place actor. “I didn’t know what the tone was. I think there’s something about a script that’s so wildly unpredictable—you can’t just categorize it and start making choices that line up with your idea of that thing. For me, one of the biggest draws was, ‘I don’t know how to do this.’”

His co-star Milioti, who worked with Siara on the quirky romance flick Palm Springs, was equally drawn to the writer’s unique style. “Not only was I so drawn to the script, I’ve never seen something like that before,” she says. “I liked how strange it was and left of centre, and how it was many different genres in one.”

Milioti describes the beginning of the series as something reminiscent of Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, while a later episode feels more like Jurassic Park. “I like that it’s spiritually ADD, in a good way,” she says.

Her co-star concurs. “It felt like an old-time adventure movie, the kind that I haven’t seen in a long time, in a lot of ways,” says Harper. “I mean, as tough as all that is—to shoot out in the jungle with plants and mud that smells strange—it’s still a lot of fun to just get out there and feel like you’re getting to do the sort of stuff that you imagined you get to do as a kid.”The ResortShowcaseGetting into the mindset of a couple in peril was nothing new for the former co-stars of Zoe Kazan’s dystopian play After the Blast. “This is Will and I’s second time playing a couple on the brink of divorce,” says Milioti. “So I trust Will not only as a scene partner, but also as a person. When you have that combo, which is very rare, you can really try different things or feel safe to just be quiet together.”

Even within the genre-switching, Harper found that his onscreen partner grounded his performance. “Watching Cristin, it just stays real and centred all the time,” he says. “What Cristin gives as a scene partner is so organic and unique that you just lock in a different way. When you trust somebody and then things fall apart, that does something different to a relationship than with someone who’s just an antagonist.”The ResortShowcaseCapitalizing on the zeitgeist of TV show reboots and our hunger for nostalgia, the show hearkens back to a simpler time in its flashbacks—or, according to the lead actors, at least the perception of one.

“This happens with every generation. They want to go back to this romantic time, growing up. Everyone just wants to feel like a kid again, because the world is very scary,” says Milioti. “I think that nostalgia can be very toxic even in your own brain when you romanticize a period of your life that you thought was your peak. If you really walk yourself through that time, it came with just as much difficulties as your current time. I think it’s the ultimate escapism, escaping to an ice palace of your own memories. I love how this show examines the pitfalls of that.”

Through the eyes of Emma and Noah, The Resort could also be viewed as a study of what happens as we age and our sense of adventure changes. “I’m getting to an age where I’m starting to make safer choices,” admits Harper. “I remember, as a younger man, I would make choices that made a better story for later. Now, I just want to stay alive.”

The Resort premieres Sunday, September 19 on Showcase