The Time Traveler’s Wife explores the intricacies of Henry DeTamble and Claire Abshire’s relationship as they deal with their main problem. Henry is time-traveling all the time due to a genetic abnormality.
Based on Audrey Niffenegger’s bestselling 2003 novel, the HBO adaptation airs this Sunday, May 15 at 9 p.m. It was created by executive producer and writer Steven Moffat and executive producer and director David Nutter. It stars Theo James and Rose Leslie as the titular couple.
TV Fanatic attended a virtual press day, where the EPs discussed their inspiration, including filming with several on-screen Henrys and narrating a non-linear storyline.
Steven Moffat started by saying that Audrey’s novel was about true love.
“I absolutely loved the book, and I think it has a unique take on true love. It’s not talked about enough. It happens all the time. People fall in love and stay in love until the end of life. One of them dies, which is sad, but hey, he had a great idea about that.
“As for how many seasons will it take to tell the story, I already know the answer to that, but I’m not telling you, sorry. It’s up to me to find out. I must have some secrets, but the source material inspired me. I love it.
“I’ve rinsed on it a few times on Doctor Who, as everyone knows, and it was a pleasure to be able to do an authentic version of it in a TV format, which I think suits it.”
Moffat also explained how the series retains material from the book and how it differs.
“I wanted to retain the impact and feeling of the book. I never wanted to change it or fix it. People talk about adapting things where the author got it wrong. The author was not mistaken. The book is perfect. I love it. It’s a classic.
“The thing is, television is very different from a book. A book has a beginning, a middle and an end, and a television series has a beginning, a middle and an end once a week. So you have to have this episodic structure. Relatively few books fit into this.
“Episode 3 is right in the history of jazz that never comes apart. It fits the shape of the TV quite easily. Most don’t. Some of my favorite sequences in the book don’t wouldn’t make it an hour of television, so you have to find a way to make it an hour of television.
“I don’t want to overstate this, but it’s almost like treating the book as a series format and saying here are the other adventures or even more adventures of Henry and Claire. So, I created the same effect that I think Audrey was going for.
Moffat and director David Nutter both expressed excitement about going face-to-face with Henry.
“It’s irresistible to come face to face with the Henrys. It doesn’t happen a lot in the book, but it happens more in the TV show because visually and temperamentally it helped put them both on screen and say, look, these guys are kinda different, and they don’t even. go well.
Director David Nutter explained the logistics of creating the two Henrys.
“It starts with casting because you want to find someone who can play the different characters. Each of the characters has to have their own way of being and who they are, including different voices, different emotions and feelings. Theo James had it all over and stings.
“He had everything basically and understood that very well. So it was a situation where it was just the way he wrote. This created plenty of opportunities for these characters to play ping pong, back and forth, which made things very entertaining.
“I wanted it to be seamless because it wasn’t like a static shot with two people in the same frame, but I wanted the camera to move and they move, talk to each other, then disperse.”
Nutter chatted using flashbacks.
“First of all, you have to have a great script. For me, it was about honoring that. Steven had a technical way of organizing the stories and plotting them. I think it’s musically graded on the D and making sure it doesn’t look like a visual effects time travel show.
“We want to make it an emotional journey and make his time travel feel emotional in a way that he’s not a scientist or trying to figure things out scientifically. But let’s also consider time travel as a metaphor for a disability. And that’s something we’ve played on significantly. It worked very well. »
Moffat talked about his non-linear storytelling.
“I think the main thing about flashing forwards and backwards is that everything is fine. It doesn’t have to be confusing, as long as you know why you cut. It’s like a current of awareness.
“Stories in the wrong order shouldn’t be confusing, as long as you’re clear why you’re seeing this? I always kept in mind how Audrey wrote the book. Audrey is ruthless in the book. She says keep going . Go on and focus, and that’s what we do on the show, but there’s a logic to it. I don’t think it’s a complicated logic to follow.”
Moffet touched on the complex and charming relationship between adult Henry and young Claire.
“Remember Henry is already married, in love, and married to the adult version of this child. And then there’s the face-to-face with the child. It’s hard. He’s doing what you would do. He’s He’s a father figure to her.
“I get pretty upset when people talk inappropriately about grooming or anything or power dynamics. What nonsense? He behaves as he should as a father towards his child as if he were lucky enough to have a daughter who would remind him of his wife.
“He’s a normal-configured man, and that’s exactly how he reacts and behaves. Love becomes sexual when it’s directed at another adult, either you or an owner. interest, and becomes paternal when it comes to a child. That’s how we are wired.
Nutter added how things changed when Claire turned sixteen.
“It’s also a situation where Steven wrote a wonderful line. This is when Claire is now 16. And he says you are not allowed to see naked people from the exact moment. You start to enjoy it. It is the rule.
“I think the way those scenes were written and how we treated you was such that he plays the role of a father figure properly. And I think we were respectful of that.
Moffat teased how Claire has to come to terms with the fact that the Henry she meets as an adult is not like the one she remembers as the man of her dreams.
“The one with the real problem is Claire because she had an obvious idea of what this man looked like, and she didn’t go through what most young women have gone through. She has a version very extreme because the first version of Henry she meets is the man. She later creates. He flows around her until he becomes the man she wants.”
“And then she comes up and says hey, you know, I haven’t had the love of my life. I have a raw material that’s going to take some effort right now. It’s like that for everyone. Young men need to be trained, and that’s fine, but it’s normally not such a surprise.
“I think Henry has been pretty impressed with Claire from the start. A gorgeous redhead announces. I’m the love of your life. It’s alarming, but there are some good times ahead of us in the short term.
“For Claire, it’s a slight disappointment, and he’s not what I thought he would be. He doesn’t care. But by episodes two and three, she’s starting to realize underneath, and there’s has something there.”
Moffat expanded on Claire’s point of view, particularly as a romantic and frustrated young woman.
“I think we all go through it. This is just an extreme version. When you meet the person on that momentous day, you know they are, and you see yourself reflected in the eyes of someone wise enough to love you. You have a view of yourself granted to you by someone else.
“Then you suddenly want to live with that and raise my game and be the person she or he thinks I am. And I think that’s what couples do to each other. They project each other onto the other as an idealized version and then try to become one.
“That’s what love does to people. That’s why it’s good for us. We have someone who has an image of you that you are suddenly trying to live up to. Up until then, you just tried to get through the day and eat enough, but suddenly, thank you, I could be, I could be the person.
“The Time Traveler’s Wife kinda does it because it’s a time travel story, but it’s all of us. That’s why I think people react to the story because although it’s extremely fantastic, it reflects the process of falling in love.
Moffat ended by discussing whether he left any major plot points for the HBO TV adaptation.
“Don’t leave out, no. I was left in the apocalyptic wickedness of Henry’s mother’s death. I wanted the two Henrys to sleep together. I want all the things she was brave enough to put in there.
“I guess there are elements that I got less engaged with. There’s a lot in the book about Henry’s interest in punk and music. I think I kind of overshot that, but it wasn’t a conscious thing. I didn’t commit to it as much, and maybe we will in the future.
“There is a lot of richness in the book, but it has to be done very differently. An example I use that moves me in the book is when Henry decides to get a haircut before marriage and starts to become the man she’s in love with in the future.
“But if I wrote that in the script, it would just be a shot of a haircut, you know, and however beautiful David was, he would shoot it beautifully. It looks like an ad for a hair conditioner. I mean, there’s nothing we can do about it. So, I wrote a different episode about why he chooses to have his hair cut.
The Time Traveler’s Wife airs on HBO at 9/8 p.m. It will also air on HBO Max. Check Sunday for our weekly review.
Check out the trailer below:
Laura Nowak is an editor for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.