Ever wake up in a cold sweat, trying to decipher dream from reality? That’s the story of Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs, Harry Potter, Brotherhood), the protagonist in NBC’s gripping new drama, Awake. Producers Howard Gordon and Kyle Killen, masterminds behind such hit series as Lost and 24, believe that the duality of the show will keep audiences at bay “so that each time the pendulum swings” we’ll feel shocked as the plot’s sands shift beneath our feet.
In Awake, detective Michael Britten, becomes victim of a tragic car crash involving both his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen, Terriers), and his son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, Saving Grace). Directly following the accident, Britten continually wakes into two separate realities: one where his wife has perished, leaving just father and son to continue their future, and the other where Rex dies, leaving two parents grieving the loss of their son.
In each reality, Britten is busy solving different crimes with different partners, Detective Isaiah “Bird” Freeman (Steve Harris) in one world and Detective Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama) in the other.
For Britten, his dual existence becomes less a matter of figuring out which realm is reality and which is dream, frustrating his two bureau-assigned psychiatrists, Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones) and Dr. Lee (BD Wong). Producers Gordon and Howard argue that the series is not one about answering questions or being torn between two lives, but about loving each so immensely that you refuse to let either one go. When asked if there is a possibility that the two worlds are both dreams, Gordon admitted that he “wouldn’t take anything off the table.”
Gordon and Howard confess their two biggest challenges in creating the show: the first being that while this is a cable-style show, the producers will need a network-size audience from Week 1. Personally, I do not see why they wouldn’t obtain an immediate following! This captivating series is syndicatable, meaning each episode can stand on its own. Should you decide to jump into the drama during Week 6, you will be just as encapsulated into the shifting spheres as if it were the first episode.
Secondly, Gordon and Howard discuss their initial difficulties during the writing and production process. When talking about two worlds with varying characters and plots, you are essentially discussing two different shows. To keep everyone in the boardroom as sane as possible, writers began using green markers and note cards for one realm and red ink and paper for the other. Simultaneously in the show, protagonist Michael Britten sports a green or red wristband depending on whether he is in Hannah’s world or Rex’s.
Awake keeps hope and promise at its center as two families work to move ahead in their lives, while not being afraid of “acknowledging…emotion.” The show lends itself to so many elements, from science fiction to drama, that the final outcome mirrors that of a magic trick.
Guest stars such as Brianna Brown (CSI) are set to appear in the third episode, while Gordon and Howard also urge fans to keep an eye out for penguins in the following weeks. Awake is set to premiere March 1 @ 10 p.m. ET on NBC.