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March 23, 2016

From Crisis to Creation

Personal trauma spurs a thoughtful producer to The Path.

Maria Neuman
  • Jessica Goldberg and Aaron Paul

    Greg Lewis/Hulu

Tragedy should be used as a source of strength, according to an old Tibetan saying. For Jessica Goldberg, tragedy turned to inspiration.

"One year my dad got cancer and passed away," she recounts. "A few months later, I broke up with my husband of 10 years. I was suffering and felt my whole world had crumbled, like I'd lost the framework of my life. As someone who doesn't practice a religion, I had this sense of having nowhere to turn for comfort. It got me thinking how we all crave the security and structure of a community."

The Path, a 10-part drama premiering March 30 on Hulu, was inspired by Goldberg's upheaval, and — on a larger scale — by what happens during a crisis of faith.

"It wasn't the easiest sell," Goldberg says of the series she created and executive-produces with Jason Katims and Michelle Lee. "Any material that deals with God and religion is always controversial."

The series focuses on a family at the center of a fictional cult as they struggle with relationships, faith and power. The marriage of Eddie and Sarah Lane (Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad and Michelle Monaghan of True Detective) starts to falter when Eddie's beliefs about the cult are challenged.

"I used Aaron's character as my lens about what it's like to lose one's faith," Goldberg explains. "His character loves his family so much that he's afraid to tell them about his epiphanies. I think his experience of struggling with religion and its unyielding rules is a universal one."

Other key casting: Hugh Dancy, who plays the charismatic and unofficial leader of the cult, and Kathleen Turner, who guest-stars as his mother.

The Path was shot in Nyack, in upstate New York, at a real spiritual retreat. There, the seemingly idyllic religious life envisioned by Goldberg and her colleagues came to life — complete with organic farming, communal meals and a unique spiritual lingo.

"It was really fun to come up with all the different verbiage and terms," she says. "I would quite happily do this for another five seasons if Hulu agrees. It's fun to explore a new, weird terrain."

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