Justin Theroux's new role in The Mosquito Coast is a family affair; but while the series is based on the bestselling 1981 novel by his uncle, Paul Theroux, the events that led them both to the project were purely coincidental. Theroux, his costar Melissa George and creator-showrunner Neil Cross talk to emmy about the making of the gritty seven-episode drama for Apple TV+. The award-winning official publication of the Television Academy hits newsstands May 18.
While Paul Theroux's nephew Justin is a star and an executive producer of the series (which premiered with two episodes on April 30), the author insists it was not his doing. "I had no input into any of the casting and was delighted when he signed on," he enthuses. In this reinvented version of The Mosquito Coast, Theroux plays the family patriarch, Allie Fox. Although the character is fictional, he bears a strong resemblance to the actor's grandfather. "I definitely connected to the material because it's highly biographical, in a piecemeal way, of various members of my family," says the Emmy Award-winning actor. "But I'm drawn to the character first and foremost and the potential for complexity." Theroux recruited his friend of more than 20 years, Melissa George, to play his wife.
In the emmy cover story "The Coast Was Clear," Cross, who also wrote all of the episodes, describes the series as a prequel set in the present, where due to privacy concerns in the big-tech information age, the Fox family abruptly leaves their lives for a utopian island existence. "I wanted to tell an exciting, moving and old-fashioned Swiss Family Robinson and Robert Louis Stevenson–style adventure story," Cross says. "The idea was to make the first season kind of like a travel book, and every episode is a different destination."
To set the tone for the series, the cast and crew decamped in various locations across Mexico — from deserts, lush jungles and small fishing villages to Mexico City. The shoot proved to be incredibly challenging for the cast members and crew. "I don't want to burst anyone's bubble of thinking that everyone is just sitting in [directors'] chairs and being fed sushi," George says. "It was hell. We were dropped in the middle of the desert at 4 o'clock in the morning without explanation or preparation because they wanted the characters to feel it for the first time." As a result, she explains, the series is a vast cinematic poem.
Consequently, Theroux has a recommendation for viewers. Do not binge watch the series. Take it in one episode at a time. "You don't put a good meal in a blender and drink it as a smoothie!" he says. "You want to taste it course by course and taste all the flavors and prolong the process."
Additional feature highlights from the new issue include:
- Television visionary David E. Kelley has long been known for mastering the legal drama. In "Mr. Twister," Kelley talks to emmy about moving seamlessly into the female-centric thrillers The Undoing (HBO) and Big Sky (ABC), and how it required a bit of "creative cliff-diving."
- In "Spell Bound," emmy talks to the design team of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian about the striking concept art at the end of every episode, revealing that the artwork is a collaboration between the design department and executive producer Jon Favreau and is based on early story ideas.
- For award-winning director Steve McQueen, telling the stories of systemic racism against Black West Indian immigrants in London was vital, as these stories are often ignored by British media. In "Seeing Is Redeeming," emmy reveals the inspiration behind the five-film anthology Small Axe, streaming on Amazon Prime Video. "When things are seen, people can confront them," says McQueen.
Emmy, the official publication of the Television Academy, goes behind the scenes of the industry for a unique insider's view. It showcases the scope of television and profiles the people who make TV happen, from the stars of top shows to the pros behind the cameras, covering programming trends and advances in technology. Honored consistently for excellence, emmy is a six-time Maggie Award winner as Best Trade Publication in Communications or the Arts and has collected 52 Maggies from the Western Publishing Association. Emmy is available on selected newsstands and at TelevisionAcademy.com for single print and digital copies as well as subscriptions.
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