Editor’s note: The below interview contains spoilers for the first three episodes of The Resort.From showrunner and executive producer Andy Siara (Palm Springs), The Resort is a comedy-mystery series unlike no other. The premise may start off in a familiar place: married couple Noah (William Jackson Harper) and Emma (Cristin Milioti) decide to vacation in the Mayan Riviera at the Oceana Vista Resort for their anniversary. The two have clearly been out of touch for some time, and the trip itself may or may not make all the difference. When Emma stumbles upon an unsolved mystery connected to the disappearance of two guests at a now-defunct resort on the same island 15 years ago, the couple wanders down a rabbit hole consisting of bizarre twists and turns, unanswered questions, and lots of intrigue and danger. In addition to Harper and Milioti, the series also flashes back to that fateful trip in the past, in which Skyler Gisondo (The Righteous Gemstones)’s Sam finds himself unexpectedly connecting with another resort guest, Violet (Nina Bloomgarden), while on a trip with his parents and girlfriend, Hannah (Debby Ryan). The series also stars Nick Offerman, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Gabriela Cartol, Dylan Baker, Becky Ann Baker, Ben Sinclair, Michael Hitchcock, and Parvesh Cheena.
Ahead of the series premiering on Peacock on July 28, Collider had the opportunity to speak with Siara about The Resort‘s first three episodes and some of their most pivotal moments. Over the course of the interview, which you can read below, Siara discusses how this could be the second installment in his unplanned beach trilogy with Milioti (who starred in Palm Springs), how his initial idea for the series was actually for a movie, and how revisiting the script years later allowed him to approach the story with a fresh perspective. He also talks about balancing the humor and tragedy of the series, where Noah and Emma’s investigation may take them, how the show’s chain of events starts with one explicit picture on a phone, and more.
Collider: First of all, what’s the deal with you and beachy locations and Cristin Milioti? I feel like there’s a theme going on here.
ANDY SIARA: I mean, I like vacation spots, and Cristin is one of the best actors everywhere. So I would happily… Well, I guess I would not be sad if everything I did had Cristin in it. I’m never going to pass up a chance to work with Cristin. And vacation spots just make for a nice escape when you’re sitting on the couch alone or with your buddy or partner at 9:00 at night and need something to watch.
You two are two-thirds of the way to a beach trilogy at this point.
SIARA: I know. We have to conquer… something about death next.
This show is one that makes use of a lot of different genres right from the jump. What initially inspired you to tell this story? What were you sitting down thinking about when this kind of popped into your head?
SIARA: A lot of things. It started originally as a movie I wrote eight years ago about this kid, Sam, who goes to a resort with his parents on vacation, and then when he’s there, he meets this couple that’s there celebrating their 10-year anniversary, and they just strike up this friendship. It was kind of this little indie comedy thing. This older couple is trying to recapture this feeling of their youth, in a way, just through this friendship, and that script didn’t really work at all. It just wasn’t very good, and I just kind of put it away. I would work on other things, and then I would just keep going back to it year after year and just take the core and see if there [was] a different avenue through it or a different route through it all.
Then, eventually, eight years passed, seven years passed, and I realized I was not only looking at the script itself, but also who I was when I wrote it through this kind of nostalgic lens. By then, I realized, “Oh, I’m just like Emma and Noah trying to recapture a feeling that I… Actually, I’m trying to go back in time in a way, and I can’t, but I’m obsessed with it because I want to go back there to maybe… My life at the time was different. Maybe I found that I can’t recapture whatever feeling I had back then.”
So that combined with, around the same time, I was moving. This is when my first daughter was born, and we were moving, and I was cleaning out the garage, and I found an old box of my old photos and all that mixed junk from my past. I found a couple old cell phones and my old Nokia phone from like 2008, 2009, and I did just what Emma did. I tried to turn it on, and it didn’t work. But I found another old phone in there, and I swapped out the SIM card and put the other SIM card in there and turned it on. It was like 400 and something photos that I took when my old band was on tour back in 2009. I just sat there in the garage when I was supposed to be packing up, packing boxes, and I just lost like two hours of just scrolling through old photos, and I got kind of trapped in this nostalgia spiral, in a way. In doing that, I lost time. I lost about six hours. And that idea is… I mean, that is the entire show. You spend too much time looking back in the past for the answers because the present is too scary, and you can’t see a future, and so you obsess over the warm feelings of nostalgia, and then doing that, you lose time.
I think I was bouncing my newborn on a yoga ball at like 3:00 AM thinking about how to turn this old Resort script into something new again. I kind of combined all those together and split up those characters that were in the original script and then put them in the present, and took Sam, put him in the past, created this little mystery within that with this phone. As Emma and Noah are trying to solve the mystery of what happened to these missing kids, they’re trying to solve what happened to themselves to get to this point in their life and their marriage.
I’m glad you brought up the Noah and Emma storyline. We meet them first in the show, and you immediately get the sense that their marriage is… they’ve been at two very different points in the relationship that are kind of incongruous with each other for who knows how long. It’s clearly been a while since they stopped being on the same page. What did you want to emphasize about where that relationship is coming into the story?
SIARA: To me, it was like… I mean, it’s kind of everything you said. It was most important to just feel that there’s a history here and there is love there, but that it’s tired, just exhausted a little bit. This is what happens in life — which is, essentially, why I think that first scene in Episode 2 is one of the most important to me, where I wanted to show them at the beginning, that initial spark when there’s that real just attraction and chemistry with each other when you first meet that person you end up spending the next 10 years with. I wanted to show that there was still something there. There was something there at one point. But that’s hard to do it in the order that we did it, where you see them at that 10-year point first.
I honestly have to give the credit to Will and Cristin there completely, because two lesser actors who didn’t have any kind of chemistry wouldn’t have been able to pull that off. It is such a hard line to balance, in a way, because, yeah, you need to show that they’re tired, and they can be irritated with each other, but that they also… Underneath it all, there is still this love that exists somewhere down there that they’re trying to wake up a little bit, but it’s gotten so off-course because they haven’t dealt with problems and whatnot in a while.
The storyline with Sam is introduced, again, in a way that I think is proof of what this show does so well. It’s the scene on the airplane where they’re flying to the resort. It’s basically our first introduction to this past timeline, and he discovers that his girlfriend, that he’s about to have this whole vacation with, is cheating on him. The moment with the text split screen is an example of how the show blends the comedy with something that, realistically, would be pretty heartbreaking to discover about someone that you love. How do you pull that off?
SIARA: It’s hard. It’s definitely hard. I think that the whole show is always riding this line of being like that silly-but-sincere stuff, or the banana-peel grave. Sometimes we get a little too goofy, and sometimes we have to pull it back to the drama side. But I just feel like totally I am a fan of that, where it’s something that is very heavy that you just have to find the humor in it because it’s so fucked up in a way.
You will hear a character kind of say the same thing in the back half of the show, but there’s a world where the whole series of events that followed, it all started with that picture of a penis. It’s all from Sam reading the text-message stuff that caused this chain of events that led him to hop on that skateboard in his little depressive state when he got to the resort and was kind of lost. He wasn’t looking where he was going, and then almost ran into Baltasar, and then he did run into a palm tree and then met Violet, and that created this chain of events, all because of that cell phone exchange. We have some bigger set pieces in here — but to me, that is a set piece that is all in one seat in an airplane. I want to hit all the emotional beats and take you on that little rollercoaster of emotions, all while sitting in an airplane seat.
I wanted to ask about the episode openers. What was the idea behind those, and is there anything specific that they’re supposed to resemble?
SIARA: Ben Sinclair, who directed the first four episodes, he had brought [it] in as one of his ideas because he felt it connected… He felt like, without giving it away, that it plays into something larger. We kind of needed something, a visual representation of that, perhaps. We started experimenting with those, and sometimes using them to create these transitions from just past to our… or the present to this more nostalgic look at the past. I think I can further answer the question once you get to Episode 8.
The first episode opens with a quote that talks about how recapturing the past is a lesson in futility. Is that intended to be a foretelling about Noah and Emma’s investigation, and where it’s going to take them?
SIARA: I feel like, in a way, it’s the thesis of the show, or the two sides of the same coin regarding an argument for or an argument against the thesis of the show. That is what is the backbone of the whole journey.I don’t think it’s spoilery in the sense that Episode 2 is just exactly that. You open with Emma and Noah on the beach in 2007 when they first met, and the last line is, “You want to go find a pool?” We’re starting to feel like Emma wants to get back to a time in her life before the shit that life throws at you was thrown at her, and so she wants to get back to a time before things got rough, before life got rough, when it was a little easier, when you’re in your twenties and the highs are higher than they are now.
Episode 2 is all about just trying to just recapture that feeling of energy and love and youth that she had with Noah, and then it ends with them finally finding a pool in 2022. So they successfully recaptured the past, you think, and then this tooth falling out serves as a reminder that, hey, you can’t do it. You’re still getting older. Your body’s still rotting away. You can’t outrun time.
Is this going to be something that we see is a way to just help them reconnect, ultimately? Even though they can’t necessarily recapture the feeling of going back to when they first met, is this something that we’re going to see, over the course of the show, help them forge a new path together in their relationship?
SIARA: Maybe. I’d say that this kickstarts something for them, and they can choose to look at their lives and deal with shit or not. At the end, we will leave them on a note that hopefully the audience will decide whether… well, maybe it makes it kind of clear at the very end too. Did it work, or did it not? At the end of the first episode, it’s like, if they solve the mystery of what happens to Sam and Violet, will this save their marriage? That should be a question that’s kind of in the back of our minds the entire time, and then by the end of the series we will hopefully have enough pieces to make a judgment call.
The Resort premieres with its first three episodes July 28 on Peacock, with new episodes streaming weekly.