Interview with Jeff Rake of “Manifest” on Netflix by Suzanne 11/2/22
It was fun to speak to Jeff again. Last time was in a short junket for NBC. This time I had 20 minutes, so I was able to ask all of my questions. He was great about answering them, too, as you’ll see in this video. He gave very thoughtful answers. Many of my questions came from “Manifest” fans on Facebook and Twitter, so it was nice to have them help me out.
Jeff: Well, thank you so much.
Suzanne: Good, good, good. I have some questions, and I haven’t watched the fourth season episodes yet…
Suzanne: So there’s no worry about spoilers.
Suzanne: My sister-in-law… I have to tell you… (and I told you this last time, but you won’t remember, probably) My sister-in-law and her husband just love “Manifest.”
Suzanne: It’s the only show they watch, I think.
Suzanne: Yeah. I like it, but I have to watch so much [for my work]. I’m always behind on everything…
Jeff: Right. Tell them I said, “Thank you.”
Suzanne: I’ll make sure they see this video. So, my first question is: Is this really the last season?
Jeff: Is this really the last season? Well, as far as I know, this is really the last season. We wrote these episodes to the very end of the journey. We’re going to answer everyone’s questions by the time you get to the end of the next block, right? So, we’re releasing block one right now. Block two will come out sometime in the spring, I suppose, and we’ve finished shooting those episodes. We just finished shooting episode 420 a couple weeks ago, and we’ll be editing those for the next couple months. We’ve taken the story all the way to the end. We have, uh, hopefully answered all the questions people are wondering about. Um, I love these characters. I would love to keep telling stories about them. So you never know what the future holds. This should get us all the way to the end of the “Manifest” story.
Suzanne: So if it’s a huge hit, and Netflix says, “We want more,” you can write more?
Jeff: Well, these are great, complicated characters, and I’d be delighted to take them on another journey. So you never know.
Suzanne: Okay. Cool. Do you think fans will be happy about the ending?
Jeff: I hope so. I hope so. I think that… I personally think it’s very satisfying. The few folks who have…hardly anybody has seen the episode because it’s still in the edit bay and we’re tinkering with it… But those who read the script… of course, the actors and the crew…maybe they’re too close to it, but, but, uh, you know…
Jeff: The insiders all felt that it was very satisfying, and very powerful emotionally. I think that it fulfills the promise of the “Manifest” pilot and the initial premise. There are a lot of camps among our fandom. You know, people rooting for this couple, people rooting for that couple….everybody has their favorites in terms of the characters. And then, on the science side, people have their theories. And on the mythological side, people have their theories. We make choices that, I think, a lot of people are gonna be able to say, “I was right.” And other people will say…
Suzanne: You can’t please everyone. [Laughs]
Jeff: We wrap it up in a way that won’t please everyone. Right. Because to the extent that certain people were right, I guess other people will feel like they were wrong, but we’re not so specific and so on the nose that I think people are gonna walk away saying, “I was wrong.” There’s a level of ambiguity that will allow people to draw conclusions, but not so ambiguous that I think they’re gonna feel like, “Well, you didn’t give us answers.”
Suzanne: Yeah, right.
Jeff: You know what I mean? So I think we kind of reach a happy medium where people will be able to draw conclusions in a way that they’ll feel like we created closure. Um, so we’ll see. You know, I’ll be curious to see what people feel.
Suzanne: Why was the last season split into two parts?
Jeff: You know, we still had a lot of story to tell, and I think that Netflix wanted to honor that, and therefore, were very generous in giving us 20, which I very much appreciated. I would’ve happily taken as many they were willing to give us.
Jeff: We needed a certain amount of time to shoot all these episodes. I needed time to write all of them, and I needed a break in-between. It would’ve been too challenging for us to write 20 (episodes) nonstop.
Jeff: ..to write and shoot 20 non-stop. We needed a break, and we took a break – a writer’s hiatus…it wasn’t, actually, really a hiatus. We needed a production hiatus so that the writing could continue and catch up.
Jeff: And I think that’s probably why airing them was split up in two.
Suzanne: My sister-in-law’s favorite character is Jared, and she wanted to know why we saw less of Jared in the third season.
Jeff: Interesting. Um, not by design, not by design. I think, you know… did we see less of Jared? If she says we saw less of him, then I believe her. Um, I don’t know. I think that…
Suzanne: The story?
Jeff: Yeah. The story just led us in certain directions. We were developing the Angelina character more predominantly, and that probably just squeezed some other characters off the screen a little bit, but not at all by design. We love Jared.
Suzanne: Okay. Okay. And I posted on a couple of Facebook groups about “Manifest,” and on Twitter…so I have some questions from there.
Jeff: Oh, okay.
Suzanne: Several people asked, “Do you have more projects in mind after this one finishes?” They want to follow you… [Laughs]
Jeff: Ha-ha! I love that. I love that. Um, when “Manifest” was canceled… I, of course, as an anxious television writer, started thinking about, “Well, what’s next?” You know?
Jeff: Yeah, I have a couple other ideas. I’m always thinking and started developing another supernatural drama (which has proven successful for me this time around). I started working on that when we were no more. And then, I had to put my pen down on that when we were saved. When this wraps up, maybe I’ll turn my attention back to that; see what I can do with that.
Jeff: I’ll keep them posted.
Suzanne: Yes, definitely. Beth asked, “Do you feel that you had to leave out anything important to finish it in four seasons, rather than more?”
Jeff: Yeah, good question, Beth. Uh, I don’t think so. You know, the thing about the combination of our show being a relationship drama, a mythological drama, but also a police drama, allowed us to be somewhat flexible in our storytelling. And in particular on the procedural side of the show. If we had had an extra season, we probably would’ve spread out our mythology more. Uh, in other words, made it thinner and dropped mythology clues…
Jeff: …over more episodes. That is to say, mythology clue in episode three, save the next mythology clue for episode six.
Jeff: Another one in episode 10, and in the meantime, told more cop stories. You know what I mean? In between, told more police stories. And as a result of our having less episodes, we probably told a few less procedural cop stories and inundated you with more mythology stories… Um, and packed them in a little bit more, you know…
Jeff: Gave you more mythological clues. Episode four, episode six, Episode eight, episode 10. And so, you probably got more bang for your buck on the mythology and science side, and so we didn’t drop anything inherent to the overall mythology of the show. We might have just denied you a few cop stories.
Suzanne: I think my sister-in-law suggested that you should have a spinoff with…
Suzanne: As a police show, with Michaela and Jared.
Jeff: Yeah, I hear that.
Suzanne: [Chuckles] Jan asks if you have a favorite episode. That’s a tough one, I know.
Jeff: Episode seven in this new block, uh, directed by Josh Dallas, as a matter of fact, is pretty good. I mean, you’ll have seen it, probably, by the time you watch this. There’s a really adorable story between Cal (you know, older Cal, Ty) and another passenger named Violet. It’s pretty irresistible. And then there’s some other cool stuff happening around that. But that story between Ty and Violet, which leads them to a karaoke bar…
Jeff: It’s pretty hard to resist. Does it make it my favorite episode of them all? I don’t know. And that’s not even the lead story of the episode. Is it? Maybe it is, but uh, it’s pretty great.
Suzanne: Oh good. More karaoke is always good for me, so…
Jeff: Right. There you go.
Suzanne: Love it. You know, sometimes people don’t use their real name on Twitter, so this guy’s Twitter username is “Manifest Stoner.”
Jeff: Oh yeah, I know Manifest Stoner.
Suzanne: You know him? Okay, good.
Suzanne: He asks, “How do you maintain levity in a show where the emotional stakes are so high?”
Jeff: Yeah. Well, you’ve probably noticed that I really enjoy my levity. Whenever there’s a stupid joke, I probably wrote that. And sometimes we, kind of, cross the line and go a little too far. Often the other executive producers will go, “Should we edit out that line? Like, does that feel appropriate, given how grave the rest of the episode is?” And I’ll say, “No, we gotta leave that in because sometimes even on a really sad day, funny stuff happens.”
Jeff: So, um, you know, that’s why the character Troy exists. That’s why the character Egan exists. I just have a soft spot for dumb jokes and… not-so-dumb jokes. We have some really funny jokes.
Jeff: But in all seriousness, you know, I think that’s how we get through life.
Jeff: It’s like, you know, you go to a funeral, and then you go back to the person’s house, and you make each other laugh. You know? And that’s how we get through life.
Suzanne: Right. Like that classic “Mary Tyler Moore” episode where they all start laughing at the funeral…
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.
Suzanne: Any show has to balance the drama and the comedy…
Jeff: You have to, you have to.
Suzanne: Yeah. Otherwise it’s too unrelentingly sad…
Jeff: That’s really important to me. We balance it just by throwing it in there and seeing what works; and when it does, we let it stick.
Suzanne: Okay. Cristina (spelled without an H) asks, “Whose character has changed the most in season four?”
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good question. Um, let me think for a second. Olive changes a lot. Olive is kind of forced by circumstance to become Mom, and Luna did a great job at taking that on. I thought that was a really exciting arc for her to have, to really be the grown up, and, uh, that was cool for us to write. And it was fun for her to take on that challenge, and she really rose to the occasion.
Suzanne: Great. And Christina (with an H) asked, “Of all the characters’ storylines, which one is the one you think will surprise us more in season four?” Similar question.
Jeff: Yeah. Well, certainly Olive’s, but let me think if there’s another one. (long pause) I know Egan is a supporting player, but he becomes a much more prominent player in season four and takes surprising and important turns. I think that that’ll be surprising…let me think if there’s anyone else…Yeah, for Jared– someone was asking about how we underplayed Jared? Jared has an important role in this season, and I think really comes through for Jared fans.
Suzanne: Okay, that’s fine. If you can think of any more, you can let me know.
Suzanne: From Sarah: “Was the death of Pete the tipping point for Angelina’s delusion that Eden was her guardian angel? She seemed relatively okay up until that point.”
Jeff: That’s a really good question, and I think that’s a really good theory. I don’t know that we were thinking about that, consciously, but looking backwards, I think you’re right – that might have pushed her over the top. And she talks a lot about that in the series, after the fact, in this block Of episodes, and in the block to come — in the final block, she will look back with historical perspective, and she talks a lot about how everyone abandoned her. And, maybe it’s unfair to say that Pete abandoned her. He didn’t try to abandon her, but one way or another, she was kind of taken away from him. Or he was taken away from her. And so it’s a sort of abandonment, and that was pivotal in her dissent into darkness, wasn’t it? So I think that’s a very good point.
Suzanne: Okay. I just have one more question, and you sort of answered it before when we were talking about, uh, changes…Rail asks, “Why did you kill Grace?”
Suzanne: Actually, I think he said it like, “Why did he kill Grace? Why?” (mournfully). [Laughs]
Jeff: Yeah. Well, you have to kill your babies sometimes, for art. It was the most terrible thing that we could imagine, right? That’s why… we needed Angelina to commit the most grievous act that we could imagine. And reciprocally, we needed the Stone family to suffer the most grievous act that we could imagine in order to take the story in the direction that we needed to go. I think I talked about this a bit earlier. (I’m getting my interviews confused, so maybe I didn’t…) The ultimate arc of “Manifest” and the ultimate theme of “Manifest” is about redemption. And that ties into the idea of forgiveness, right? And for any of us who are spiritual, however that spirituality manifests for you, the idea of personal redemption and personal forgiveness– forgiveness of others, forgiveness of yourself — ties in so inherently to the show, and you’ll see that very clearly with Michaela’s arc in the final block of 10, and with Ben’s arc in the final block of 10. And so, in Ben’s case, we had to pull him down that rabbit hole to suffer the most insufferable… Is that the right use of insufferable? I don’t know. Uh, the most…the worst….
Suzanne: The worst way you can suffer.
Jeff: The worst way you could suffer. Plainly spoken.
Jeff: Thank you. Uh, he had to suffer like no one could possibly suffer… unimaginable cruelty. Yeah. Uh, and then see if he had the power of forgiveness, right? Like most world religions speak about, and I think they all speak about it for a reason, right? Because that’s the hardest thing that a person can be asked for in life, right? To forgive the unforgivable. And if you can forgive the unforgivable, you can do anything.
Suzanne: That’s true.
Jeff: And we will see that asked of Ben, in regard to Angelina, and we’ll see that asked of Michaela in regard to forgiving herself, right? She’s been trying to forgive herself since season one, in regard to Evie, and there’s nothing harder. There’s nothing harder. Anyway.
Suzanne: All right.
Jeff: I don’t know if that’s a satisfying answer….
Suzanne: No, that’s good. No, that’s a good answer. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your talking to me.
Jeff: You’re welcome.
‘Manifest’ Season 4 Will Take Off This Fall
Please take your seats for landing.
Make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full, upright positions because Manifest Season 4 Part 1 will be landing on Netflix soon.
We couldn’t let 8/28 pass without sharing some exciting news about our favorite Flight 828 passengers. It’s been a turbulent journey — that even included a cancellation — but we can confirm that Manifest Season 4 will premiere on Netflix on Nov. 4.
Fans of the supernatural series (which is produced by Warner Bros. Television) will remember that Season 3 ends on multiple cliffhangers: Ben’s (Josh Dallas) wife, Grace (Athena Karkanis) is murdered by troubled passenger Angelina (Holly Taylor), who also kidnaps their baby , Eden. Cal (Jack Messina) disappears after touching the plane’s tail fin and then returns five years older (now played by Ty Doran), cryptically stating, “I know what I have to do now.” And we get a quick glimpse of the flight’s captain when he reappears in the cockpit, only to vanish seconds later and take the remains of the plane with him. So where do we pick up?
“When you turn on the next episode, it’s two years later, and not only is Ben still deeply in the depths of depression and trauma over the loss of his wife, but you’ll of course recall that that was only half the tragedy,” series creator Jeff Rake tells Tudum. “The other half was the kidnapping of his infant daughter and tragically, two years later, she’s still missing.”
While Ben crawls his way out of “the terrible and torturous hole that he’s plunged himself into,” Cal is trying to figure out where he’s been and why. “There’s sort of an amnesia there, and it’ll take these episodes and adventures that he’s put on throughout this journey to piece it back together,” says Rake. “And that’s just on the mythological side. On the emotional side, he looks like he’s a grownup, but psychologically, he’s still a little boy.”
About that mythological side, Season 4 promises to unpack more of the overarching mystery of what really happens to the passengers during the moment of turbulence and why they’ve been chosen to experience callings ever since. “As exhausting and crazy-making as these callings [are] and the responsibility of being an 828er is, it’s not just about them,” says Rake. “The interconnectedness of all of us, and how small actions can have implications that cascade outward and touch the whole world is what the show is about.”
Find out more when Manifest returns Nov. 4.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda