Written and produced by Timothy J Sexton, the screenwriter of Children of Men, Lifetime’s new drama The Lottery is set in 2025 during a fertility crisis, when women have stopped having children, leaving the world on the brink of extinction. One of the last children born in the country, Elvis, is being raised by his father, Kyle (Michael Graziadei, American Horror Story), a single parent who is a recovering alcoholic.
When Dr Alison Lennon (Marley Shelton, Eleventh Hour), a fertility specialist, has a breakthrough and 100 embryos are successfully fertilized, a national lottery is held to decide the surrogates. But the government’s interests and power begin to dominate, and the fundamental right to raise a family come into play.
Timothy J Sexton, Marley Shelton and Michael Graziadei came to the TV Critics tour to discuss their new series which premieres on Lifetime at 10 p.m. on July 20th.
When you wrote the script for Children of Men, did you ever think you’d be doing a similar story again?
Timothy: There was nothing after Children of Men that had me believe that I would ever get into the infertility world again. A producer friend of mine, Dawn Olmstead, brought an idea that she had independently set up at Lifetime, a newly infertile world, 100 embryos are fertilized, and there’s going to be a lottery for these embryos.
I said, ‘No, I’ve done that already. That seems familiar territory.’
Dawn, being a very persistent type, said, ‘No, think about it. It’s actually completely different than Children of Men.’ As I started to imagine the story, [I realized] this is a world at a tipping point, and Children of Men is a world that has tipped over and rolled down hill.
How did you first hear of the project?
Michael: When I first got the script, I read it and it was honestly one of [the best scripts] that I had read in at least five years. It had a Children of Men feel to it.
Then I went in and auditioned for it, I was called back and found out that I was actually doing it, and now I get to wake up every day and do what I love.
Marley: I became acquainted with this project through the same producer, Dawn Omstead. She brought it to my attention, and I immediately went crazy for it, just like Michael, with a similar process and similar passion and excitement.
Do you have children, Marley?
Marley: I do, I have two. So the idea of not being able to have that incredibly intense bond [is unthinkable]. That’s so instinctual, to procreate, it’s in our DNA.
So to be a society that’s stripped of that, and the implications of that, and the hopelessness and the despair, what are you living for if there’s no future?
Michael: I think the show really is going to make people ask themselves a lot of questions, just on a grander scale. The what if. What if this is possible, what if this could happen, what if we don’t change this about society, what if we keep going down this path? That makes it a really intelligent and entertaining show to watch.
Marley: It’s provocative.
Can you talk about the production design of the series? I noticed that gas was $8.79 a gallon.
Timothy: That was part of the discussion of how we’re designing the world that’s just slightly in the future, without making it completely unrecognizable.
Marley: We have these really cool translucent iPads. That’s my favorite prop.
Timothy: Which are very cool and very inexpensive as a prop.
How hard is it to shoot around children when you’re on location?
Marley: I have this memory of shooting a scene where the President is giving a press conference in the park, and I have to give a speech.
And while I was giving my speech to the press, a school bus drove by behind us and we had to cut because it was filled with children.