William Jackson Harper is doing his best to avoid spoiling The Resort
"I'm tap-dancing – I've got on, like, ballet slippers right now."
Devised by Andy Siara, the writer of acclaimed time-loop movie Palm Springs, new eight-part series The Resort is much more than your standard mystery drama.
The show sees a married couple – Noah, played by William Jackson Harper, and Emma, played by Cristin Milioti – arrive at a holiday resort in the Mayan Riviera, with their relationship woes taking a backseat after they uncover a missing persons case from 15 years before.
From there, the series twists and turns – not just in terms of its plot, but by playing with a number of different genres and tones. To say any more would be straying into spoiler territory – and speaking to RadioTimes.com, William Jackson Harper knows it.
"I'm tap-dancing – I've got on, like, ballet slippers right now," he laughs. "It's kind of tough. But what's fun for me is getting to be like a big sibling that has a secret and just won't tell their little sibling anything. It's kind of fun to do that. Because there's literally nothing I can say, so I can't get in trouble."
When he signed up to play Noah in the series, Harper says showrunner Siara laid out "the bullet points of how things were going to unfold" – nevertheless, he found himself taken on an unexpected journey with each new script, an experience he hopes the audience will share.
"It was just so weird from the get-go. Like, that first script, there's something slightly askew about the storytelling and the way the characters present themselves – you feel like something's up, you just don't know what it is.
"Later on, when things start to get really twisty. I felt like I was being led around by the front of the shirt. It kind of puts you in a headspace right off the bat and then when the twists and turns come, you just keep getting surprised by these weird little pieces of things that seemingly don't fit.
"Then eventually, some of them start to fall into place over the course of the eight episodes. And it's satisfying."
The resolution to the series is, he says, "not what [he] expected at all".
"The way that [events] unfold in the script and the way they unfold in the final rendering is not remotely close to what I was imagining. So I had an idea, but what they actually pulled off... it feels different and has a little more weight than what I initially thought."
The Resort's offbeat stylings won't come as a total surprise to anyone who's seen Palm Springs, which also starred Cristin Milioti, and Harper says that film "absolutely" played a big part in attracting him to Siara's new project.
"I've known Cristin a while – we actually did a play together back in 2017 – but I loved Palm Springs, I thought it was just such an interesting take on the time loop story. It felt grounded and a little heartbreaking and it was incredibly funny. So [joining The Resort] was kind of a no-brainer in that regard. And then getting to work with Cristin again is just icing on the cake.
"Our vibe personally is very, very warm. We're both a couple of chuckleheads, we get a real kick out of each other. But in the script, there's tension, the characters are in a rut, so rather than trying to get into a space where we're upset with each other, we just sort of let the script do the work and keep the part where we just love each other.
"You keep the love while doing this other stuff and you can find a really interesting balance when you're playing some of these scenes where they're at each other's throats a little bit."
It's Milioti's character Emma who first stumbles across the case of two young American tourists who went missing in the area and encourages Harper's more reluctant Noah to engage with an amateur investigation. "He's a little bit more complacent and she's a little more active, which I think runs as a thread throughout their entire relationship," Harper says. "That's a big source of tension.
"He's one of those guys that feels like he's reached his allotment of happiness. And, you know, to ask for anything more is Greek to him. He's accepted that this is probably just what happens in relationships after a certain amount of time, while Emma is a little more front-footed in acknowledging her dissatisfaction with the relationship."
The Resort is the latest project from Harper that straddles multiple genres, with everything from The Good Place to his 2021 movie We Broke Up flitting between hilarity and heartbreak. That's partly by design, he says.
"I do like that. I think that when you can just agree on a tone, and you know exactly what kind of story you're gonna get, and how exactly it's going to be told, it's less interesting than when you just sort of let it unfold the way life does, where you're laughing one moment, and you're crying the next.
"When you go for the straight drama or the straight comedy, it telegraphs a little bit more what exactly to expect, and lets the viewer feel safe. When you play with the genre a little bit more, everything's a little bit dangerous as far as how, emotionally, you're going to get affected by things."
Part character drama, part darkly comic mystery thriller – think The White Lotus meets Only Murders in the Building – The Resort wraps up its narrative neatly across its eight episodes. "There's nothing left hanging there," Harper insists. "I think that Andy and the writers do a really good job of closing all the loops, so you're not left unsatisfied. I think they did a really good job, because it's hard to do that with a mystery."
All the same, he's not ruling out the possibility of revisiting the character of Noah in future, if Siara is willing to plot another twisty misadventure.
"That's all up to Andy and Peacock, if they want to keep doing more. But it would be cool to see what Andy does with this concept if he wants to keep playing with it."
The first three episodes of The Resort are available 29th July on Peacock exclusively on Sky and NOW, with new episodes dropping weekly – sign up for Sky TV here.
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