Wayward Pines showrunner Chad Hodge’s first big production was in his parents’ Highland Park, Ill., home.
Hodge, who spent much of his youth doing theater, put on his own version of Cats, directing his brothers and sisters in their basement turned newspaper covered trash heap.
The charismatic 37-year-old has since moved on to other entertainment pursuits, working on television series such as ABC’s Veritas: The Quest, The CW’s Runaway and NBC’s The Playboy Club.
Next up for him is Fox’s Wayward Pines, a 10-episode straight-to-series order based on the novels by Blake Crouch. In the run-up to the program’s global May 14 premiere in more than 126 countries, the network made the first episode of Wayward Pines available digitally from April 24-30.
In addition to showrunning, Hodge is an executive producer and writer on the series.
“I mean he is sort of what you hope for when you find somebody to be a writer in television,” says Darren Star, who worked with Hodge on Runaway. “I think he’s like a bit of a prodigy in that sense.”
John Hughes Land
Hodge remembers as a kid riding his bike about a block and a half from his house to watch director John Hughes film a scene from Weird Science.
“The stories John Hughes told about that time and about kids like that, that felt like my childhood and my adolescence for sure,” says Hodge, who refers to the Chicago suburbs he grew up in as “John Hughes Land.”
“My parents and the community and everyone was always very encouraging of the arts and of theater,” says Hodge. “And I never felt weird or an outsider for wanting to be into acting and theater and plays instead of sports, which I know a lot of kids in a lot of places have that difficulty.”
Hodge wanted to pursue acting until the summer before starting college when he worked for a talent agency in downtown Chicago.
He says that many of the agency’s clients were very vocal about their unhappiness with acting and the majority of them didn’t earn enough to make ends meet.
The experience freaked him out, prompting him to change his major at Northwestern University from theater to communication studies.
“I had this itch to write and I had an itch to produce and I had an itch to do a lot of other things,” he says.
After graduating from college, he packed his bags for Los Angeles with his sights set on writing.
He got his big break when he was asked to rewrite a pilot for NBC Saturday morning.
“It was like graduate school,” he says of working on All About Us. “It was amazing. I had a great time on that show. And I loved television and I loved the pace of it.”
Lost in the Woods
Wayward Pines, which focuses on the mysterious town of Wayward Pines, Idaho, fell into Hodge’s lap after Donald De Line, a longtime movie producer, gave Hodge an advanced copy of the first book in Crouch’s series.
“I read it in a day. I devoured it and I couldn’t believe how much I loved it,” says Hodge, who then agreed to write a script for the show on spec.
“I was really attracted to it because it’s so confined, so strange,” he says. “I had no idea where it was going and where it goes is this incredibly strange, beautiful place that’s very, very human.”
In Crouch’s books, the big reveal of what the town is comes at the end of the first book. This presented Hodge with a challenge.
“I was ready to do something different. I thought if I can make the question of ‘now what do we do?’ as interesting as ‘what is this place?’ I think we’ll have a new kind of TV show, a new kind of way to tell a story,” he says.
But Star says taking the hard road is something he has seen Hodge do before.
“I think what makes him a really good writer is he really he cares and thinks deeply about the characters he is writing and he doesn’t ever want to make easy choices with story,” says Star. “I think he’s a very smart guy. He wants to kind of write the stories that [are] unexpected; that go in unexpected places.”
Hodge has a number of other stories in the works, including a project with Star on beauty queen turned anti-gay rights activist Anita Bryant. He also wrote the book for Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, a Universal Stage Productions and Goodspeed Musicals coproduction, which premiered at the Goodspeed Opera House in Sept. 2014 and is set to go on tour in fall 2016.
“To me, all good storytelling, no matter the genre, is the same skill set. It’s like making a cake,” says Hodge. “The foundation always requires the same basic ingredients. The difference is the icing. And I like using a lot of different kinds of icing.”