Manifest creator is already sketching out a movie finale after show cancellation
The supernatural drama hasn't found a new home, but Jeff Rake remains hopeful that a true ending can be told.
Promising news for Manifest fans: Jeff Rake has no intention of quitting you. The creator of the three-year-old series, which recently got the ax at NBC, is already contemplating a feature-length movie that would wrap up the story. He just needs someone to air or stream it!
Here, the creator and showrunner — whose previous credits include The Tomorrow People, Boston Legal, Miss Match, and The Practice — talks exclusively to EW about how successful Manifest has been on Netflix, but there's still no buyer (yet) that will give him the chance to close out the mystery surrounding Montego Air Flight 828.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you think it's confusing for fans to see how well the show is doing on Netflix despite the show being canceled at NBC?
JEFF RAKE: I can't begin to describe how gratifying it is to experience this show finding a new audience. A lot of folks who are focused on broadcast forget sometimes that there are millions and millions of viewers out there who consume all of their entertainment on platforms like Netflix and Hulu. Manifest has an entirely new legion of fans developing as we speak. For me as the creator, for my producers, for the cast, it's incredibly rewarding to take this brand on a new lap with an entirely new community of fans. Is it confusing? Yes. How strange for a show to seemingly be at the end of its rope and then suddenly it's the No. 1 series on Netflix for, I think it's 20 days in a row. I was well on my way through the stages of grief to process the premature ending of the story. Now I am basking in the rebirth of the show.
It's unfortunate Netflix didn't pick up the show.
Netflix looked at the numbers for a week or so and apparently informed Warner Bros. TV that for whatever reason I can't speak to, they decided they didn't want to take over production and create additional episodes. But that was 10 long days ago. Since then we remain at the top of Netflix's watch list. So I've encouraged Warner Bros. and my agents to continue conversations with Netflix, and anyone else for that matter, another platform who may be interested in stepping up. There's a lot of questions over whether Hulu would want to take over since season 3 of the show lives on Hulu… which is so confusing and complicated for the new fans to comprehend. Like, how challenging it is to be a consumer out there, to binge the first two seasons on Netflix fans and think they've seen everything that there is to see? A lot of them didn't even realize that there's a third season sitting over on Hulu. It's so crazy and convoluted. Fans are also hearing the show is incomplete and remains incomplete. I take that as a positive sign.
So are you holding out for a new season?
Twenty days after we've premiered on Netflix, I've kind of moved away from the plan of finding a home for seasons 4, 5, and 6 of Manifest, even though I've always talked about Manifest being a six-season show. Back in the day, I laid out a six-season roadmap for NBC, and I'm halfway through. I had giant cliffhangers in the season 3 finale, so I had every intention to have three more seasons to slow-burn the back half of the story. I'm reading the writing on the wall that we may not find a home for three more seasons of the show, so I moved to plan B: Some platform would bankroll a feature or a movie finale, like we saw with Timeless, Firefly, and Deadwood. I just need a modest budget to tell the story. I am personally sketching out how to consolidate the back half of the series into a much more streamlined, cut-to-the-chase two-hour finale that would distill all of the hanging chads of the series. That's where my head is at. There is a huge appetite for people wanting to know what's that end of the story, what happened to the passengers, what ultimately happened to that airplane.
Let's recap what was left answered in the June 10 finale: Angelina kidnaps baby Eden and kills Grace, which causes the entire plane to disappear; Captain Daly appears suddenly in the cockpit before it vanishes; Cal touches the tail fin and disappears, but then returns five and a half years older, so it's too late to save his mom; and Jared learns that Saanvi killed the major and Vance covered it up, and now he can't go back to his relationship with Sarah without telling her the truth.
That's very comprehensive. Here's one other nugget: It's too late for Cal to save his mom, but the last thing he tells her, having come back from a mysterious unknown location, is "I know what we need to do now."
How have you engaged the fans in the meantime?
The fans have been coordinating live-tweeting parties. Every day of the week at a certain time, fans press play at the same time on episodes. We've been trending! What's most fun is having an opportunity to engage with the old fans and new ones by watching older episodes. I'm taking notes because I'm reminding myself of all of the puzzle pieces that we still have to pay off.
Looking back, what was it like seeing your show get canceled by NBC?
For the cancellation to happen in the middle of one continuous story is undeniably heartbreaking, frustrating, and demoralizing. I feel all of that personally. I feel it on behalf of the actors, I feel it on behalf of our beloved crew in New York, so many of whom have been with us for all three seasons and have been holding out for many weeks now, trying to delay taking new jobs because they wanted to come back to the show, to the work-family that they love so much. I feel it on behalf of the fans who have kept the show alive. So all of that hurts tremendously. I can't take it personally. There are many, many factors in play. I understand that hard decisions have to be made. Instead, I want to channel all of my energy toward the future, toward the positive, toward a path that would allow us to finish the story. As I told our fans on social media, it may take a long time to figure that path out. It could be a year, and full disclosure, it may never happen! But I'm not going to stop trying.
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