Exclusive: 'The Crossing' Showrunners Break Down ABC's New Sci-Fi Series

the crossing creators interview
The Crossing stars (left to right): Sandrine Holt as Emma, Steve Zahn as Jude and Natalie Martinez as Reece. (Photo: ABC/Bob D’Amico)

The creators of ABC's newest science fiction series The Crossing mix the ongoing international refugee crisis with a science-fiction plot that will keep audiences guessing with every twist.

Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie recently spoke to PopCulture.com in an exclusive interview about the unique, high-concept project, which takes over The Good Doctor's Monday night time slot starting on April 2.

"We said, 'How can we put a spin on this?' We did what we've done in the past with some of our pilots and future ideas, which is kind of incorporate a high concept sci-fi conceit," Dworkin recalled. "We kind of fused the two ideas and that's how we came up with it."

The Crossing stars Steve Zahn as Jude Ellis, the sheriff of a small Oregon town near the Pacific coast. One day, people mysteriously start washing up on the beach. However, there are no reports of a plane crash or boat capcizing anywhere near there. To make matters even stranger, the men, women and children say they are refugees from a war on American soil, 250 years in the future. Some of these refugees are members of "Apex," a group of genetically modified humans who were soldiers in their time. All these plot points and more are introduced in the ambitious pilot episode.

Dworkin said the "germ" of the idea was born after seeing the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a refugee carrying his son on the Greek shores.

"The idea came from refugees, and slightly more specifically, came from a photo that has since gone on to win a Pulitzer, that I saw a couple years ago in the paper online," Dworkin explained. "It was of a man who had just crossed over into Greece, clearly had an ordeal at sea, and was holding his young boy in his arms, and just the look on his face, it was devastating. The whole thing was devastating."

Dworkin and Beattie, who previously worked together on Criminal Minds, did not want to just tell a basic "ripped-from-the-headlines" story about refugees. Instead, they wanted to give it a sci-fi spin, inspired by the works of Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison with a dash of The Terminator thrown in.

Another aspect of The Crossing that makes it different from other shows is its location on the Oregon coast. Dworkin and Beattie first considered setting it in New England.

"Working with concepts about freedom and the melting pot and all that stuff, it kind of all started on the East coast, so that's something we could have leaned into a little bit more, but there's also something interesting about the West and the new frontier, that was interesting as well," Beattie explained.

In addition to laying groundwork for the series' science fiction concept, the pilot also mentions the troubled past of Zahn's character. Plus, the creators laid the groundwork for political intrigue in Seattle. While that all sounds like a lot of pressure to put on one 45-minute episode of television, the creators insisted it was for the best. They could not hold everything back.

"It's fairly sprawling and there's probably a version we could have done of the pilot where we held back an entire world, but the fact is we have the refugee world, we have the sheriff world, we have the town world, we have the [Department of Homeland Security] world," Dworkin explained. "It felt like all of those elements needed to be set up to some satisfactory degree in the pilot. That gave us something that was packed with story."

The first season of The Crossing will only be 12 episodes, which is exactly how Dworkin and Beattie like it.

"We've been on shows, serialized shows that do 22, and you get a couple seasons in and you're kind of running on fumes, and the audience starts to hate you because they can sense that you've burned out your story a little prematurely," Dworkin said. "It's definitely helpful."

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The first season of The Crossing debuts on ABC at 10 p.m. ET on Monday, April 2.

Photo credit: ABC/Bob D'Amico