'Manifest' creator Jeff Rake explains why the show chooses to tell a story without a defined protagonist
With a complex storyline like this, creator Jeff Rake chose not to tell the story from the viewpoint of a particular protagonist but to include several voices.
NBC's 'Manifest' brought to us an interesting tale about a missing plane which reappears after five and a half years, but soon it is revealed none of the passengers had aged a day. With a complex storyline like this, creator Jeff Rake chose not to tell the story from the viewpoint of a particular protagonist but to include several voices, all of who, seem to be heading towards a new destination.
This certainly isn't the first time the story is being told from the perspective of multiple characters, but it seems that on today's TV it is almost a trend to tell the story with the voices of several characters. After creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman gave us the very popular six lead characters on their NBC show, 'F.R.I.E.N.D.S', recently a wave has occurred on television, where multiple lead characters are taking the center stage.
Two weeks from now, on April 14, televisions' most celebrated show 'Game of Thrones' will return with its final season and in spite of the thousand deaths that we have witnessed over the course of the last seven seasons, we still have at least eight leading characters with varying storylines. However, what is common among all of them is that, they are all headed towards the same destination. They are all different people with different routes in life, leading them towards one final conclusion.
Something similar happened with Netflix's 'Stranger Things'. The Duffer Brothers-created show follows a group of kids who try to prevent the monster from the other world as they protect their friend from being kidnapped. While Season 1 almost started on a note where it seemed that either Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) or Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) would emerge as the protagonist, the show soon took a turn, where every character became just as important, with their own storylines.
Not only were we looking at the continuation of these storylines in Season 2, but we were also introduced to Sadie Sink's character, Max, who once again had her own story to share. So, why are tv shows not focusing on one protagonist but introducing several lead characters?
The answer might be as simple as making the show more relatable. Rake in an interview with MEA World Wide (MEAWW) explained that when there are multiple lead characters in a show, it is easier for the audience to relate since almost everyone has someone who represents them.
Regarding 'Manifest', he explained: "I wanted the show to center around a cross-section of humanity, in order to maximize the likelihood that anyone in the audience could relate to the experience. This lent itself to more of an ensemble framework of storytelling". 'Manifest' chiefly focuses on the Stone family and we see that every member of that family is somehow affected by the plane's disappearance in their personal lives.
Ben Stone (Josh Dallas) loses his mind when he begins to hear the strange voices in his head, Grace (Athena Karkanis) is compelled to re-write her life over and over again due to all the uncertainties, Cal (Jack Messina) receives five extra years in his life only to realize that he will die soon. Similarly, Cal's twin sister Olive (Luna Blaise) is now five years older than her brother and finds it difficult to adjust initially.
On the other hand, Michaela Stone (Melissa Roxburgh) struggles to live with the fact that the love of her life is married to her best friend. As Rake said, he is "most focused on marrying a big idea to an emotional center", the one thing common among all the members of the Stone family is their utter sense of loss, and their consistent pursuit to find what was lost.
'Manifest', since the beginning, has been the story about a family, and their struggle to keep up with passing time. Each character in that story has his/her own moments of breakdown and their brief triumphs over those phases, when they had completely lost themselves. Season 1 left us with a cliffhanger, as none of the characters had redeemed themselves, but hopefully NBC will renew the show soon enough and we will see the Stone family find what has been lost.