New York Times

Sarah Treem on ‘The Affair’ and Why She Loves the Character You Hate

Nov. 18, 2015

Once mostly anonymous, the producers who oversee top television series have sometimes become as well known as the actors who star in them. On occasion, The Times will pose questions from readers (and pose some of our own) to notable show runners, and post their responses.

This week, Sarah Treem of Showtime’s “The Affair” discusses the show’s expansion from two to four points of view, Noah’s likability and his and Alison’s occasionally disturbing sex scenes.

Q. Did you know from the beginning that you would tell the story in a nonlinear form? If not, at what point did you make that choice? What specific stories (books, movies, TV shows) that used nonlinear storytelling have impacted or interested you in some way? — Yolanda, Mexico

A. Yes, I did know from the beginning that we were going to tell the story in a nonlinear form. In terms of storytelling that was influential, I mean obviously “Rashomon,” the movie, was influential. There are other books and movies that were highly influential but don’t necessarily employ a nonlinear storytelling device.

I’ve been particularly influenced this year by the Elena Ferrante novels, the Neapolitan cycle. What I think is really fascinating about those novels is you’re highly aware as you’re reading them that you’re seeing the stories through the P.O.V. of Lenu, and that Lila has her own story that you’re kind of privy to, but also not. You become aware as you go further in the novels that Lenu’s perspective is deeply biased and heavily influenced by her insecurities. That’s always been the idea behind this kind of storytelling. That it’s not objective, and we don’t remember our lives as linear narratives. We remember pieces. We remember images.