Hulu’s The Path: Creator Jessica Goldberg Talks Season 1

We touch base with Jessica Goldberg, creator of Hulu’s The Path, on those damned Meyerists and beyond...

The Path quickly solidified itself as appointment television during its first season, coming in with high expectations as Hulu’s first dramatic series. It also marked the follow-up program for Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) after their milestone television series’ ended their respective runs.  

The Path explores the lives of the many people who have turned to the Meyerist Movement as a means of support. The validity of the Movement’s fundamentals and it’s erratic leader, Cal, muddy the waters in a way that only rich television can.

With the series’ inaugural season just wrapping up, Den of Geek touched base with the series’ creator and executive producer Jessica Goldberg on the production process of the show and what’s next for the Meyerists. 

DEN OF GEEK: Most new religions die before making it past the second generation. You place the Meyerists right at the cusp of that moment. It’s obviously tempting to see this movement grow, but is there also the issue of plausibility in regard to how seldom this actually happens?

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JESSICA GOLDBERG: To me that seemed really fun. Instead of seeing something starting, to instead see that move from first generation to second generation. They sort of say that if a religion can make it past that first charismatic leader than it will live—it’ll become like Scientology, or Mormonism, which I know is very accepted but the fact that it made it past that stage. 

That that’s when something becomes a religion. Beyond that fact, I just wanted to plop these viewers in this world during the middle of it and have to find their way. It seemed like a very interesting question to see if you can take the religion from one generation to the second, and what that means for the religion.

It’s like a big schism and those moments in the series when you do see the Movement entering into that next stage are certainly the most exciting ones. There must be a fine line though between filling the show with those moments and also keeping it to a degree where things are still moving at a realistic rate. They can’t become this “super cult” immediately.

Right. I feel that the hope is to watch Meyerism grow. We were just talking about this in the writers’ room, too. Like with the whole Bernie Sanders movement; people want to participate, and do things, and get things done. There’s a real sort of need and urgency in the culture right now for that. 

Was The Path your first idea for television? I know about the brutal year that you had that led you to writing the pilot, but were there any other ideas that you played around with before that?

I actually have written like seven pilots and most of them I wrote for network television, so I mostly wrote for hire. When you’re writing for a network you’re trying to please more people and this was the first thing where I was like, ‘I’m going to take some personal time and write something.’

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That’s why this experience has been so rewarding for me—and I just want to tell other people to do it now—because you get so caught up in trying to make a living, and trying to please everyone, so to actually write something for yourself can be so amazing. So I’ve had many ideas but none that I’ve really had a lot of control over. 

What was the hardest thing about breaking this season, and what was the biggest surprise that you stumbled upon while plotting things? 

Each episode is quite difficult because it’s very complicated to be sure that you’re keeping this equal balance where you never want anyone to be able to be written off as bad—and I hope that we’re doing this. I mean certain characters do very, very, very bad things in the show, but as a group you have to keep the allure. You never want to be able to write people off as crazy. 

And just making sure that what the characters want is coming from a very real place, so even fi you don’t like what they’re doing you can some kind of compassion for them, I hope. So that’s a really hard line. That’s hard to keep doing. 

Especially with Cal. 

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Yes! And he becomes much more so. And yet, pretty early on we show where he comes from. And that episode with Kathleen Turner where we understand who this kid is—you just see the child behind the man for a moment, everything that he’s running from, and all of his demons. It doesn’t excuse the things that he does, but that’s what makes him a good villain. 

Along those lines, any interest in visiting flashbacks set during Cal’s childhood with the Meyersits while Stephen Meyer was in the height of his power. It’d be an interesting way of exploring both of those characters from different perspectives.

Totally. I love the idea of seeing that. I think it’d be so interesting to see young Cal and Steve, the father. He did become his father eventually. 

The episode “The Shore,” where Eddie and Hawk spend so much time at Coney Island, is really beautiful in its simplicity. What was it like stumbling onto the goldmine that is Hawk? In your original version of the pilot, the character wasn’t there. Can you talk a little bit about how that character and what he represents grew into such an integral part of the show? 

That is why you have partners in writing because you can get a little myopic. With Hulu, that was the first thing that they said. Originally my script didn’t have the older son, so they were talking to Jason [Katims] who did Friday Night Lights and said that they wanted a little more of that brand. And I said, “What if they have a sixteen year-old son. A son on the cusp of something?” 

And he has been such a gift as a character and finding that actor. Literally we were looking through tapes that had been sent in—he was on a tape—and he just jumped out as us and was so unlike every other teenager. He came off the screen as this sort of kid—he’s kind of strange, but he works so well, is so sensitive and heartfelt. That is also my favorite episode, “The Shore.” I love it so much and find it really moving. We just love him.

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Is there a certain scene that you’re especially proud of this season? Or a moment where you felt like the show was really clicking? 

I love the show and the whole show, but I have to say that episode eight, “The Shore,” is just breathtaking and so emotional. And then Eddie on the beach at the end with his brother is so great. That whole episode has such a beauty and everything that I wanted the show to be; this mix of mystery, family, and mysticism. So that it feels spiritual by the end.

You flirt with the idea of visions throughout the season, especially with Eddie in the finale. They are certainly undeniable signs that lend credence to the idea that something’s going on with Meyerism. Are you hesitant to involve things like that in the show that might push things too far towards one extreme or the other on whether the movement is “real.”

It’s something we’re discussing now, for sure. To me it becomes like a Hamlet story— 

Is he going crazy— 

Or is this something that should be listened to.

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The Path’s season finale airs May 25th, exclusively on Hulu.