Rose Leslie & Theo James Talk the Possibility of More ‘Time Traveler’s Wife’

Rose Leslie and Theo James in The Time Traveler's Wife

If the title sounds familiar, there’s a good reason: The Time Traveler’s Wife was not only a 2003 bestseller by Audrey Niffenegger, but it inspired a 2009 movie adaptation starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. That said, forget what you think you know about the story — this new HBO version promises to deliver a fresh take on a heartbreaking love story.

The six-episode series stars Theo James as Henry DeTamble, a dashing librarian with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel unwillingly, disappearing for chunks of time into his past and future; Rose Leslie is his wife, Clare Abshire, who at age 6 meets an adult Henry and develops a friendship with this mysterious older man. It’s only when she encounters him in the present day in her 20s — with him completely oblivious to their connection, as their previous encounters were from his future self — that the two are able to meet in the middle and settle down … as much as Henry’s condition will allow, of course.

Despite Henry being the one with the otherworldly condition, the story very much revolves around Clare, the title’s namesake. “[Henry]’s always had this pivotal role in her life as a figure of love and hope,” details Leslie. “And then, as she grows up, we see that she is constantly juggling these two scenarios in her life. Who is she when Henry is around? And then, who is she when Henry has disappeared? And I just found that very, very interesting to play.”

The two stars were able to play Clare and Henry at multiple ages, which James very much enjoyed. “I love the juxtaposition between young and old, because I’m in the middle,” he explains. “I’m 37, and I play Henry as an impulsive, young, full-of-himself, mid-20s and late-20s man. And then I play an early-40s, mid-40s version of him. And so, in a way, it’s great that I’m in between, because I could just about be able to connect with him myself. I’m young enough to remember my stupid self, and the mistakes I made, and the cockiness, and the dumb, impulsive decisions. And I’m old enough to imagine a more settled sense of self, hopefully a little bit longer in the tooth, and a little more thoughtful with my actions.”

Despite the often-serious tone to the tale, writer Steven Moffat was able to inject some comedy into the proceedings, with both actors citing Episode 4 as a standout. “They are at Clare’s apartment, and there’s a supper with five of us around the table, with two Henrys,” teases Leslie. “That was an absolute joy to shoot. It was the first time I’d ever experienced anything like that, where you know that you’re looking at younger Henry, but younger Henry isn’t there. And it was also a way of keeping it light and joyful, which is important without it becoming too heavy on the tragedy front.”

One thing devoted book readers and fans of the previous movie version should note is that this adaptation does not tell the whole story — in fact, the six episodes finish without giving away the original ending. Leslie hopes that more episodes will follow so the story can continue. “That’s on HBO! That does not come from me at all,” she laughs. “We do see an element of Clare within her later years as a 70-year-old woman waiting for Henry, but that isn’t tied up at all. It very much finishes with their wedding.” Here’s hoping that viewers get to see a further conclusion to what may be one of the great love stories of our time.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, Series Premiere, Sunday, May 15, HBO and HBO Max

DISH cover The Time Traveler's Wife

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