Laura Dave’s novel, ‘The Last Thing He Told Me’ is ultimately a love story wrapped in a mystery, but not in an obvious way for either genre.
The story, which was brought from the page to the screen by Dave and her husband, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Josh Singer, follows Hannah (played by Jennifer Garner) and what ultimately unfolds when her husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau) goes missing, and she and her step-daughter (Angourie Rice) are left to pick up the pieces.
The best-selling book came out in 2021, and it was ultimately chosen by Reese Witherspoon to be part of the popular Reese’s Book Club, and then when Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine productions (specifically, the head of film and television there, Lauren Levy Neudstadter) got involved, the new Apple TV+ series began to be adapted.
As Dave says, she wrote the book, but knew the adaptation process was a bit of a different animal. Through Singer, the husband and wife team now became a writing duo, which ultimately allowed for the story to grow.
“I think what was such a beautiful experience getting to work together on this, at least from my perspective, was that the show really expands on the book in this beautiful way,” Dave explains. “I always think about this in terms of watching Jen Garner as Hannah Hall become the hero of her own life. And the way that Josh and our wonderful team of writers adapted it, that heroism is totally amped up, as is the humanity.”
“We had a terrific room of writers who offered all sorts of ideas,” adds Singer. “I always felt that the book is so strong procedurally, and I didn’t want to lose any of that… And so it was literally, as [Laura] said, how can we deepen this? How can we have little chestnuts for fans of the book, who will [say,] I didn’t get to explore this in the book and here this is? But yet, also maintain what makes the book so strong so that for new viewers who haven’t read the book, it has that same propulsive, emotional energy.”
Garner’s Hannah begins the series madly in love with her husband Owen, but on cloudy terms with Bailey, her stepdaughter, and she wants to change that. After Owen goes missing and leaves Hannah a vague but direct note, she has to protect Bailey, and she does so full-force while also trying to figure out why her husband left, and why his company is now in deep legal trouble.
Hannah’s best friend, a journalist named Jules, also knew Owen and she’s ultimately able to help both Hannah and Bailey in trying to put the pieces together to a very large puzzle. For Aisha Tyler, who plays Jules, this role was an opportunity to give more depth and life to a character who was born on a page, but now truly comes alive on the screen.
“It was just an incredibly intelligent script… It was nuanced, fun, layered, and it had this richness, and this dark twist that just felt like it was going to be a really great role to play,” Tyler explains. “Then I did my first meetings with the producers, they really felt engaged and ready to bring this character to a new level. Jules is a bigger, richer, more robust character in the show than she was in the book, and it was exciting that I felt like they really wanted to write her up and give her more to do.”
Tyler continued: “It was great because I think quite frankly, she’s there to be a supporting character to the main character. But as that relationship unfolded, we all talked about ways to give them more to do with each other and I think as a result, you understand Hannah better because of Jules and she’s not just a side character. She really becomes instrumental in helping to propel the story.”
‘The Last Thing He Told Me’ takes audiences on a ride full of twists and turns. We see Hannah try to peel back the veil of mystery that surrounds her husband, and it leads her down many different paths from her home in Sausalito, all the way to Austin, Texas—and all the while Bailey is at her side. And it’s through that unlikely duo that we see the nuances of a relationship begin to form from acquaintances, to friends, and then even becoming family.
“I ended up writing a love story. It was just not the one I thought I was writing,” explains Dave. “The journey of this book starts off really thinking about: Can we ever know the people we love? And then, it moves toward a different question entirely, which is: What are we willing to do for the people we love? And all the different ways that love might look and what feels like sacrifice, which is really a theme. Running through this can also end up feeling like salvation…And I think that’s where Hannah and Bailey end up—in a place where they find salvation together.”
Audiences will be able to put the pieces together as the show unfolds, and as Dave said, the themes of love and sacrifice are weaved throughout this mystery. But, so is hope, and ultimately that’s what ends up saving our heroes of this story.
“Laura talked a lot about finding a mystery thriller rooted in hope, and I think that’s what this is,” finishes Singer. “And I think that’s why this story has its own place in this genre.”
‘The Last Thing He Told Me’ premieres globally with the first two episodes on Friday, April 14, followed by one new episode weekly through May 19, exclusively on Apple TV+