Sharon Stone started laughing when director Steven Soderbergh and writer Ed Solomon pitched her on their new murder drama “Mosaic.”
“The character we wanted her to play, Olivia Lake, is larger than life,” Solomon tells the Daily News. “She’s the kind of person who walks into a room and molecules shift.”
But it’s not exactly a comic role. Olivia Lake, a famous children’s book author and illustrator who lives in a small Western town, ends up dead.
In the end, Stone was intrigued enough to sign on for “Mosaic,” which premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on HBO.
While murder dramas aren’t unique on television, “Mosaic” has a dimension others don’t. It was also filmed as an app that enables the user to watch the same basic story from different perspectives, sometimes with different information.
The app isn’t so interactive that it lets the viewer alter the outcome. But it does give the viewer a markedly different perspective on what happened and why.
Sharon Stone in the new series “Mosaic.”
In a media world increasingly enchanted with and capable of interactivity, this kind of viewer engagement seems like a logical progression, and Solomon is fully on board.
“Back in 2012, Steven had this idea about allowing people to go deeper in the mindspaces of characters,” Solomon says. “He wanted to explore the subjectivity of experience.
“We did a prototype, a 10- or 15-minute short that was entirely different from ‘Mosaic,’ just to see if we could tell a story that way. It not only worked, it was kind of exciting,” Solomon adds. “Steven wanted a true-crime story. I wanted a story about someone investigating a death for which he gradually wonders if he might be culpable himself. ‘Mosaic’ worked perfectly for both.”
That’s not to say the story wrote itself. Solomon, Soderbergh and producer Casey Silver spent three years creating “Mosaic,” says Solomon, working from a war room that detailed every character’s perspective and subplot to ensure everything on the app was factually consistent.
Still, Solomon says none of it would have worked if the basic “Mosaic” story weren’t solid and compelling.
Garrett Hedlund and Jennifer Ferrin in “Mosaic.”
“The tech is cool, but you can’t get carried away with it,” he says. “The viewer who just wants to have a story told” should be able to watch on HBO and not feel anything is missing because there’s other material on the app.
“Mosaic” revolves around the intrigue among a dozen characters in this scenic town, where Olivia owns property coveted by shady folks who hire Eric Neill (Frederick Weller) to seduce her and con her out of it.
Paul Reubens plays JC Schiffer, Olivia’s best friend.
The drama also brings in Eric’s sister Petra (Jennifer Ferrin); young artist Joel Hurley (Garrett Hedlund), whom Olivia hires as a handyman; local billionaire Michael O’Connor (James Ransone); and a pair of cops, Detective Nate Henry (Devin Ratray) and Sheriff Alan Pape (Beau Bridges), one of whom is more upstanding than the other.
But Stone’s Olivia anchors the story, as Solomon and Soderbergh had hoped she would.
Garrett Hedlund plays an aspiring artist who lives on the property of Sharon Stone’s character in “Mosaic.”
“In our first conversations, Steven and I said, ‘Sharon Stone,’” says Solomon. “For the first month or two, we called the character Sharon. So we finally decided to see if we could get her. I talked with her about what we were doing, and she really took a flyer on us.”
Solomon says Stone agreed to do it before they even had a full script.
“Throughout the final writing process she had a lot of input into the character,” he adds. “There was a real intimacy between writer and actor. Then once she started doing it, she made it work at an extra level. It’s such a brave, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching performance.
“She was perfect.”