LOS ANGELES, March 1 (UPI) -- Jason Segel says his new show, Dispatches From Elsewhere, premiering Sunday on AMC, was inspired by his existential crisis. When his comedy, How I Met Your Mother, ended in 2014 after 10 years, Segel says he was conflicted about what to do next.
"I suddenly had this blank canvas ahead of me and I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about," Segel said on a Television Critics Association panel. "I was also realizing I hadn't done an artistic check-in with myself in a really long time, and the things that I was sort of known for were no longer relevant to me."
Segel appeared in the movies The End of the Tour, The Discovery, Come Sunday and The Friend since his sitcom. However, he said he took many years to decompress from the entertainment industry before creating and writing Dispatches From Elsewhere.
"I moved out of Los Angeles for about five years," Segel said. "I had to do some reckoning with what I wanted to do without being influenced by all of the familiar voices. 'What's next?' is a question you get asked a lot, and I wasn't ready to answer that question for a while."
The search for what's next led Segel to feel alone. Dispatches From Elsewhere became an exploration of people connecting with each other.
"I just became really interested in the fact that we're all in this together," Segel said. "I understand the initial feeling of isolation, but then you start to realize that everyone's sort of feeling that way. Then things became a lot easier for me."
During that time, Segel responded to a flyer on a lamppost and participated in an adventure experience. These experiences inspired the show in which Peter (Segel) follows a flier flyer to the "Dispatches From Elsewhere" game. A game master, Octavio E. Coleman (Richard E. Grant) instructs "Dispatches" players on behalf of The Jejune Institute.
Simone (Eve Lindley), Janice (Sally Field) and Fredwynn (Andre Benjamin) join Peter on a scavenger hunt around Philadelphia. A real Jejune Institute ran games in San Francisco and inspired a documentary film about the group called The Institute.
"I found it really moving, that a bunch of people in really different stages of life, from totally different walks of life -- socioeconomically, politically, ethnically -- were all taking part in this thing because something was missing from their lives," Segel said. "Maybe we are much more alike and much more confused than we are being told to believe.
"I wanted to make a show about how we're much more similar than we realize that we are."
In dramatizing the real game, Segel could make it more elaborate and dramatic. On the show, the Jejune Institute has a surreal headquarters with contraptions and videos. However, Segel was careful their "Dispatches From Elsewhere" game never became too fanciful.
"I wanted this thing to feel handmade, because somebody did make this," Segel said. "Someone made the real event that happened. I wanted it to feel like it was made by hands, not by a computer."
Peter works for a tech company and is searching for purpose when he finds "Dispatches From Elsewhere." Simone is a trans woman looking for a place to belong. Janice has a husband in hospice and she is exploring what her life might become when she's a widow. Fredwynn is obsessed with conspiracies and aims to solve "Dispatches."
"Dispatches From Elsewhere" changes each of their lives dramatically. However, Segel wants their growth to be more subtle.
"Some of the biggest transcendent moments aren't ones that cause you to make some giant life shift," Segel said. "They just make you feel a little different or understand something a little bit more."
Field, an Academy Award- and Emmy-winning actress responded to Dispatches From Elsewhere on a purely dramatic basis.
"Hopefully in life, we're all sort of taking these journeys without knowing that we are," Field said. "That's why I wanted to do the show, because it's this treasure hunt they get caught up in. It becomes about their whole lives, really, and they find out who they are within that."
Filming Dispatches From Elsewhere was a bit of a mystery for Field, as well. She recalled trying to piece the story together as she received new information in each script.
"This was certainly an example of just figuring it out as we went along, in a lot of ways," Field said. "That makes it so much fun because it's completely alive."
Dispatches From Elsewhere airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on AMC.