The actor stars in The Leftovers, the HBO drama about what happens after 2% of the world’s population mysteriously vanishes. When its second season opens Oct. 4, the show moves to a new setting and drastically departs from the Tom Perrotta novel on which it’s based.
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October 1, 2015 6:39 AM EDT

Which is scarier: the disappearances of The Leftovers or the start of a zombie apocalypse à la Fear the Walking Dead?

The former. The unexplained thing is always much more terrifying. We see that when we see planes disappear over the ocean. That’s the thing that keeps you scratching your head or awake at night.

The Leftovers doesn’t answer many of viewers’ most pressing questions. Does that drive you crazy as an actor?

It’s always been easier for me. It’s the difference between a pop album and a jazz album. You’re not expecting the same breaks when you’re listening to John Coltrane. It’s a slow burn.

Critics called this show one of TV’s bleakest. How does the cast keep things from getting too heavy?

We do as much joking between takes as possible. Not that it would become irreverent toward the work–we just knew there had to be some pressure release.

You also wrote the upcoming Zoo-lander sequel. How immersed in the world of fashion are you?

I love high fashion. It’s a hysterical topic. I always take examples from shows in New York and Paris. There are unbelievable cameos. For the first one, they had real trouble [getting them] because no one knew what it was. Now it’s more iconic. We write cameos with the knowledge that we’re probably going to get them.

So the fashion industry is happy to laugh at itself?

It’s like when you do movies that poke fun at Hollywood. Everyone doesn’t think they’re the person being made fun of. It’s a wonderful sort of “That’s obviously not me.” But it could be.

This appears in the October 12, 2015 issue of TIME.

Write to Nolan Feeney at

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