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‘The Way Home’ Producers on Leaning Into ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Parallels, Planning for Season 3 and Beyond — Plus, the Possibility of Spinoffs

When mother-daughter showrunners Heather Conkie and Alexandra Clarke began working on “The Way Home” with creator Marly Reed, they didn’t intentionally set their sites on the world of “Alice in Wonderland.” Instead, it came completely natural.

“As we started looking at this show and the concept, it became so much clearer to us how oddly echoing it all was to the book, and we sort of thought well, if it’s there, let’s use it. It’s a story about a girl that literally falls down the rabbit hole into a whole other world and is trying to make sense of what she’s seeing and of her adventures there,” Alexandra tells Variety. With seamless comparisons, they began bringing physical similarities and themes from the 1865 novel into Season 1.

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“Once we had gone down that rabbit hole ourselves, we were in a discount book store and the first books that were right there right in front of us were ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass,’ right next to each other,” Heather recalls. “We thought, ‘OK, that’s a sign.'”

The Hallmark drama includes cheeky references to multiple different well-known stories — everything from “Peter Pan” and “Narnia” to “Not Another Teen Movie” (which also stars “The Way Home” actor Chyler Leigh) — but it’s the “Alice” comparison that viewers keep noticing on social media each week. The second season continued that theme, following a bit closer to the adventures from the sequel, “Through the Looking Glass.”

This time around, the showrunners and writers made a more “concerted effort” to look at the second book, one they view as a “much darker version of ‘Alice in Wonderland.'”

“The way it begins is her looking through a mirror into this other world and wondering what’s there and hoping it’ll take her back to Wonderland. It does, but it’s a wonderland that’s upside down and reversed. Everything good is bad and everything up is down and if you actually look at Alice’s journey in particular through Season 2, that’s exactly what happened,” Alexandra says. “We made a really big point throughout the season of having her be on the outside looking in, which is exactly how Alice who was in that book.”

Now, the show has been renewed for a third season — but Lewis Carroll didn’t write a third “Alice in Wonderland” book. Still, the books will play a role, albeit different, in the next season.

“They’re clearly a very important part of the family,” Alexandra says. “I think the thing we’re going to kind of try and do this season is looking at the two books as a whole as a set and what to sort of glean from the two of them and who owns them. And the themes of them will still be a huge part of our show.”

The planning for Season 3 has already begun; in fact, they started brainstorming just one day after they wrapped Season 2. The second season finale airs on Sunday and left both producers “breathless.” Heather says the finale will “answer questions and force questions to be asked,” and notes that everyone on set was sobbing!

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the writers got to on Season 3 without a break, thinking of how to execute the ideas they’ve had for years.

“Even when we were developing out Season 1, Season 3 was sort of the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Alexandra. “So even back then, we kind of knew what this season would look like. Now it’s just a matter of… actually sitting down and getting to the nitty-gritty of that. It’s a fun challenge.”

Another challenge lies in the amount of different characters and timelines inside the drama. While there’s no end-point in sight — the mother and daughter agree they’ll continue doing the show until it’s not being done well — they admit it is a lot of story to keep straight.

“It’s a complicated show,” Alexandra says. “I’m so grateful we’re doing it together as mother and daughter but also as co-showrunners. It is a show that needs two people. It probably, arguably, needs three or four or five. Every season is — especially this last season — three shows in one: a show in the 1800s, one in the early 2000s and a show in the present day, all three with separate casts, separate wardrobe, separate everything. We want to keep doing that right, and we don’t want to ever get lazy… We’ve all fallen down this rabbit hole and I’m not ready to I’m not ready to come back up.”

With so many different characters and timelines, they’ve also “talked about spinoffs,” many of which they call “ridiculous.”

“One of the things about our show that’s unique, because of the time travel aspect of it is, again, very similar to ‘Wonderland’ itself, is you’re there for a good time, not a long time, and every trip is unique,” Alexandra adds. “Every trip, something’s different and in our world, you can’t linger in one timeline too long. So there’s always going to be something new and something different. And while obviously, our present day will always be our constant, the trips that Alice takes, the trips that Kat takes, they’re always going to be to different wonderlands and different worlds for very different reasons.”

The Season 2 finale of “The Way Home” airs on Sunday, March 31, at 9 p.m.

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