The new HBO show “The Time Traveler’s Wife” gives a whole new meaning to the term “childhood sweethearts.”
The main character, Clare Abshire, fell in love with Henry DeTamble when she was 6 and he was 31. Then again when he was 40. They started dating when she was 20 and he was 28. And somehow, somewhere, they found a sweeping love story that was doomed from the start.
“The Time Traveler’s Wife,” based on the 2003 bestselling novel by Audrey Niffenegger, premiered May 15 and stars “Game of Thrones” actress Rose Leslie as the adult Clare and Theo James as Henry.
Through time, with their ages helpfully annotated on the screen, Henry and Clare find their way to each other, first at the clearing in her childhood home, then a library in Chicago. She has loved him forever and he has loved her forever.
“There’s an evolution that happens independently but also to them as a couple, and how steadfast they become in committing to each other,” Leslie, 35, told the Daily News.
“There was definitely a kickback from her in her 20s, a kickback of not wishing for her decisions to be predetermined by fate and then Henry therefore knowing what decision she is going to make and it’s inevitable and she actually has no control over what she’s going to do. …Feeling untethered is something she’s going to have to adapt to and embrace rather than constantly fight.”
While Clare stays still, moving from child to teen to adult, Henry gets ripped through time without warning and has sees his future, which includes decapitated feet and a fatal gunshot to the gut.
“He becomes chaotic and nihilistic, someone who has no anchor and doesn’t care about anything or anyone but himself,” James, 37, told The News. “He’s highly selfish.”
Since Clare has already fallen in love with Henry, her job is to bring out the best in him.
“Because from a young age he’s become so embedded in her mind as who she wishes to spend her life with and how he is that it was more a stubbornness on her part in making sure that she morphs him into who she fell in love with,” said Leslie.
“There’s an argument to be had that that would have happened organically and Henry would be the person he was going to be even without her so openly showing her disappointment in him. She extracts his free will … because she was so strong in letting him know that he’s fallen short, yet again, of not becoming the 40-year-old version.”
“The Time Traveler’s Wife” brushes past most of the uncomfortable details about the age differences on its way to prove its true love story. That story, executive producer Brian Minchin said, is in the little moments, fleeting seconds they get together before Henry is ripped through time again and Clare is left with his clothes on the floor, and no idea of where or when he is or how long he’ll be gone.
“It’s a show about how every moment matters,” Minchin told The News.
Henry and Clare’s love story, though, doesn’t have a happy ending. Henry knows this all along. Clare figures out that eventually he’ll stop crashing in and out of her life.
“The one terrifying truth about every love story is that it’s going to end. It’s temporary. You’re on a timer and when the timer runs out, it’s over. Love is inextricably tied to loss. Love entails loss,” creator Steven Moffat told The News.
“This is not ‘When Harry Met Sally.’ This is ‘When Harry Met Sally But He Knows He’s About To Die.’ It’s about loving in the moment because you don’t get that many moments.”