The PBS series ‘Alice & Jack’ recounts a winding and eternal love story.  

New York — As most kids, Victor Levin was raised on fairy tales and still resents it. Those literature, movies, and TV shows that always ended happily ever after looked dishonest. “It’s nonsense,” adds the writer-producer. We humans are deeply flawed, and sometimes we make horrible mistakes and damage each other with the greatest of intentions. Being human and loving are like this. Quite messy

Levin is ready to illustrate his thesis with the stunning new six-part PBS “Masterpiece” series, “Alice & Jack,” which follows a modern couple through years of dirty, euphoric, insane love. This powerful feeling can do tremendous things. It can damage people but do amazing things. “Let’s not take it for granted,” says Levin, who worked on “Mad Men” and “Mad About You.”

“Alice & Jack,” which premieres Sunday, follows Andrea Riseborough and Domhnall Gleeson through weddings, births, and deaths. Their gravity persists. Riseborough explains, “They really leave a huge mess in their wake, but they are clearly meant to be connected for their existence. “I think that, in itself, is something that's very hopeful and something I really identified with—the imperfect nature of love.”

Alice and Jack don't match. Their first date is in a pub after meeting on an app. They return to her house, but he is instructed to leave in the morning. “I’ll call you?” he says. “Thank you, but if it's okay, I'd rather you didn't,” she says.

This couple seems doomed by time and circumstance. “You’re like the incarnation of everything I’ve ever wanted,” she says. But she's not ready, still processing a dark childhood. He marries another woman years afterward. He warns her, “We throw away our blessings at our peril.”

Levin says it took decades to construct a project that asks: Are the forces that unite us stronger than those that divide us? “Ultimately, I am not smart enough to know answers. Maybe I ask the right question occasionally. He believes his goal is to give you something to ponder about when you turn off the TV.

Levin originally planned “Alice & Jack” for New York City, but it takes place in London. “I would like to think that it could be in any city, with any two people,” he continues. However, his actor choice was final. Levin waited for Riseborough and Gleeson to be available for “Alice & Jack” because he loves them. He loved their acting and listening.

I expected this narrative to focus on reactions. Levin argues that includes both the speaker and the listener. “You learn as much from the listener as the speaker.” He cast Riseborough and Gleeson, two talented actors who had previously worked together in “Never Let Me Go” and “Shadow Dancer.”

Levin: “So I had great speakers, great listeners, great talents, great brains, by the way. “Just brilliant intellectuals—emotionally, comedically, and dramatically high IQs. It's like winning the lotto for writers."

Levin offered each actor entire screenplays for the first and last episodes and a sketch plan for the middle. As the production was completed, the writer incorporated the performers' quirks into the characters. “He injected us into the story,” Riseborough adds. Levin thinks “Alice & Jack” will generate discussions about romantic, fraternal, familial, and paternal love.

“We live in a very troubled world, so if we can have a conversation about love and what it means and how we can show it respect and treasure it, not ask too much of it, but ask a lot of it, understand what it is and how valuable it is, I think that can only be helpful.”

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