An Exclusive Interview w/ Jami O’Brien!
NOS4A2 has taken horror fans by storm: the excitement, the characters, and the chilling horror will have you asking for more. Originally known as the popular novel by Joe Hill, the show has created some great twists and interesting storyline, headed by the showrunner, Jami O’Brien.
You may know Jami from her time on another hit TV show: Fear the Walking Dead. Her credits include both producing and writing and she’s sunk her teeth into this summer chiller on AMC (vampire pun? yes, please).
The show follows our unlikely, but badass heroine, Vic McQueen. We watch as she discovers her supernatural powers as a strong creative, and her fight to stop someone just like her all while saving the world at the same time.
So Many Shows brings you an exclusive interview with Jami, as she gives you all the bloody, behind-the-scenes details. Check it out below!
Now that we’re a few episodes into the show, fans have highlighted some differences between the series and the book. What is the most difficult part of adapting a book to a TV show? How difficult is it deciding on what to change or alter?
The novel is beautiful, huge, sprawling. It jumps around in time and location. Some of it is internal — exploring Vic’s inner thoughts and motivations, for example. In order for a television show to work, you have to figure out a way to get the characters into dramatic scenes together. That led us to moving some of the characters closer together, geographically, and to introducing some of them to each other earlier than Joe Hill does in the book.
The biggest departure we made early on was changing Vic’s age. She’s 8 years old when we meet her in the book, and she’s 18 years old when we meet her on the show. I knew we were going to cast an adult actor to play Vic, so that left us with a dilemma. Do we throw out a whole chunk of the story? Do we play it as a flashback? I didn’t want to do either of those things because I love that early part of the story — where Vic begins to grapple with the truth about her parents marriage, discovers her bridge, and first encounters Charlie Manx — AND I felt it was so important to who Vic is as a character, I didn’t want to play it as past tense with a child actor. I wanted to dramatize the beginning of Vic’s story “our” Vic — the actor who would take us through the series. So I made the decision to age the character up a little bit in order to keep all the juicy stuff in the first third of the novel.
I think as long as we stay truthful to the beautiful, nuanced characters, and amazing world that Joe Hill created, we’re in pretty good shape.
Vic McQueen recently discovered her inscape and knife. If you were a strong creative, what would yours be?
Probably something really dull like a dry erase marker and a room full of dry erase boards.
The show has not shied away from some gruesome scenes and has awesome special effects (I’m still shuddering over the cat). I imagine that it’s only going to get more vicious. Any hints on what we might expect going forward?
Thank you! We have a phenomenal VFX team headed up by John Bruno who has worked on everything from POLTERGEIST to AVATAR. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can say that the cat and mouse between Vic and Manx will continue to escalate…
Zachary Quinto and Ashley Cummings both shine in their roles as heroine and villain —and in the last episode their first encounter was excellent. What did you look for when casting for these incredible roles?
For Manx, we knew we needed a phenomenal actor with the range to play a variety of ages and imbue the role with all the complexity of a villain who, in addition to being a man from another time, also believes he’s the HERO of the story. Zach brings such focus, specificity, ferocity, humor, heart, and just raw creativitiy to Charlie Manx — he has created a completely different physicality and voice for each one of Manx’s ages — I can’t imagine anyone else playing the role!
Vic is a tricky role because she needs to have the strength and grit to eventually go toe to toe with Charlie Manx as played by Zachary Quinto — no small task! But when we meet her, she’s in a difficult home situation, isn’t sure what she’s doing with her life or where she fits in the world, and has an internalized sense of class inferiority. When Ashleigh auditioned, she knocked everyone’s socks off with her powerful blend of vulnerability and badassery. She really goes on a journey over the course of this season and delivers a true powerhouse performance.
The show has managed to create a great blend of horror and everyday life for the characters. What can you tell us about how the characters (Vic’s parent’s for example) futures? Without spoiling anything, will we see any redemption for their shortcomings?
One of the things I love about the characters in the book, and that we strive to embrace in the show, is that they are all so complicated and nuanced. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I don’t believe any of these characters (with one or two POSSIBLE exceptions) is beyond redemption. Whether or not they’ll get there is another question…
From the little we’ve seen of Christmasland and the surrounding areas – it’s been, well, eerily magical. Where do you film and how was the process of creating the set?
We shoot all over the beautiful state of Rhode Island! Christmasland itself is a combination of practical set pieces built in a field across the street from our production office and VFX elements. The whole thing was designed by our fabulous Production Designer, Andrew Jackness.
Each character has many layers and none seem to be completely good or evil. For you, how does that add to the storytelling?
I love all the characters in NOS4A2 — they are what drew me to the book and their richness is large part of what makes the show fun to work on. Straight-forward morality tales with broad characters drawn in primary colors can be fun, too, but I think they make things a little too easy on the audience to be interesting for long. My favorite television shows are the ones where I have to really wrestle with the characters, their motivations and choices, and how I feel about them.
And finally … With so much “fan reaction” all over social media… What’s been your favorite or most surprising reaction so far?
My favorite reactions have been from people who have said, in one way or another, “I am Vic.” People who identify with her background, the obstacles she faces, her insecurities, and, hopefully, her courage. Vic McQueen is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time and I just love, love, love hearing when folks can relate to her.
Many thanks to Jami O’Brien for taking a few minutes to chat with us!
If you haven’t already checked out NOS4A2 yet – Find it on AMC or On Demand – and watch live every Sunday at 10/9c!
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