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SYFY WIRE The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol creators on 'challenging puzzle' of adapting Dan Brown's book & why TV is the right medium

By Tara Bennett

Author Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon books have been global bestsellers for two decades, featuring five novels that have been adapted into three blockbuster films starring Tom Hanks as the Harvard symbologist who can crack just about any historical puzzle. It was expected that Brown’s third Langdon novel, The Lost Symbol, would be the next adapted for the big screen, but today at the Peacock virtual Television Critics Association panel for Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol series, executive producer Brian Grazer told reporters that another path presented itself.

While he confirmed the book –– which focuses on the mysteries of the Freemasons –– was in development for another film sequel, Grazer said they had a hard time cracking the narrative into a concise enough script. “My friend Danny Strong did a pass,” Grazer said. “But the character was so strong that his journey warranted a series as opposed to a movie. We found it had more propulsion as a series.”

Grazer then brought in Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie (MTV’s Scream) to develop The Lost Symbol into a 10-hour limited streaming series for Peacock, which turns the tale into an origin story for Robert Langdon set before the cinematic adventures featuring Hanks.

As is often the case with book-to-television adaptations, Dworkin says in crafting the story –– which has a much younger Langdon working with the CIA to decrypt a series of puzzles relating to the disappearance of his mentor –– they used the bones of the book to create the narrative skeleton of the season.

“Fans of the books will find there’s a couple of things in the book [The Lost Symbol] they will miss,” Dworkin shared. “But when you fill out 10 hours of storytelling, you have to fill in a lot of stuff. And so, we created new characters, new backstories, and new elements.”

Beattie said finding the right alchemy of source material and new material really became its own puzzle. “[The book] is the spine of a narrative structure so it’s a bit of a remix. And studying this book [to adapt] was the most challenging puzzle I’ve done in the last decade.”

And then there’s the tough job of filing the shoes of Tom Hanks, which is the predicament of actor Ashley Zukerman, who plays young Langdon. However, Zukerman said that he never viewed it as something to feel pressure about.

“I was honored to be chosen, which was a big thing,” Zukerman said. “And maybe something that helped was that we’re using the third book as an origin story. In studying the book, I could present the person that will become the person people love [in the movies].”

Still, while speaking about Zukerman’s assumption of the role, Grazer said he found him to have many similar qualities to Hanks. Acknowledging there’s a huge distance between where Langdon is in The DaVinci Code movie versus where he is in this series, Grazer spoke about how proud he and all the creatives are of Zukerman's performance. “He’s the pure embodiment of how the character is written in the books."

The Lost Symbol premieres on Peacock this coming Thursday, Sep. 16.

(Peacock & SYFY WIRE are both owned by NBCUniversal)