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Andrew Hinderaker explains how Showtime's 'Let the Right One In' honors and expands the film and novel
Andrew Hinderaker, the showrunner of Showtime's adaptation of Let The Right One In, unpacks the premiere episode for SYFY WIRE.
Back in 2004, John Ajvide Lindqvist's bestselling novel, Let the Right One In, offered readers a fresh way to tell a vampire story. Set in 1981, the book tells a strange but compelling love story between a 12-year-old human Swedish boy and an ancient vampire who looks his age. In 2008, director Tomas Alfredson adapted it into one of the best vampire horror films ever, which in turn went on to influence a new generation of onscreen vampiric storytellers. Since then, the book's been adapted into a 2010 English-language film by director Matt Reeves titled Let Me In. Now, it's been remade again as a television series, Let the Right One In, which premiered on Oct. 9 on Showtime.
Set in contemporary New York City, the Showtime series expands the storytelling of the book to not only tell the story of the child-like vampire, Eleanor (Madison Taylor Baez), and her human friend, Isaiah (Ian Foreman). It expands on the source material, too, with plots focused on her tortured father/protector, Mark (Demián Bichir) and virologist Claire Logan (Grace Gummer), who is researching a possible cure for what causes vampirism. SYFY WIRE reached out to executive producer/showrunner Andrew Hinderaker (Away), to walk us through how the series departs from the source material and how the pilot sets up the seasons to come.
***Spoilers below for the series premiere of Showtime's Let the Right One In***
Let's start with the book and the film, which both just focus on the evolution of the relationship between this boy and the vampire. A television drama can't sustain itself with just one plot, so how did the broader stories for this series get birthed?
You're right, like a true Swedish film there's like two plot points. It's not tailor-made for television. But, interestingly, that was the draw for me. I've seen the film genuinely over 100 times and at some point, you trust that it's deep enough in your DNA that you can tell a completely new story. And that the love for the film and the novel is going to be embedded in the series. The freedom came from knowing that the story itself is sort of exquisitely perfect how it is. It doesn't require, nor could it sustain, an additional hour, much less eight hours. The question really became how do you continue to tell that story?
And for me, that central question is what sits at the emotional heart of the show. In Away, it was about love that tethers us to Earth, even when 40 million miles away. For this show, similarly, it is the love that a parent has for his child and the lengths to which he'll go. And that emotional core tells me that there are 50, 100, 200 hours of storytelling. And then the rest is what are the plot lines that get you there?
Are these entirely original storylines or were they inspired by the book?
I was given a little linchpin in the film and the novel [that says vampirism] is an infection and that implied there's potentially a treatment for it. Once you have that larger story of somebody who's searching for a cure, that feels like a real mythic story that has a lot of steps along the way. With that, then you just honestly lean into if [the father] is having to take a life every month to feed his daughter, then he is committing a homicide. And so there are pressures from a homicide detective. If the possibility of treatment exists, and that is the desperate hope, who is working on the treatment? Story opportunities start to present themselves when you just trust what's right at the heart of the show.
The relationship between boy and vampire in this series seems more innocent at first, like just two outsider kids who are intrigued by one another. Is he in danger from Eleanor?
Our director Seith Mann talked about the idea of the light and the darkness which is really central to me as a storyteller, and to him visually as a filmmaker. When it comes to the Isaiah/Eleanor relationship, in particular the character of Isaiah, we have a miracle of a little young actor with Ian Foreman. In many ways, he is the light in the darkness. What I will say in terms of his journey for the series, is the horror of the show would be if that light got extinguished. That light is in danger.
Isaiah's mom is NYPD Detective Naomi Cole (Anika Noni Rose) who is inadvertently on the hunt for a serial killer who might be connected to Eleanor's condition. Will that case take the whole season to unfold?
What's really exciting to me about that murder-mystery story is they usually tend to unfold in a very linear fashion. You make a crack in the case that leads to the next crack in the case, to the next crack in the case. We start out with that Trojan Horse in the show. What ultimately gets revealed is not just the mystery of the homicides that Naomi's chasing, but how her storyline actually starts to crack open the mystery of the show. For example, in our very first episode, we make a gesture to let the viewer know there is a connection, that storyline that you're watching with Claire, and this central storyline that you're watching with Mark and his daughter, they don't seem to be connected at all, but they're profoundly connected. Interestingly, Naomi's storyline cracks open the mystery, not only of these murders, but the mystery of the interconnectedness of the show.
The pilot opens with a vampire getting burned by the sun. How did you decide to open this series there?
That scene was the first thing that I wrote for the show, and it was part of my pitch to Showtime. It's always been the opening. And for reasons that will become clear in the series. Without that scene, there would be no show.
Claire's story seems like it could be a separate one from the city stories. Will she be a satellite character for long?
The show is set in this Greater New York City area. She's out in a wealthier part of Long Island. Most of her story exists in that space but she absolutely traffics both into the physical space of some of our characters and then also to their storylines.
There's already a lot of blood and violence just in the pilot which means it's fully embracing the horror. Will that escalate?
The violence does escalate in the show, but one of the tenants of the show is that every act of violence be treated seriously and matter. Every person who is impacted by the violence, their humanity would be taken seriously and they would matter. And so, it escalates but never at a rate that leaves the people affected behind.
Just as a showrunner seeing their vision on the screen, is there a scene that you love and think encapsulates your take on this story best?
There is a moment when Mark has fed his daughter and she understands what that entailed. In that, there's heartache for him being involved, but also heartache for her. She's carrying a lot of guilt and shame. And then there's just a simple, simple moment where he puts down his hand, and she reaches up and takes it. The way that Seith shot that... One of the things I told my writers in Season 1 and that I still talk about in our writers' room for Season 2 is, "When in doubt, look at that sequence."
New episodes of Let the Right One In air Sunday nights on Showtime.
Looking for more vampire action? Stream Vampire Academy on Peacock.