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SYFY WIRE set visits

On the set of Fox’s The Passage: A little of everything for genre fans

By Henry Hanks
The PAssage

Whether you're a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, vampire stories or love stories, Fox's new drama has at least a little something for you.

The Passage, which premieres on January 14, is based on a trilogy of books that crosses multiple genres: in a nutshell, the world could come to an end, but then vampire-like creatures complicate things.

SYFY WIRE visited the set last fall, touring a very realistic looking, kind of creepy science lab complete with holding cells for those being experimented upon. This is the base of operations for Dr. Jonas Lear (Henry Ian Cusick, Lost, The 100), Dr. Tim Fanning (Jamie McShane, Sons of Anarchy) and others whose goal is something as simple as saving the world from a global pandemic.

Dr. Lear and company's motivations are pure and noble, at least at first.

"It starts with a man in a basement crying over his wife," Cusick told us, describing his character.

"It's one thing that affects the whole world."

Brianne Howey, recently of another Fox series (the short-lived The Exorcist) said, "I like that the story starts out as a love story. It's kind of Shakespearean in a way. This man is trying to save his wife, and that's how the story starts. But then everyone's fate is star-crossed because it goes terribly wrong."

Howey plays a death row inmate (you'll learn a lot more about how that happened) who is brought in to be experimented on to find a cure for this pandemic. But she and the others soon become "virals," the book and TV series' term for the people transformed into something a lot more bloodthirsty. (Howey describes them as silent and "animalistic.")

The popular book series is so complex that it needed a TV series (with no less than Ridley Scott as one of the executive producers) to properly tell it. In fact, the viral element might be enough for one show, but there's even more to it.

The show stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar as federal agent Brad Wolgast, who forms a bond with a young girl who may be the key to saving humanity.

The other lead is 12-year-old Saniyya Sidney (Hidden Figures), who portrays young Amy Bellafonte.

"It's up to one little girl to save the world," she told us, which sums up the complex story quite well.

"To think that [my character] can help, it's really special."

Gosselaar explained, "The scientists' backs are against the wall, and they haven't had the results, so they think if they have the child, because of her abundance of neurons, [they may have the cure]. This girl is in the foster system. Morally, I take a turn and run with her."

The Passage 2

Fans of the Justin Cronin book series are quite familiar with the moral questions it raises, and that is the heart of the show as well. (Cronin has given his "full blessing" and has read all the scripts, according to Gosselaar.)

"We're not going in the linear fashion that the books did, we're kind of all over the place, but if you're a fan of the books, we're staying very true," Gosselaar said.

"But it is a TV show, so we have to take liberties, but I think they're still rooted in the heart of what's in the books. I've read all the books, I'm a huge fan of what Justin did. I had to get over the fact that we're not shooting the books. But if you're a fan of the books, you'll be a fan of the show."

As McShane put it, "The scripts have gotten better and better as we've progressed. Our writers were given the liberty to take these characters and do what they want with them. We're not taking the books strictly as they are. We're taking the storyline and going with it."

Gosselaar, who has read the entire series broke it down this way: "We have 10 episodes to tell you what's happened in the first quarter of the first book. Hopefully, if we get future seasons, we can show you the future of what happens in the other books, once all hell breaks loose."