The Passage trailer

TCA 18: Fox’s The Passage adaptation will contract book’s expansive timeline

Contributed by
Aug 2, 2018

Get ready for vampires to invade our TVs again in the near future, but this undead story looks a bit more ambitious then the usual fanged adventure. 

Fox’s adaptation of the first book in Justin Cronin’s bestselling vampire trilogy, The Passage, doesn’t premiere on the network until midseason in 2019, but they brought the cast and creatives to TCA today in Beverly Hills to tease how the series will tackle Cronin’s source-work. The pilot is crafted by executive producer/showrunner Liz Heldens (Friday Night Lights), who explained that she’s been a huge fan of Cronin’s books since she read the first one in 2012.

For those not familiar, Cronin’s epic novels trace a virus that infects humans and turns them into vampiric entities that could bring about the downfall of humanity. Spanning an arc from the virus origins to almost 100 years (and an alluded to 1,000 years) after the outbreak, Cronin said he wrote the book thinking it was unadaptable. “My goal in writing the books was to tell it on the biggest possible canvas possible. I had a 1,000 years and hundreds of characters. When I wrote the books, I knew it was impossible to adapt.”

Executive producer Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) was originally attached to direct The Passage as a movie, but he admitted that figuring out how to tell such an expansive story in a two-hour timeframe stymied him. “We kept trying to crack the script. In the book, there is a huge reveal around a time jump,” he said of an initial narrative stumbling block. “We worked on it a long time and I finally figured it out and said ‘This is a TV show, not a film.’ The story is so massive and beautiful.” 

Reeves left the development to make War for the Planet of the Apes and upon completion of that film, when he realized The Passage still wasn’t green-lit as a film, he said he again banged the TV drum. I “said it should be a show and then I met Liz.” She figured out a hook to enter the story and Reeves said, “I’m most excited to see what these guys are doing to do with it. Yes, there are all these different timelines and a lot has been grappling with the best way to unfold the story.”

Heldens said her through-line for the story was the story between Agent Brad Wolgast (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and 12-year-old Amy Bellafont (Saniyya Sidney), whom the government wants to utilize as a test case/guinea pig to eradicate the virus. “[Their story] is what hooked me into the book and makes the whole show accessible for people who may not like genre. And they are very funny together, so as much as it’s scary and you don’t want anything to happen to Amy, those scenes are some of the most hopeful and buoyant so it makes them bearable to write.”

As for the timeline of the story, Heldens teased that, “We are just slowing down the story a little bit. The first season is about the good intentions and bad decisions that lead to the end of the world as we know it. The plan right now is to have the first season be present day. And overall, I look at the book and I see three seasons of TV. Project Noah, the colony and then the last part of the book, but that’s today,” she said leaving her options open if the show is a hit.

The Passage premieres on Fox in early 2019.

Click here for SYFY WIRE’s full coverage of the TCA 2018 summer press tour.