News & Event Recap: The Passage by Justin Cronin Book to Movie Adaptation #SDCC
In 2010, I received my first Kindle as a gift. One of the very first books I bought was The Passage by Justin Cronin. Why? Because vampires (for the record, the first book I bought was The Zombie Survival Guide). When the opportunity came up to attend an early screening for the upcoming TV adaptation and cast panel, I couldn’t resist. Check out the trailer, my initial reactions, and some snippets from the panel!
The Passage by Justin Cronin
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • This thrilling novel kicks off what Stephen King calls “a trilogy that will stand as one of the great achievements in American fantasy fiction.”
“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”
An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival,The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.
The Passage – Initial Reactions:
I have to be honest – I didn’t finish the book. It’s 766 pages, for goodness sakes. But what I did read, I liked (time to get the audio). So I went into the pilot fairly blind. Here’s what I liked:
• The casting. Jamie McShane (Dr. Tim Fanning) and Henry Ian Cusick (Jonas Lear) historically play their morally gray/villain characters well. Cast as bffs, where one is bitten by a vampire and becomes the undead, and the other subjects him and others to secret government testing (though clearly conflicted), these two are perfectly suited for their characters. But the two show stealers are Mark-Paul Gosselaar (yes, that’s Zack from Saved by the Bell and he’s looking hotter and buffer than ever – meow!) and Saniyya Sidney, who play Bradford, the agent who switches side, and Amy, the girl who will save the world.
• The pacing. The first episode is not focused on the worldbuilding but the character development. In 50 minutes, we see clearly everyone’s motivations so their decisions become understandable. We don’t need to know everything about the virus or the secret government organization – the books span 1000+ years so we have time for that. I care about the people, especially Amy and Bradford, which you need when the world is ending.
• The possibility. There’s so much story in the series…We could get many seasons of material without things getting stale.
Will I watch when the season starts? Absolutely. It’s rare for me to pick up shows considering my limited time but I have to know what happens to Amy and Bradford! I’m also interested in the vampire mechanics of this show and where they will take the world as it ends.
A Panel Recap:
Immediately following the screening, author Justin Cronin joined cast members Mark-Paul, Saniyya, Jamie, and Ian, plus showrunners Liz Heldens and Jason Ensler. Liz shared that Saniyya’s casting was without question, that she just came in and stole the part. Saniyya shared that the role excited her because she got to try something she’s never tried before.
When asked if she’s read the book, Saniyya laughed and said her dad has while Mark-Paul said he quickly became a fanboy and that meeting Justin was like meeting a celebrity (oh good, authors are celebrities to even celebrities. It’s not just us!). To Justin, this is a completely strange but great outcome to a series he started writing 13 years ago – Deeply cool, in his words. Did he envision The Passage as a movie or TV show as he wrote? Maybe in the background but he wasn’t writing it with that goal in mind.
One thing you learn quickly in watching the pilot (and the trailer!) is how Bradford’s heart outweighs his loyalty to his mission, something Mark-Paul described as deeply personal and relatable due to his own 12 year old daughter. Ian described the complex emotions his character goes through, as the person who is partly responsible for bringing the virus into the world and the loss of his best friend. He’s trying to stop another pandemic, one assumes as self-imposed retribution. Using a child to further this mission is just as any other consequence, something you just live with. Everyone is trying to do a good thing, and when things go wrong, they try to undo it.
As for how they plan to tackle the time shift in the book? “Hopefully with 1000s of seasons!”
Overall the cast and creatives seemed invested in their narrative as well as the overall tone. I can’t wait to see what they bring in future episodes!