SDCC 2020: NOS4A2 showrunner Jami O’Brien talks horror on TV

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 01: NOS4A2 Producer Jami O'Brien poses for photos at Bookcon on June 01, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for AMC)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 01: NOS4A2 Producer Jami O'Brien poses for photos at Bookcon on June 01, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for AMC) /
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Jami O'Brien
Jami O’Brien and Joe Hill (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for AMC) /

1428 Elm: He’s a great writer. I think somebody needs to adapt his novel Heart Shaped Box into a series or movie.

Jami O’Brien: I see a lot of agitating for that on social media!

1428 Elm: As a fan of the NOS4A2 novel, I think you’ve done a great job of staying true to the spirit of the book, while also giving us some good deviations to the storyline. How do you keep that fine balance?

Jami O’Brien: Well, I love the novel, so first and foremost, the entire approach to the adaptation has been one of love. And it’s been important to me to keep the spirit of the characters and the spirit of the novel, to stay true to those things. That said, though the novel has really cinematic passages in it, it also has a lot of really beautiful internal passages, with Charlie, with Vic; and those things don’t translate into a television show easily.

So, where we’ve had to make changes have been in trying to dramatize Vic’s state of mind for instance, and other things just to make the medium work. In the novel, the main characters don’t meet each other for over a hundred pages, and in a television show, just to have it function, you have to have characters who have scenes together.

One of the first changes we made was to make Vic and Bing move closer together. Vic and Maggie meet in episode two, which is earlier than they meet in the novel. So, some of it is just bringing folks together so we can have dramatic scenes, and then some of it is, again, trying to figure out how to dramatize the kind of internal head space of the various characters, mostly Vic.

1428 Elm: What kind of response have you received from fans of the novel?

Jami O’Brien: Mixed. the novel rightfully has a lot of folks who love it and I think sometimes readers feel really protective, and I get that. And sometimes readers feel like you do, like: “We love the book and we see that you love the book, so we’ll take this ride and we appreciate the changes as well.” It’s like getting to see it again.

I’ve seen some folks who have been like, “I didn’t imagine that Vic would look like that!”, but also folks who love it. Of course, I always love it when they love it! But I understand. I mean, I’ve been guilty of that as well, you know, “This isn’t like the book!” So I get it, but it can’t be exactly like the book, because it’s not a book.

1428 Elm: One of the things that I really love about all of Joe Hill’s novels is that the characters are so real, they’re flawed, they’re not perfect people, but you still love them and you want them to make it through everything alive, so I think you have accomplished that. I thank you for doing a positive tribute to the novel.

Jami O’Brien: Well, thank you so much, that’s what I love most of all about the novel, the nuance. The characters are really rich, as you said, they’re flawed, but their hearts…some of their hearts are in the right places, and some of them are not.

But none of them are simple, and none of them are a kind of binary good or evil, there’s a lot of gray and nuance, I think it’s a testament to his writing and it’s why we wanted to do it.

1428: Well, again, I thank you so much for your time, I appreciate you talking to me today. I’m looking forward to seeing you on the panel at SDCC 2020. 

Jami O’Brien: Thank you!

Next. Zachary Quinto interview. dark

NOS4A2 can be watched Sunday nights at 10:00 pm ET, and you can also watch full episodes on SDCC 2020 runs from July 23 through July 26, and you can check it out for free on the website.

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