Now that the announcement about the TV series has been officially released, I would like to take this opportunity to put it in perspective and fill in some of the details. (Please keep in mind that some of this might change as things evolve.)
The first season will be 22 one hour episodes, on Saturday evenings, probably at either 8 or 9 pm. Since this is a syndicated program you will need to check your local listings for the station in your area.
The first season will cover the story of WIZARDS FIRST RULE. Along with exciting opportunities afforded by the air time in which we have to tell the story, the TV series also brings unique challenges. All film formats TV series, mini-series, or feature films must, to a greater or lesser extent, alter the novel in order to translate the story from words to pictures. A feature film has severe limitations of time, requiring major parts of novels to be cut out. Sam Raimi knew that a feature film of WIZARDS FIRST RULE could never work to tell the story. Thats why he wanted to do a long format TV show. Im especially pleased that we are going to be doing 22 one hour episodes to tell this epic story much more time than a mini-series would have afforded. That said, there must still be changes, yet within those changes lie exciting opportunities.
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You may have noticed in the press release that Sam Raimi said produced with compelling, self-contained episodes. The nature of TV syndication requires that each weeks episode be a story in itself, meaning that while the TV series will follow the background story of the book, it will not be able to follow the book exactly because there would be parts that would make an incomplete episode.
Therein lies the opportunity. The TV series, being visual, will actually require that we expand on the book in order to make each of these episodes work. Since each episode will have to be able to stand alone, some places will require additional material, so, as an example, we may incorporate some of the backstory into the show, showing, say, George Cypher going to get The Book of Counted Shadows. This means that the series will actually have more story content than the novel.
No series (or mini-series, or feature film) can follow the underlying book exactly. Sam Raimi and his team want to keep the TV series true to my vision, so rest assured that I am going to be intimately involved in the writing of each of the episodes. If you love the book just the way it is, then enjoy the book for what it is and come to the TV series prepared to enjoy the show for what it is.
Besides Sam Raimi, Josh Donen, and Rob Tapert, (see their credits in the press release) Disney ABC Domestic Television was excited by the prospect of the series and they wanted to be involved. Besides being involved with producing the series, Disney also wants to be able to develop WIZARDS FIRST RULE and the characters into a franchise. To that end they have bought all the rights to my work (except book rights, of course). That means everything from merchandising rights to game rights to feature film rights all based on the books and the characters. Like many studios, Disney will not become involved in any project of this nature unless they can obtain all the rights, and those rights must all be clean. This is the reason Ive never allowed any portion of the rights to be sold or used. To maintain the value of pristine rights it was necessary not to allow, for example, anyone to make copies of the Sword of Truth, or to buy game rights. In order to make a deal like this the rights had to be virgin.
With Disney now on board we have some of the most gifted people in the world working to make this project not just exciting but successful.
All this said, I would like to interject a note of caution. In projects of this nature involving vast sums of money there are always things that can go wrong. For example, while the rights to many books are sold or optioned very few of these ever see the light of a bright screen. Many books, even though there is initial enthusiasm, in reality are simply not a good fit for film. Announcements of book rights being sold are quite common; having such rights ever end up as a finished product is actually exceedingly rare. Because so much money is involved in the production of films there are countless stages at which a project can be stopped cold.
In this series for WIZARDS FIRST RULE, for instance, the production team may come up with a great script, and I may love it, but Disney, because they are financing the project, could for any reason decide to kill the show. Because of the quality and skill of the people involved I dont think that will happen, but I want you to understand that it is always possible. The fact that we have gotten this far, and that production is being put in place, is a testament to how much this book is sincerely loved by everyone involved, right up to Sam Raimi, Josh Donen, Rob Tapert, and the top executives at Disney.
Also, keep in mind that while Disney is excited and wants to possibly do a lot more with my books and characters, it may take quite some time for those other things to develop if they ever do. The more popular the TV series is the better the chances there will be spinoffs, feature films, video games, and merchandise. Disney now has the rights to all those things and we will all have to wait and see what comes of it.
For now we have the TV series starting production and thats very exciting.
By now Im sure you have noticed the beautiful accompanying art. This is the preliminary art for the show. Because I think it looks great I wanted everyone to see it, to see the beautiful work done by the people at Disney, so we were able to obtain special permission to post it. Keep in mind that this is preliminary artwork. The kissing couple, for example, will eventually be replaced by the actual actors playing Richard and Kahlan.
The series is going to be filmed in New Zealand. American actors will have the major parts, while some of the minor parts may be actors from that part of the world.
While the first cuts of the auditions will be handled by casting people, Sam Raimi assured me that he and I will both be involved in the final selections of the actors.
If I know in advance when the auditions will be held I will try to get permission to post that information on the website. Keep in mind that this is a professional production, not American Idol. Sam Raimi will not be casting parts based on how much a person loved the books, or that I got a scribbled letter begging that they please, please, please be allowed to play Kahlan. Thats simply not how these things are done. If you want to try out for a part, then ask your talent agency if they can get you an audition.
I have heard from a lot of people appealing for my help in everything from getting them in front of a camera to getting them a job working on the set. I have a big part to play in this production but it is in the creative area, not the human resources department. I hear all the time from people who tell me things like how they simply must play the part of Richard because no one loves the books more than they do and all their friends tell them that they think just like Richard. Well, let me tell you, none of you love the books as much as I do and no one thinks more like Richard than me, and they still arent going to let me play the part of Richard. The part is going to go to an actor who is right for the part, period.
If you want a part in the series, or a job with the production, please do not waste your time writing to me imploring my help. Im not the person to contact about such things. I have no involvement with those aspects of the series. Please be advised that with all I have to do I can no longer answer letters about acting parts, auditions, or production jobs. If its all right with the casting people I will post audition information as it becomes available. With as tight as the time schedule is that may not be possible.
This is a professional production. If you want to be involved, and you are a professional, then you already know what you need to do.
Im truly fortunate to have the opportunity to help shape this series. Its humbling that such experienced and talented people want my creative input. Its an exciting time and I promise to work my hardest to make it not just the best show on TV but to keep it true to the spirit of the book and especially the characters.
I must confess that to a degree its rather daunting to have other people now developing a TV series from my work and possibly doing a great deal more with it. However, there is no way I could have more talented and visionary people than those now involved with the filming of WIZARDS FIRST RULE. I look forward to being able to tell more of the story than just what is in the book.
I know that I have the support and best wishes of my readers, and even though I rarely get the chance to tell you so, it sincerely does mean a great deal to me to have your support and encouragement. You all give me strength. Without all of you I would not be able to do any of this. Through your love of the books you have helped make this next step possible.
As things progress and there is any news I will try to keep you all informed. Stay tuned . . .
All best wishes,