A wealth of new books—from wry satires to stormy thrillers—are getting TV treatments, with big stars attached.
In 2011, George R. R. Martin told the New York Times that he published Game of Thrones after a decade of Hollywood turning down his drafts due to their length and projected expense. “The irony of all this is that the project I thought most unlikely to ever be filmed,” he said, “is now going to be this big show on HBO.” There were book-to-TV adaptations long before the dawn of Westeros (from The Forsyte Saga to Friday Night Lights), but the rise of streaming (and an insatiable thirst for market-tested I.P.) has produced a bumper crop of recent hits based on best sellers: Big Little Lies, Normal People, A Handmaid’s Tale. This year has already heralded adaptation announcements for Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble and Laura Lippman’s Lady in the Lake, both 2019 publishing successes. FX’s Fleishman has, as of press time, yet to be cast, while Apple TV+ has tapped Lupita Nyong’o and Natalie Portman for Lippman’s Baltimore-set thriller.
Other books—page-turners that speak to universal emotional concerns—have been snapped up before they’re even available to readers: Mindy Kaling’s Kaling International is adapting Sanjena Sathian’s Gold Diggers, which came out from Penguin Press in April, for Warner Bros. The satire kicks off in the Indian American community of an Atlanta suburb, with an elixir that turns gold into drinkable ambition. Elsewhere on Apple TV+, Julia Roberts’s Red Om Films, in collaboration with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, is taking on Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me, out in May from Simon & Schuster, in which a woman attempts to track down her missing husband, reluctant stepdaughter in tow. Roberts will star, and Dave and her husband—screenwriter Josh Singer, whose credits include Spotlight—are cowriting. “It’s been a special experience to think about love and marriage and family alongside the person I get to share those things with,” she says.
And as Zakiya Dalila Harris publishes her debut, The Other Black Girl (Atria), this month, she will already be hard at work adapting the novel for Hulu: “With the episodic nature of TV, I have to be a lot more mindful of time and pacing.” Tara Duncan, the exec who acquired the project, was drawn to the book because it “so cleverly and hilariously uses the thriller genre to encapsulate the psychological warfare of office politics,” she says. “Even if you’re not familiar with dog whistle racial microaggressions, anyone who’s had a job knows a tone-deaf boss, cliquey coworkers, and the mental pressure of trying to find your authentic voice.” —Keziah Weir
Gina Yashere—a creator of CBS’s Bob Hearts Abishola, daughter of Nigerian immigrants, and author of the new memoir Cack-Handed—shares her inspirations with a caveat: “I was a child of the ’80s. In England.”
“I love watching a family being unapologetically Black, tackling issues that pertain to us, and delving in through humor, and on prime-time TV.”
“A bit problematic, but as a kid, my dream was to be adopted by a rich old man and have a white maid. As I said, child of the ’80s. England.”
“We had similar experiences, though born in different countries. I loved his journey and storytelling style. And his mum was almost as nuts as mine!”
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