More than four decades after the original movie hit theaters, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is coming back — to TV.
The cast of Fox’s remake — which includes “Rocky Horror” vet Tim Curry as the narrator this time around — joined together on Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., to discuss paying homage to the original.
“Be true to the original, but make it contemporary” is the mantra set by executive producer Lou Adler.
The cast all agreed that their new “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is not a direct remake of the original, but rather a celebration of the iconic flick.
“I don’t believe that we are re-making anything,” said Ben Vereen, who is playing Dr. Scott. “To me, this is not a remake. You cannot remake the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ But you can pay tribute and honor it. That’s what we wanted to do and we accomplished.”
Cast member Annaleigh Ashford echoed Vereen’s sentiment, explaining that the entire cast watched the original movie often for preparation. “We wanted to make sure that we made little nudges and nods to the original performance,” she said.
Stark differences from the original are that Curry, the original Dr. Frank-N-Furter, is playing a different role (“I actually offered myself as Dr. Scott because I was already in a wheelchair. They thought the narrator was a better fit and I enjoyed it a lot,” he said), plus the new Frank-N-Furter is being played by a transgender actor, Laverne Cox.
Cox was not present at TCA, but the cast and producers raved about the “Orange Is the New Black” star in her new role.
“She’s a force,” executive producer, director and choreographer Kenny Ortega said, speaking of Cox. “Walking in and bringing something into the room that made us realize there was no B plan…We knew it from the beginning that this was the person. It gave us reason to make this movie again. A big part was Laverne Cox.”
Asked about Curry’s original Frank-N-Furter being a transvestite, Ortega said, “As I studied and as I remember, Dr. Frank-N-Furter is an alien so I felt that both Tim and Laverne, that’s what they moved into. There’s really lots of room there. Tim is not a transvestite and neither is Laverne. They’re both incredible, iconic actors.”
“We never put out a call for just transvestites to do this part,” added Adler. “We put out a call for actors that could sing, dance, move. And in a way, Laverne was perfect because we thought we had found someone who will not be compared to Tim Curry — because you lose if you’re compared to Tim Curry.”
Victoria Justice, who is playing Janet, the role made famous by Susan Sarandon, told the room of reporters that she’s excited to bring “Rocky Horror” to her younger fans, coming from the world of Nickelodeon. “I think it’s going to be really cool to introduce the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ to a brand new generation who probably wouldn’t have been otherwise. Now a new generation is going to be able to sing along to the Time Warp,” Justice said.
Justice shared that her first time seeing the movie was when she was in fifth grade. “Then I saw the midnight showing when I was 15,” she continued. “From the first time I saw it, I had never seen anything like it in my whole life…it really is so unique. When I went to my first midnight showing, I remember wearing fishnets and a red boa and red lipstick.”
Justice was equally as excited to audition for the part, and pleaded to her agent to get her in the room to test for the part. “I auditioned and screen-tested and had to read with some oily men who were auditioning to be Rocky, and it really was a dream come true,” she said with a laugh.
Justice’s co-star Ryan McCartan, who plays her on-screen love interest, also shared when he first saw “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“I had never seen it in a movie theater. My introduction to it was the play,” McCartan said. “My sister was in it when I was 11 and my parents, who probably wouldn’t want me to admit this, brought me along to see my sister kind of slut around in the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ Brad immediately became a huge character bucket list of mine.”
With an entirely new cast taking on “Rocky Horror,” Curry was asked if he approves of the TV revival. “I do indeed,” he said with confidence.
Watch a new sneak peek of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which airs Thursday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. on Fox: