You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘The Passage’ Team Talks Diversifying Races, Genders and Ages of Book Characters

The Passage” star Saniyya Sidney was unaware that the book version of her character was originally white until her father, a fan of Justin Cronin’s apocalyptic trilogy, informed her during the audition process.

“I was like, ‘Oh, she is?'” Sidney told Variety at Thursday’s series premiere in Santa Monica, Calif. “And when I got it, I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be different.'”

But Sidney paid no mind to the change when approaching the role of Amy Bellafonte, a 10-year-old orphan who finds herself at the center of an apocalyptic science experiment in a world plagued by vampires and a deadly virus.

“To be able to be an African-American girl that was originally white in the books, I’m honored, but I believe it’s no different,” Sidney said. “As long as you connect with how she is and just connect with Amy was important, and that’s what I put first before anything.”

Amy is also four years older than her novelistic counterpart, an alteration Fox entertainment president Michael Thorn said was necessary to capture the emotional depth of the youthful, but “sophisticated” role.

“The age is funny because our actress is getting older and older every single day,” Thorn said. “We needed an actress who could play that part and carry the weight of saving humanity in a way where she could be childlike but grow into this heroine, and so for us, it wasn’t about the most specific age. It was about, who’s this actress who could carry it?”

Sidney succeeded in carrying a sense of maturity both on and offscreen, according to co-star Mark-Paul Gosselaar. His character, Brad Wolgast, spends much of the series fighting to protect Amy from her government pursuers.

“You’re told never to work with animals or children, for obvious reasons,” Gosselaar joked. “This was an exception that pleasantly produced an unbelievable result. She is brilliant. I started the business roughly about the same age as she did, and I had nowhere near the wisdom or the wherewithal that she possesses, so it was a pleasure to be her partner.”

Like Sidney, Gosselaar got his big break at a young age on the hit ’90’s sitcom, “Saved by the Bell,” a similarity that both connected him with and divided him from his young co-star — too young to be aware of once-teenage-dreamboat Zack Morris.

“The only Zac I knew was Zac Efron, okay?” Sidney teased Gosselaar on the carpet.

Another major diversion from the source material included Brianne Howey‘s character, Shauna Babcock, a test-subject-turned-vampire who is male in Cronin’s books. Like Sidney, Howey was grateful for the switch.

“I think it’s incredible,” she said of the changes. “I couldn’t be happier to get to be a part of it.”

Aside from the novel-to-screen differences, Emmanuelle Chriqui, who plays Brad’s ex-wife, Dr. Lila Kyle, admires both the books and the show for diverging from the action-first, humanity-later nature she notices in other genre series.

“For a genre show, it’s not often that you’re also dealing with love and relationships,” Chriqui said. “They really touch on the intimate moments. That is unique for a vampire show.”

Series that favor new, compelling stories and characters are the kind of content Thorn hopes to bring to all of Fox’s scripted programming when molding a branch of Fox that will escape the upcoming Fox-Disney merger.

“We’re still going to be a writer-driven company, where we look for really talented creators who have a voice, who have something to say, and whose series will hopefully be culture-piercing and still broadly appealing because we’re still a broadcast network,” Thorn said. “I hope that’s what ‘The Passage’ is. That’s what we think it is.”

“The Passage” premieres on Fox on Jan. 14.

More Scene

  • Noah CentineoNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Kids’ Choice Awards 2019: JoJo Siwa, Noah Centineo Take on Bullying

    This year’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards was full of positivity and encouragement to be yourself. DJ Khaled, known for his upbeat mantras, hosted the 32nd annual awards ceremony alongside JoJo Siwa at USC’s Galen center. Siwa accepted the award for favorite social music star. Siwa said in her acceptance speech, “I get hated on every [...]

  • Tina KnowlesSoul of Nation: Art in

    Jay-Z, Tina Knowles Celebrate New 'Soul of a Nation' Exhibit at Broad Museum

    “This show is so important. I mean, it’s our history — and it’s a very important part of our journey,” Tina Knowles Lawson said about Friday night’s opening of the exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963 – 1983” at the Broad Museum in DTLA. “I’m just so impressed [...]

  • Jordan Peele'Us' film premiere, Arrivals, New

    Jordan Peele Explains the Meaning Behind the 'Us' Michael Jackson Reference

    Jordan Peele’s horror movie “Us” is filled with pop culture references, from “Jaws” to “Goonies.” But the most divisive might be right in his opening sequence. Warning, minor spoilers ahead. The movie about a couple (played by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) and their children being hunted and brutalized by a mysterious family that looks just [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Nick Offerman Amy Poehler

    'Parks and Recreation' Cast Talks Possibility of a Revival at 10th Anniversary Reunion

    For one night, Hollywood felt a little like Pawnee. The cast of NBC’s hit comedy “Parks and Recreation” reunited at PaleyFest on Thursday in honor of the show’s 10th anniversary. The whole Pawnee gang showed up: Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, Retta, and Jim [...]

  • Andy CohenThe Shops and Restaurants at

    Andy Cohen to Receive Vito Russo Award at GLAAD Media Awards

    Mazel, Andy Cohen! Bravo’s late-night talk show host is set to receive the Vito Russo Award at the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards on May 4 in New York City. Sarah Jessica Parker will present him with the award, which is named in honor of GLAAD founder Vito Russo. The annual award goes to openly [...]

  • Variety TV Summit Europe

    Variety TV Summit Europe Coming to London on June 13

    Variety’s TV Summit Europe will coincide with London Tech Week this year, returning to the city on June 13. The international conference will be held at the Royal Lancaster and is co-produced by global events company Informa’s KNect365 division, the world’s largest business-to-business organizer. The one-day summit will focus on the intersection of content and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content