After Bong Joon Ho released his theatrical version of “Snowpiercer” in 2013 it didn’t take too long for a small-screen version to be put in development. An adaptation was ordered to pilot in 2015, but then things stalled. The show was eventually ordered to series in 2018, but it switched showrunners after that happened, and it also was passed between networks before finally landing back at TNT, which had been developing it.
Graeme Manson, who stepped in as showrunner and will finally bring the show to the small-screen starting May 31, said at the Television Critics Assn. press tour panel for the show Wednesday that he was a “huge fan” of the movie: “I loved the tone, and I loved the energy, and I loved that it was the weirdest action movie I had ever seen.” He was also a fan of the graphic novels and was particularly struck by the deep themes depicted there — themes such as “nuclear power, eugenics and the dangers of eugenics [and] emphasizing a really strong class struggle and politics.”
“It takes a long time to get it right. We got it right,” Manson said.
Series star Daveed Diggs noted that he comes from theater, and “five years is not long to develop a new piece of theater.” He compared early versions of the show, such as the original pilot that was shot before Manson was onboard, to being in previews for a play.
“Snowpiercer” is set in a frozen dystopia, years after climate change has ravished the Earth, and the survivors live on a 1,0001 car, perpetually-moving train that circles the globe.
Manson shared that the original pilot was completely scrapped when he came onboard, but for “a little piece of a special effects set piece. It was a full rebirth of the series when I came on. I pitched a different world.”
His world includes getting “to know all of the classes within the first couple of episodes to create an actual character drama so we could understand what life was like first class, second class and then the tail.” It also includes “flashes here and there” that allow the characters, and the audience by extension, to briefly be in other settings. “They’re not flashbacks, per se, but we have an alternate consciousness we can explore. People can allow themselves to escape the train, at least in their minds,” he explained.
Characters lost their limbs in the movie due to cannibalism, as some straits were so dire in the back of the train that they didn’t have enough food for everyone. Unbalanced rationing is a part of the story in the series, as well, but Manson admitted that cannibalism is not a “real issue” in the show. While it is “part of the fabric of the story…I don’t think, necessarily, that Daveed has to eat anybody,” he said.
But, added Diggs: “There’s enough cannibalism for the cannibalism fans. There’s enough if that’s your thing. It’s sprinkled in, but it’s not the thrust of the series.”
Above all else, Manson wanted his version of “Snowpiercer” to fully embrace the “hard-hitting adventure” elements of both the graphic novel and feature film.