Dante Di Loreto, the president of scripted entertainment at FremantleMedia North America, talks to TV Drama about some of the company’s book-based drama series.
From a television adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods on Starz to an upcoming collaboration with novelist Paulo Coelho, FremantleMedia North America (FMNA) has a number of projects involving the works of various authors.
TV DRAMA: How involved is author Neil Gaiman in the book-to-screen adaptation process for American Gods?
DI LORETO: He’s been an instrumental part of the process and as a matter of fact, he’s really a tentpole of the creative of the show. As we convert this extraordinary novel to screen, doing everything that we need to bring it to life while still maintaining its authenticity is really important to us. So he’s involved on a weekly basis in the production of the show; he’s intimately involved in all aspects of the creative and works in partnership with showrunner Jesse Alexander.
TV DRAMA: What has it been like expanding out from the novel?
DI LORETO: It’s a great challenge and an incredible opportunity. There have been many elements we’ve brought to it that are original to the television show but [still] in the spirit of keeping the storytelling of the novel; the main narrative still sits within the framework of the novel. There are certainly characters and moments of invention in the television series that are there to honor the book.
TV DRAMA: Tell us about some of FMNA’s other collaborations with book authors.
DI LORETO: We work with a range of novelists and depending on the project, their involvement can be a great deal or might simply be allowing us to adapt their material. We recently announced a partnership with Paulo Coelho, who’s one of the world’s best-selling novelists, and we’re incredibly excited about that opportunity. His involvement has been very important to that process because, rather than a straight adaptation of eight books to a series, we are combining characters from more than one book to build out a narrative that will support a television series. It’s very important to Paulo and to his fans that we both honor the original material—that we capture the tone and the message of that original material—but also grow it to a larger canvas. Paulo Coelho had many opportunities for adapting his material. We came to him with a plan that was unique for his material and his audience; that’s what he’s responded to and that’s why we’ve been able to form this partnership.
We’re working with author Brandon Sanderson [on Dark One]. Brandon developed a treatment for a television series; he is writing a novel that will be a prequel to the television series. So we work with a range of authors in very different ways. Being able to incorporate the ideas of a television series into the early development of a novel so that they might both come to the audience at the same time is something unique that we’re doing.
Gormenghast is a seminal work by Mervyn Peake. It’s a gothic fantasy that is beloved in much of the world. Neil Gaiman and Akiva Goldsman are producing that series adaptation. It’s very important that we stay true to the material and honor its many fans. Bounty is based on a novel by Louisa Luna. Lesli Linka Glatter is directing and Ron Nyswaner is writing [that crime thriller for TV].
TV DRAMA: When you are adapting a novel for the small screen, how important is it to stay loyal to the source material?
DI LORETO: What matters is staying true to the tone and the voice of the author. For us, we’re open to a wide variety of interpretations and adaptations, some of which might be quite literal and some might be much more imaginative. A novel might be a jumping-off point or a character within a novel might be a jumping-off point for the series. We’re an artist-centered company, so what’s critical to us is that the author also shares any thoughts and ideas that we bring to the television series. We have to be true to the author’s vision of the material or it’s not something we’ll pursue.
TV DRAMA: What are some of the challenges of doing a continuing book-based show versus a limited-event series inspired by a novel?
DI LORETO: There’s always the question of how much story you’re telling each season. What’s important is that if you’re a fan of a novel, you can watch the series adaptation and be delighted and surprised by the choices that are brought to that series, but still feel that it speaks to the tone of the material. How can we do enough to make it new and original? I don’t think the audience is interested in a literal, line-by-line adaptation; I think they want there to be something new there.