The Time Traveler’s Wife started as a book before being adapted into a movie, and now Audrey Niffenegger’s novel is getting the TV series treatmentCourtesy of Executive Producer/Writer Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock) and EP/director David Nutter (The iron Throne).
The HBO adaptation, premiering this Sunday at 9/8c, stars Theo James (sandit) and Rose Leslie (The iron Throne) as Henry and Clare, a couple whose relationship is challenged by a genetic disease that causes them to travel through time.
When the project reached James, who read the book in his twenties, “I was like, ‘Oh shit. Steven, David, HBO, The Time Traveler’s Wife. That’s fucking cool,” the actor told TVLine.
Leslie, too, was drawn to the show by “the nature of Steven’s writing,” the actress says. “The kind of levity, the kind of comedy pizzazz throughout the show, really made it interesting and entertaining to play. But also, there’s an undercurrent of tragedy to these two lovers, and as a result, I just thought it was a fascinating project to be involved in. There are so many different paths for each character to explore, not just because of the age range, but because of the extraordinary situation Clare finds herself in being half of a time-traveling couple.
Below, the stars, along with Moffat and Nutter, preview five things you need to know about the adaptation.
THIS IS FOR BOOK FANS | Moffat sent the scripts for the show to Niffenegger and would “talk to her about the things that I had changed or why I was doing things the way I was doing, and sometimes she would shut up and then sometimes she would get in touch,” he says. . But on the whole, the ever-busy author was uninterested, telling Moffat, “‘What I want you to do — no pressure — is make a big hit like sherlock or Doctor Who. I don’t want you to do what I tell you,” he recalled.
A self-proclaimed fan of the novel, Moffat sought to stay true to the source material, even adapting Niffenegger’s story to fit the structure of a weekly television show. “It’s not about changing. It’s not because I picked up this book and thought I wanted to fix it. The book is perfect,” insists Moffat. And compared to the 2009 film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, the HBO series deepens the central themes of the book. “I liked the movie and a lot of people like that movie,” Moffat says. “We probably need three episodes to figure out how time travel really, really works and make sure the audience is confident. At that point in the movie, you barely have time to lavish what it’s really about, which is being the time traveler’s wife and what the relationship is like, and most importantly , what love looks like, what is good love like, which is the theme of the book, which he brilliantly explores.
CHEMISTRY IS KEY | When it came time to read together for producers, Leslie and James found themselves trying to build chemistry through computer screens, thanks to the pandemic. “The audition process was really weird,” Leslie describes. “I’ve never done a chemistry reading via Zoom. The world we were living in at the time was December 2020 when I got to the chemistry stage, and so it was very, very strange to trying to connect with someone on the other side of a webcam. Luckily, the stars had something going for them: a bit of shared history. “I told Rose she would be reading with Theo James A spark of interest flashed in his eyes. I thought, ‘OK, what is this?’ “Nutter recalls. “Then I realized that they had known each other for Downton Abbey many years ago. I don’t even think they acted together. But there were warm feelings between the two of them, and they were very positive. So I think we felt and saw something like a spark there and we paid attention to those first impressions, and it was really very, very special.
ONE HENRY WAS TOUGHEST AND MORE FUN | Of all the different ages James portrays Henry at, the actor found the twenties version “the most challenging because I didn’t want to exaggerate that he’s young and rambunctious. But at the same time, it has to be different,” says James. For Leslie, however, playing opposite this particular Henry was the most fun. “[He’s] a bit frivolous and unattached and nihilistic,” the actress says. “And as a result, I really enjoyed that because he’s just a bit of a jerk, and it’s kind of fun to play with that, and there was a great amount of energy.”
IT HURTS TO TRAVEL IN TIME | Every time Henry is transported to the future or the past, he is dropped, literally, with a big to bump during this time. “It was painful and I had a lot of bumps and bruises,” James said of filming those scenes. “I kind of wanted that. There were softer landings. I remember there was one that I begged David to take back because I wanted every time… to feel like, ‘Ouch! Jesus!’ It’s not just some sort of fun romantic comedy where someone travels through time. This is something where it gets really screwed up. So yes, it hurts in real life.
The two characters also have a conversation about who healed whom in one of the episodes. “If one of them changes the other, Clare changes Henry,” adds Moffat. “Clare is exactly the same person as a little girl that she is when you see her in her 60s. Henry flows around Clare like a river around a rock. He makes himself the man she wants. it is because he loves her.
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