At long last, Terry Brooks‘ Shannara series is being adapted to live-action in MTV’s entry into the realm of epic fantasy, The Shannara Chronicles. Season one will adapt The Elfstones of Shannara, which was first published in 1982. The show will star Poppy Drayton as Elven Princess Amberle, Austin Butler as the reluctant hero Wil Ohmsford, Ivana Baquero as Eretria, and Manu Bennett as Allanon, the last of the Druids. This epic fantasy story revolves around the desperate fight of Elves and Humans against Demons, while Wil and Amberle conduct a quest for the one magic that can truly stop the Demon threat.
Collider was invited to chat with some of the stars and producers of the new show, learning about the world of Shannara and the personalities involved in bringing it to life. Here’s a list of 15 things to know about The Chronicles of Shannara.
The number one thing that Terry Brooks wants fans to know is that the show will be different than the book in certain respects due to the nature of the storytelling medium, but he has been involved throughout the process and is very happy with the job the writers have done.
- Although discussions initially revolved around adapting Elfstones as a film, Terry Brooks and the showrunners, Al Gough and Miles Millar, quickly agreed that the story was better suited to the television format.
- Nevertheless, the show was filmed in New Zealand, the capital of on-screen fantasy, and cast and creators alike drew parallels in terms of production to the Lord of the Rings films.
- Filming took place over several months, and actors underwent several weeks of intensive training in such skills as sword- or knife-fighting, horseback riding, etc. as well as putting in hours of work at the gym.
- That said, Millar suggested that due to preferential use of practical sets over CGI, Shannara may in some ways be more similar to Star Wars than to LOTR, though of course it will have a unique style of its own.
- A further distinction between the world of Shannara and some other fantasy franchises is the relative absence of a complex mythology. All you need to know is that Shannara takes place on Earth in a far distant future, in which an apocalyptic event nearly wiped out civilization, resulting in a power shift back to relying on magic over science, and humans evolving into distinct races, such as Dwarves, Trolls, Gnomes, etc.
- As a result, Gough believes that the show will appeal to fans familiar with Brooks’ work, without confusing people who are just discovering this world through the TV show.
- Fans of Smallville may recognize the names of Gough and Millar, as they produced the first several season of that show, in addition to several others.
- It turns out that Brooks was a fan of Smallville, which is one of the reasons he felt comfortable with Gough and Millar being in charge of adapting his work.
Just to reiterate, Brooks, who has some experience with working on adaptations from writing the novelizations of such films as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, acknowledged early on that changes would be necessary to bring the story to a new medium, and believes that Gough and Millar have exceeded his expectations for doing so while remaining true to the essence of the story.
- One notable change from the book is that at the beginning of the series Wil is a farm-boy who has never left his village, but cares for his ailing mother.
- Austin Butler, who plays Wil, says that he was not previously familiar with the Shannara series, but around the time of first reading for the part, he visited a dentist who filled him in on the story while examining his teeth. Butler then went and read the book. He identified with the character’s feeling of being different and wanting to find his place in the world.
- Poppy Drayton also read the book after being cast for the part of Amberle, and commented that having all of the additional background information on her character was a real gift to her as an actor. She was drawn to Amberle’s combination of strength and vulnerability.
- Ivana Baquero also saw her character, Eretria, as having a wonderful complexity, describing her as being a bad-ass, but with a big heart as well. Baquero enjoyed portraying Eretria’s journey from more self-centered to more other focused.
- Manu Bennett, who plays the enigmatic Druid Allanon, doesn’t believe that the show could have been made ten to fifteen years ago, but now the standard of television programming in generally rising, and this show is part of MTV’s contribution to this trend.
- John Rhys-Davies plays Eventine Elessedil, the king of the Elves after having previously played the Dwarf Gimli in LOTR. He confesses to generally being more a fan of science fiction than fantasy, but was won over by the strong storytelling of the Shannara books. He makes the prediction that this is going to be one of the more remarkable shows on television.
The Shannara Chronicles is set to debut in January 2016, when you can judge for yourself if Rhys-Davies is right. In the meantime, check out the first released footage, hot off the presses: