The makers of 3 Body Problem want to have a conversation with the books

Between the expanded, more ethnically diverse cast and the more advanced take on virtual reality gaming, Netflix is ​​new 3 Body problem series unfolds in a very different way than the book it is adapted from. Cixin Liu’s novel is so dense and based on internal dialogues that it was widely considered unsuitable for the silver screen. When translating such complex stories, changes are almost always necessary 3 Body problem‘is through different media (and in this case also in languages). But when I recently spoke with executive producers David Benioff, DB Weiss, and Alexander Woo, ahead 3 Body problemAt the show’s premiere, they said that while they always knew their story needed to be different, as they started to reimagine narrative beats they realized “there had to be a back and forth” between the show and Liu’s book.

In Liu’s book, a very small number of brilliant Chinese physicists are left to their own devices to figure out why scientists around the world are committing suicide and why the world’s particle accelerators are inexplicably malfunctioning. Although the characters in the book initially work in isolation, the arrival of a mysterious VR game gradually draws them into each other’s orbits. And as they grow closer, the terrifying truth of what the entire world is facing becomes all too clear.

Netflix’s show tells a largely similar story, but the relatively larger cast of main characters comes together much more quickly than their book analogs — so much so that you don’t have to spend as much time watching them think through problems on their own. Liu used the characters’ inner thoughts to help readers understand the book’s more abstract ideas about technology and how societies could be organized differently, with more attention to the fate of future generations.

Internal dialogue doesn’t always make for the most interesting viewing experiences, and one of Benioff, Weiss, and Woo’s biggest challenges when they start breaking scripts down 3 Body problem was figuring out how to make the most of those scenes from the book in a way that would make for good television. In many cases, the answer was to simply do things very differently.

“Some things work great on the page because I’m inside this guy’s head and I know exactly what he’s thinking,” Benioff said. “But when I take that scene off the page and put it on the screen, there’s no way I can understand what he’s thinking. I need to find another way to get into his mind and his motivations other than just putting them in writing on the page.

Liu used characters like Wang Miao – a professor haunted by visions of a glowing countdown that only he can see – to explore the feelings of fear and confusion that would come over people when faced with a threat like the one in the middle of his novel. The one from Netflix 3 Body problem reworks Wang into five different characters whose shared friendships are a big part of what gets them solving problems together from the first episode. Interpersonal relationships were also part of Liu’s story, albeit to a much smaller extent. But Woo explained that the decision to split up Wang’s character was also driven by a desire to give viewers some emotional grounding.

“In the case of these books, the main characters often don’t intersect,” Woo noted. “They have their own independent storylines, and sometimes they just disappear and never come back. But from all our experience adapting books to television, the one thing we think is at the heart of every great series that gets under your skin is the characters. That’s what makes you want to watch the next episode and makes you count the days until the next season.

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Woo reasoned that it was important to get all the players on the chessboard “because that’s what will propel us through the series” as it becomes increasingly sci-fi and fantastical. 3 Body problem do.

“And when all that crazy stuff happens, you’re emotionally involved,” Woo said. “So instead of just looking at a bunch of amazing effects – of which there are many – you also understand it from an emotional standpoint.”

Because Netflix 3 Body problem spends so much time fleshing out the characters and their dynamics that it almost seems as if the show’s real story – one that stretches much further into the future and beyond planet Earth – is only just beginning at the end of the first season. Netflix has not yet announced whether it plans to renew 3 Body problem for more seasons that would delve deeper into Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s past trilogy. But Benioff says he and his staff are ready if that happens – “[we] want to spend the next five or six years of our lives working on bringing them to the screen. That’s a pretty strong feeling.”

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