Netflix's Three-Body Problem: Everything We Know So Far

It almost feels like a fait accompli at this point. If a filmmaker has a wildly expensive and epic-sized story to pitch, based on a preexisting IP and ready-made to become a franchise, better take it to one of the major streaming services. Netflix, in particular, has led the charge in that department, racking up some of the most exorbitant blockbusters over the last few years and publicly recommitting themselves to, well, doing more of the same in the future. Is this sustainable? Very doubtful! Is it mildly entertaining to watch storytellers walk in and essentially contribute to bankrupting prominent studios with these productions? You bet!

One of the more high-profile projects currently in development is Netflix's "Three-Body Problem." Based on a bestselling novel, the sci-fi story has all the makings of becoming the next big thing: a high-concept hook, extensive world-building, and plenty of material to justify several seasons of storylines. Yeah, no wonder this property has remained highly in demand for potential adaptations. At the moment, there have been comics, animated shows, and now two competing television series' — one American, and one Chinese — all based on the original story. Those behind the Netflix series certainly hope to beat Tencent Video's production to the punch, but we still have quite some time ahead of us and a lot of work to do before getting to that point.

Still, casting announcements for the Netflix series are still coming in as of the time of this writing, making it an ideal time to round up what we know about "Three-Body Problem" into one easy-to-follow place.

When and where to watch Three-Body Problem

Netflix's adaptation of "Three-Body Problem" was first announced back in September of 2020, with no set release date at that time. Fast forward almost two years later and, well, there's still no set release date at this time. But good things come to those who wait, or so the saying goes. We do know that Netflix nabbed the rights to the project after its rival, Prime Video, made a valiant (and incredibly pricey!) attempt at the same when the rights were being shopped around back in 2018. That ultimately fell through, though nobody should mourn the streamer's inability to spend all that money — it would seem that those resources have been reallocated to funding their highly-anticipated "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" series, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

As for "Three-Body Problem," anxious fans can expect to watch the series when it ultimately debuts on Netflix sometime down the line. With the series beginning production in November of 2021, filming was set to commence through August of 2022 (via Production Weekly) in both the United Kingdom and China. The most recent update at the time of this writing indicated that actor Eiza González was shooting scenes in London as of early June 2022.

What we think Three-Body Problem will be about

While the exact details of the plot for the Netflix series remain under wraps, we have the benefit of the original novel to point us in the general direction that the live-action adaptation will likely take us. Written by Chinese author Liu Cixin and published in 2008, "The Three-Body Problem" is the first novel in a trilogy ("The Dark Forest" and "Death's End" are the other two sequels). The title of the story is derived from the inhabitants of a distant star system — made up of three stars all orbiting one another in an unstable environment — that threaten to invade our own solar system. The story unfolds with a complex intercutting of three different timelines, all told through flashbacks, flash-forwards, and the present-day storyline.

The acclaimed novel has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015. The story has been loosely described as following "the story of humanity's first contact with an alien civilization." Here's the official synopsis for the original book:

Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

What we know about the Three-Body Problem cast and crew

It wouldn't be entirely off the mark to describe "Three-Body Problem" as a "Game of Thrones" reunion of sorts. First and most obviously, as we reported at the time, the entire series is developed by the showrunners of the HBO series, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. In a statement, the pair had this to say:

"Liu Cixin's trilogy is the most ambitious science-fiction series we've read, taking readers on a journey from the 1960s until the end of time, from life on our pale blue dot to the distant fringes of the universe. We look forward to spending the next years of our lives bringing this to life for audiences around the world."

To complete the reunion, the cast also happens to include a trio of "Game of Thrones" alums, as well. John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), and Jonathan Pryce (the High Sparrow) have all been cast in various roles of "Three-Body Problem," the latter of which was most recently announced. THR also reports that Rosalind Chao, Ben Schnetzer, and 10-year-old newcomer Eve Ridley have also been added to the ensemble. They'll join previously announced cast members such as Eiza González, Benedict Wong, Tsai Chin, Jovan Adepo, Jess Hong, Marlo Kelly, Alex Sharp, Sea Shimooka, Zine Tseng, and Saamer Usmani.

Derek Tsang has been hired to direct the pilot episode, known for his work on "Better Days" and his 2016 film "Soul Mate." Minkie Spiro ("Pieces of Her," "Fosse/Verdon," "Dead to Me," "Better Call Saul," "Barry") is also reportedly set to direct at least 3 episodes of the series. The series is also executive produced by director Rian Johnson.