Stephen King has done really well on television. Miniseries adaptations of It, The Stand, Salem’s Lot and The Tommyknockers were hits and Under the Dome managed to run three seasons. Even the miniseries remake of The Shining received King’s blessing.

Now, the acclaimed novella The Mist is getting a television adaptation, following in the footsteps of Frank Darabont’s 2007 film version. Spike TV’s series is based on the concept of the King novella, but starts with entirely new characters and multiple locations. Instead of a supermarket, characters get trapped in a mall and library by a thick fog that hides murderous creatures within.

Showrunner Christian Torpe adapted The Mist for television and he spoke with /Film by phone last week to talk about about the new series. .

Is part of your idea that this could be the same mist that surrounded the supermarket in Maine? That we’re just seeing different places it settled?

We are sort of in, let’s call it, a parallel universe, I use the term lightly, to the original event. We definitely exist in the same world. Clearly, we’re in a different time because now we have cell phones and other stuff so it’s not literal, but we are very conscious of keeping this version of The Mist in the same overall world as the original was set in.

What is it about Stephen King that works so well in longform television?

To me it’s always about the characters. That’s why I always return to King and his novels. When I read things, even if you’re not a horror fan, if you take away the blood and the shocks, there’s still always great character work underneath and great characters that are in psychological or existential dilemmas that they have to deal with. And again, it’s something we hope to achieve in this series. We have a rule in the writers room where if you need to resort to the mist to move story forward, than we’re having problems. In many ways, like a good Stephen King book, even if you took out all the horror or the supernatural element, there would still be a great human drama underneath it. That’s what we have been aiming for and that’s what appeals so much in longform. These are characters that you want to see in their everyday lives and the conflict they have in themselves. It’s just always such well developed characters.

Did you have to pitch Stephen King on your take on The Mist?

I did. I sat down pretty early in the process and wrote him a very long e-mail. Obviously we were all aware that the novella it is based on is about 200 pages and it takes place in a supermarket over pretty much two days. There’s not an ongoing series in that. You need, at some point, to go in and either make some changes in the setup or expand that universe. So I sat down and I wrote him an e-mail with what I wanted to do, changes that I proposed making and why I wanted to do them. And also, how I, while changing these things, wanted to stay true to the DNA and the heart of his story and the overall King feel. I got the best response I could have hoped for. He was incredibly kind and generous and just said, “As long as you don’t do anything average, you have my blessing to go crazy with it.”

So you had Stephen King’s e-mail.

I do and I can tell you the most terrifying thing I have experienced in my life is waking up and seeing an e-mail from him in my inbox. That’s pretty scary.

Since your show has people in different locations surrounded by the mist, how do you balance the story equally between them? Can some episodes spend more time in one place than others?

We don’t necessarily have to spend equal time. It’s not a democratic show dividing the time equally between these little pockets. We go to these pockets when we have the best story to tell there and we have something meaningful to say. We are, in most of the episodes, sort of touching ground in all of them, but I can say that people aren’t going to be staying in places throughout the show. There will be people moving around and people meeting each other and eventually world views colliding as people in different places come up with different theories or just different answers to what they think is going on.

The Mist

Is there more stuff in the mist than there was in the film and novella?

We’re taking a slightly different approach to the mist. We didn’t want to do too much of a monster show. I love the movie and I love that about the movie but we felt for sustaining a long running series, we had to take it in a slightly different direction. We went out and pitched as Ingmar Bergman’s Jaws, which was a joke, of course, but there’s still some truth to the extent that we are less concerned about the shark and more concerned about how people react to the shark. So we did sort of dial it slightly towards more psychological drama and horror than the monster movie homage that was in the original movie.

If it’s different than the monsters from the movie and book, how long before we find out what exactly this mist is?

[Laughs] Well, I can’t tell you that. I can tell you that we know what it is in the writer’s room and that we have answers to everything that goes on. At least for the purpose of season one, it’s more about people looking for answers than the answers themselves. Then, as we go further into the series, we do have actual answers to provide and a mythology behind it.

For the people trapped in the mall, do they find a lot of supplies to survive in the various stores?

That’s one of the things that I found so interesting about using the mall. You have all these stores that sell all these appliances that we go out and buy in real life. When there’s no power anymore, you really don’t need a microwave. You find the very few basic things you need in order to survive. You need food and water. You also need things if you want to example what is going on out there. Without revealing too much, we have people sending a drone out that they found in a store. We utilize the different stores in the mall and use it to create story.

Did you shoot in a working mall?

[We did]. That was kind of crazy, shutting it down and yelling action and regular people walking around and looking. It was fun and it turned out to be a really fun experience. We spend so much time in that mall and everyone were good sports, the shop owners and the people shopping.

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