Based on The Sword of Truth book series by Terry Goodkind, ABC Studios’ Legend of the Seeker has picked up where other fantasy shows left off – in New Zealand.
In the mid-90s, fans were wild for fantasy hits Xena and Hercules and producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert are just adding more fuel to their fire. LOTS, which made its debut in November 2008, follows the story of woodsman Richard Cypher (Craig Horner) who learns of the prophecy made at his birth that reveals he is destined to protect the world from evil. At his side are the confessor Kahlan Amnell (Bridget Regan) and the wise wizard Zedd (Bruce Spence).
Now into its second season, LOTS is a charming window into Goodkind’s magical world, and minus the goofy quips a la Herc or Xena, it’s intense plot lines can really drive you to keep coming back. But despite a growing fan base of dedicated viewers, the show has remained on the bubble of the top 25 shows in syndication. (To make matters worse, last week The Tribune Company announced it will drop LOTS from its stations’ roster next season, which could spell big trouble for the show as far as a renewal is concerned.)
Still, when I talked with executive producer Ken Biller (Star Trek: Voager, Dark Angel) he seemed optimistic about a chance at a third season and let me in on of some of the things we’ll see at the end of season two. (Hint: More monsters and a Lord of the Rings favorite.)
Allie Townsend: So obviously, adapting a book series with a dedicated following can be tricky? How did you approach creating your own version of the show without angering book fans?
Well I’m not quite sure that I didn’t totally piss off at least some of the books’ fans at least at the beginning, which I knew was going to happen. I completely respect the passion of the book fans, I’m a huge admirer of Terry Goodkind and the achievement of the thousands of pages that he wrote, but when I got asked by ABC Disney to do the show and what I was being asked to do was a 22-episode a year season and I read that first book, it was readily apparent to me that there was no way I could do a 22-episode series and stay completely faithful to the book. The book could have been very faithfully adapted if it were done as a movie or as a couple of movies, but the books don’t lend themselves to stand alone story telling. And even though we have worked very hard to create an ongoing story thread both in season one and season two for the quest that our heroes are on because I think that’s very important for this genre, I also had to mandate to try to create episodes that could stand on their own terms that had a beginning middle and end so that viewers could just come in and be able to enjoy a story every week.
There are lots of elements from the books and many characters from the books that appear in the television series and we’ve found the mythology that Terry Goodkind and it’s a rich treasure trove to dive into. We always ask ourselves, well what happened in the book? Is that something we can use in an episode? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. We have kind of riffed on his mythology and expanded on it.
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For example, in Wizard’s First Rule, Kahlan Amnell is already the only confessor left in the world. One thing I quickly realized was that this confessor mythology is really, really compelling. And if we were to say that she was the only confessor in the world right from the get go, we would be missing out on the opportunity to explore that mythology deeply and to tell certain stories. We told a story about a confessor who had gone bad and misused her powers and we were able to tell a story about Kahlan’s sister still being alive and how they tried to protect themselves from Darken Rahl (Craig Parker) so it gave us a lot of rich story material by not limiting ourselves. Now I completely understand why Terry did that in his book, but for us, I wanted to have a bigger palate.
AT: You’re filming in New Zealand, and the beautiful landscape really comes through on screen. Does it help to produce a show that has such an unlimited and amazingly beautiful backdrop?
It is amazingly beautiful, but I wish it were unlimited. It’s a small country in terms of people, but it’s a vast country in terms of landscape. And unfortunately, we’re not able to on our series schedule take advantage of all the really varied typography of New Zealand. We’re limited to what are still some really beautiful locations around Auckland, an area on the North Island.