“Zoo,” a 13-episode adaptation of the 2012 James Patterson-Michael Ledwidge novel about a wave of animal attacks against humans, premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday night on CBS, thanks in part to the inability to make it into a movie and the success of “Under the Dome.”
Bill Robinson, an executive with James Patterson Entertainment, Patterson’s production company, sent the book to producer Cathy Konrad, who spent two years trying to make it into a movie.
“We were struggling to try to take the book and put it into two hours,” Konrad told City News Service.
When the adaptation of the Stephen King novel “Under the Dome” became a hit for CBS in the summer of 2013, Konrad, who had a production deal with CBS, realized it would be better as a television series and assembled a writing team, who met with Patterson.
A pilot script was written and presented in 2014 to executives of CBS Television Studios, the television production arm of CBS, “and they loved it,” said Konrad, who has produced such films as “Walk the Line”; the 2007 remake of “3:10 to Yuma”; the four “Scream” films; and “Girl, Interrupted.”
Because of costs involved with various visual effects, Konrad said she and the other producers wanted to reduce costs by filming 13 episodes without interruption, instead of shooting a pilot and having to wait several months to resume production if it was picked up as a series.
CBS Television Studios, which realized “Zoo” “was a summer show,” agreed to the proposal, said Konrad, who also produced the 2006-2008 ABC comedy “Men in Trees” and the 2012-13 CBS period drama “Vegas.”
“Zoo” was filmed in the New Orleans area, where sites doubling for Los Angeles, Africa, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Japan could all be found.
“Zoo” stars James Wolk, best known for his portrayal of account executive Bob Benson on the acclaimed AMC advertising drama “Mad Men,” as young renegade American zoologist Jackson Oz, who runs safaris in Africa and begins to see a link between the animal attacks and his late father’s controversial theories about impending threats to the human race.
The cast also includes Kristen Connolly as a Los Angeles-based reporter who seeks the assistance of an off-kilter veterinarian (Billy Burke) in her quest to break the story; Nora Arnezeder as French investigator Chloe Tousignant, who Oz meets in Africa; and Nonso Anozie as Oz’s best friend Abraham Kenyatta, who runs safaris with him and has a deep understanding of wildlife.
Tonight’s premiere was written by Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Jeff Pinkner, who had all been producers and writers on the 2001-2006 ABC spy drama “Alias”; and Scott Rosenberg, who wrote the screenplays for the films “Con Air,” “High Fidelity,” the 2000 version of “Gone in 60 Seconds,” and “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” the first film Konrad produced.
The series changes “a lot from the book, which is excellent,” Patterson said. “The main characters stay the same — Jackson and Chloe and Abraham — and then they’ve added people,” Patterson said.
Patterson said his novel was the result of his “seeing stories about odd (animal) behavior around the world — alligators in Florida and crocodiles doing weird things in Africa and remember the story about fish jumping into the boats in Michigan.”
“That spurred me into why is this going on and is there a novel here, is there something kind of cool?”
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