Michele Weiss tells TheWrap about adapting the V.C. Andrews novels for Lifetime
Without knowing how well it would do, Lifetime recently announced that it’s already developing the sequel to its movie based on the V.C. Andrews novel, “Flowers in the Attic,” premiering Saturday at 8/7c.
Executive producer Michele Weiss says that the sequel, based on Andrews’ novel “Petals on the Wind,” presented a whole set of challenges that they didn’t have on the first installment.
“What’s great about adapting ‘Flowers’ is that it’s so contained,” Weiss told TheWrap. “It really lends itself to an adaptation that way.”
“With ‘Petals,’ it’s kind of more out in the world,” she continued. “There’s a lot of storylines, it takes place over a longer period of time. So, one of the challenges for us is to contain that story in a contained timeframe and I think we’ve figured out how to do it. It’s going to be a revenge story. It’s going to be Cathy and Christopher 10 years older, trying to get along with their lives, also caught up in feelings of resentment and revenge on Corinne.”
“Petals on the Wind” will be set in the 1970s in the South. Weiss hopes that the older actors in “Flowers” can return, but says Kiernan Shipka and Mason Dye are too young to for the roles of Cathy and Christopher, respectively.
“Flowers in the Attic” stars Heather Graham as Corrine, who returns to her parents’ home with her four children after her husband dies tragically. The children are then forced to answer to their mother’s sins at the hands of their grandmother (Ellen Burstyn). Locked in the attic of the huge manor home, the children reenact their mother’s sins as they try to cope with the cruelty of their imprisonment.
TheWrap: What was it like revisiting “Flowers in the Attic” to make the movie?
Michele Weiss: It’s one of the few books that I remember from being a teenager. It was one of the few books that everyone passed around. And I hadn’t had the experience before this of looking back on a book like that. I have kids now, so I’m looking at it from a totally different point of view and it holds up in almost a more poignant way.
As a teenager, I experienced the book like Cathy. But as a parent, you can see the really dark underside of it. There’s a lot of abuse going on here. There’s a lot of fun in the book, as well, but you can sort of see the reality of it.
So, for me, it was fun to revisit and kind of chilling. The way we wanted to approach the movie was the same way you read the book; you’re both compelled, but you also know this is a horrible train wreck.
When it comes to the incest, when you read the book you realize these people are in a desperate situation and they’re helping each other. You’re glad they’re there for each other. You kind of have that feeling in the movie. You’re conflicted – as twisted and weird as that is.
How did you approach casting the older children knowing what they would have to portray?
We really lucked out with Kiernan and Mason. With Kiernan, we had the confidence of knowing the difficult subject matter she dealt with on ‘Mad Men’ starting when she was six years old. She could handle that, embrace it and give it depth. And Mason was a total find and they have great chemistry together. Their relationship feels real. It feels real at the beginning when they’re regular ol’ brother and sister, fighting with each other, and as they go through this crazy ordeal together.
For us, it was important to cast people who were age-appropriate. In the first film, those actors felt like adults. We felt for this to work you have to understand that these are kids relying on their parents and they’re being betrayed. So, I feel like Kiernan and Mason feel like kids.
How true to the book did you stay and what changes were made for television?
I would say that we stay incredibly true to the book. There are some things that are added to dramatize, because this is a visual medium and not a book. There are trims that we had to make for time. It has to be condensed into 91 minutes. But, in terms of the spirit of the book and the main plot points of the story, we remained very true to the book.