‘Fallout’ Showrunners Tried to Avoid Contradicting the Games as Much as Possible: ‘We Wanted to Be Faithful’ | Video

EP Jonathan Nolan tells TheWrap it was a challenge to translate the open world exploration of the Bethesda video game franchise

After over 20 years of bringing joy to video game fans, “Fallout” is getting the live-action treatment from Prime Video. The series is a collaboration between “Westworld” co-creator Jonathan Nolan, Bethesda boss Todd Howard, who serve as executive producers, and co-showrunners Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner. 

“So often with an adaptation you’re usually adding things. You’re always losing something, there’s always a bit of a give and take. With a novel, for instance, you’re losing some of the inner psychological feeling, the way that a book can make you feel inside the head of a character, but you’re gaining light and picture and sound, you’re adding all these things that aren’t present in the book or that you have to imagine,” Nolan told TheWrap. 

“With a game, you’re losing interactivity, the ability to turn around and walk into that corner and explore. The hallmark of the ‘Fallout’ games is that open world exploration. You’re also losing the moral ambiguity that the games have where you can play it as a good guy, [or] as a bad guy. So we had to figure out how to translate all of that freedom into the constraints of a medium like television, where we’re making decisions on behalf of the viewers,” he added.

In 2019, Geneva Robertson-Dworet received a call from Nolan’s company Kilter Films asking her to join the project.

“They let me know that they were in the process of getting the rights to ‘Fallout’ and at that time I was very excited to work with them,” she said. “I was also very excited to find something to work with Graham on because he’d written this incredible ‘Star Trek’ show called ‘Worf’ that unfortunately never went forward but I just loved it so much. I was like, ‘I have to work with Graham on something and steal all his talent and then slap my name on the script next to his name’.” 

After calling him, Wagner was immediately on board for the opportunity to blend his experience writing in comedy with her chops for writing drama and action. 

“Among the pantheon of great video games of all time, I think what makes ‘Fallout’ special and singular is that incredibly unique tone, which is weirdly funny and full of dark action,” Robertson-Dworet said. “That blend of our two tones and two backgrounds just made this project for us.”

“What we’re really trying to do is earnestly inhabit what is ultimately a satirical premise, which is what happens if you outsource the survival of the human race to a private corporation,” Wagner added. “We just wanted to live in that and play it out and make sure we’re playing it satirically without being driven by gags and goofs and whatnot.”

While the “Fallout” television adaptation is its own original story, it takes place within the same timeline as the games.

“We assume that all the games have happened and our show just takes place a couple years later,” Robertson-Dworet said. “We wanted to be faithful to all of them and not contradict them as much as possible.” 

When it came to deciding what would be on the show, she acknowledged that it was difficult to decide what to pull from.  

“There’s 25 years of incredible games to pull from. So the first instinct is to take a kitchen sink approach and just put everything you love into the season and it’s a f–ing mess because there’s just not room,” she said. “It’s an eight-hour show. A game has thousands of hours of gameplay to create all these details to the world. So we actually had to really hone in on which aspects of the mythology we wanted to introduce the viewers in the first season.”

She credited the collaboration with Howard and Bethesda for being a “really great barometer” to determine what would provide the best experience for both die-hard fans and newcomers.

“We obviously care deeply that the fans feel like we did justice to one of their favorite universes. So talking to Todd felt like the first version of having a fan reaction which was great, because if he’s balking, then the fans will probably balk.”

“I’d love to say if you don’t like the show, it’s because it’s something Bethesda did, but they were very cool about it from the jump. Todd’s been overseeing the creative process for decades now, because he’s just so effortlessly collaborative about it all. He’s who you want to be in that spot, very open-minded,” Wagner added. “He would give us words of wisdom here and there. It was just advice more than anything.”  

While the show has yet to be renewed for a second season, Robertson-Dworet said the team is “very hopeful.” In a promising sign, the show has already received $25 million in tax credits from the California Film Commission for production of a potential Season 2.

“There’s so many things that we have planned, if we are lucky enough to get a second season, that we’re excited to bring to the screen from the mythology,” she teased.

“Fallout” premieres at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT Wednesday, April 10, on Prime Video.


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