Why Hulu’s ‘High Fidelity’ Gender-Flipped John Cusack’s ‘Hopeless Romantic’ Role for Zoe Kravitz

TCA 2020: “That core issue for that character seemed something really universal… even though it’s classically male characteristics,” co-creator Veronica West says

Zoe Kravitz John Cusack High Fidelity

If something’s not broke, why fix it? That’s the question Hulu’s “High Fidelity” creators faced when adapting Nick Hornby’s beloved 1995 novel for their new series, which stars Zoe Kravitz as Rob Brooks. The fact that Rob is now played by a woman is a serious departure from both the book, in which Rob is a man, and its 2000 film adaptation, in which Rob is still a man, played by John Cusack.

So what led Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka to gender-flip the part for their small-screen adaptation?

“I didn’t want to go redo ‘High Fidelity’ without making this change,” West told reporters during the Television Critics Association press tour Friday. “We have so much respect for the book and the film and I think they are perfect iterations of that story. But to say that, like — it’s weird, we watch a lot of romantic comedies with female leads and the problem always seems to be, you can’t find the right man, or you’re desperate to get married, or you’re self-destructive in some ways. And when a man gets to be the lead, the problems are internal. And it was interesting for us to put that in a woman’s point of view and let her issues with romance really just be about learning how to figure out herself and not finding Mr. Right. You know, there’s lots of Mr. Rights in the show, which is part of what makes it so much fun.”

Hulu’s retelling of “High Fidelity” centers on Kravitz’s character, a record store owner in the rapidly gentrified neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn who revisits past relationships through music and pop culture, while trying to get over her one true love.

“It was a really personal book for both Veronica and I, who read it long ago and really identified with the character of Rob and really felt like, this isn’t just a man’s journey and a man’s look at love and commitment and romance, but is very universal,” Kucserka added. “And so being able to stay incredibly true to all of those characteristics of the Rob in the book, but keep the Rob on our show, I think it’s such a new and fresh and interesting take on it.”

West said that when they met Kravitz, “she immediately got it.”

“She had such a strong point of view from the start and was so invested in that character’s conflict and completely got in and saw it… and she certainly had a woman’s point of view, so we’re super lucky to have had that mind from the start.”

As for how the show will adapt its source material, but change things up so its not all told in one season, West said this:

“Look, we are absolutely huge fans of both the book and the movie and that’s what brought us to this amazing moment of getting to make this thing together. I think the main things we wanted to keep were the core conflict of the central character who at once is kind of this hopeless romantic which is fueled by the obsession with pop music — and at the same time, a total cynic of, ‘will things ever work out?’ And that core issue for that character seemed something really universal that Zoe related to and Sarah and myself related to, even though it’s classically male characteristics. So that core character and the DNA of the source material, with the Top 5 and the obsession over music and stuff like that, those are the things that really defined the link between the show and the other properties. But the story of the show is something new and different. We don’t want it to be predictable. We don’t want people to watch the show and know exactly what’s going to happen. It’s not the love story between just two people but really a love story about learning how to love yourself.”

“I think the hope is that if we do more seasons, we have more things to draw from,” Kravitz added. “We don’t want to — excuse my French — blow our load.”

Along with Kravitz, the series also stars Da’Vine Joy Randolph, David H. Holmes, Jake Lacy and Kingsley Ben-Adir.

“High Fidelity” premieres Feb. 14 — yes, Valentine’s Day — on Hulu.