The first season of "The Mysterious Benedict Society," which is currently rolling out on Disney+, will stick to the source material provided by Trenton Lee Stewart's beloved kids book of the same name, according to series creators Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay. But should the series continue into another season, that might not remain to be the case.
"The subsequent books are all wonderful, and they're very different, too," Hay said in an interview with TheWrap. "So if we were lucky enough to continue and get another season, I think it would likely draw from a lot of them in different ways, as opposed to being very, very specific."
Hay and Manfredi said they hope to draw from all of the sequels (as well as Stewart's prequel novel) for future episodes, mixing and matching elements rather than doing a straight adaptation.
"We don't know yet because we haven't broken it down. But my feeling is, in a series of books, kids don't age quite as quickly as they do in real life," Hay continued. "So I think as we moved on, we want to be true to who the actors are as they grow so that the tone and style and stories we tell are tonally congruent with that."
Read more of TheWrap's interview with Hay and Manfredi below.
TheWrap: What was your relationship to the book series before you came onto the project? Had you read the books?
Manfredi: We were first brought the books by our producers, Karen Kehela Sherwood and Jamie Tarses, and we had kind of been aware of the book -- we both have kids. And so it's definitely been in the air for a long time for kids of a certain age. Immediately, when we read it, we both just fell in love with it, and felt how sophisticated it was, and how funny it was. And how strangely timeless or even prescient it was with the themes regarding propaganda and disinformation. The idea of seeking the truth and having the truth to be the answer to the anxiety and difficulty that this world is struggling with.
Hay: It also just felt like an opportunity to do something in a tone that Matt and I both love, but haven't worked on before. Our recent movies, "Destroyer" and "The Invitation" are quite, quite different. So this was just another way to approach some ideas that we had. When we look to adapt something, it always connects with us. It happens to be about something that we're wrestling with ourselves. And this book has so many of those ideas in it.
When you were reading the book, what were some of the things that jumped out at you as important for the adaptation?
Manfredi: It's this emphasis on empathy, this emphasis on the love and importance of truth. And like Phil said, the books seemed prescient in terms of the discussions around anxiety and propaganda and all these things that are issues in present day. So those things were pretty exciting to explore, but also the idea of these kids whose superpowers are things that perhaps they don't see as valuable first. They can't fly, they can't shoot lasers, but they have empathy. They're resilient, they're inventive. They think about things in unique ways. And those are the things that make them special, make them valuable -- heroes.
One of the big themes in the book is actually a skepticism of digital media, how did you approach that aspect of it for the show?
Hay: That idea of subliminal messages and brainwashing is such a fascinating thing for people our age. Harkening back to the late '70s and early '80s, I remember there being such a big, cultural moment about subliminal messages, and all that stuff. In a way, it's kind of a funny throwback of a villain class. This show has a really unique opportunity, through humor and through this very specific world, to get at some of this stuff that's certainly been haunting me personally. We wake up every morning and look into this magic little rectangle that immediately causes painful anxiety, but we still come back to it over and over again. That was definitely something that's explored throughout the show through the eyes of kids. Again, being a parent and seeing the tangible effect of this state of extended and constant low-to-medium-to-high grade anxiety as a condition of modern life. It's extremely impactful. So then, in the show, we think, OK, well, what's the answer to that? For us, the bedrock of the show is the idea that what reduces that anxiety is empathy and a desire to be kind to others. The desire to help others and to not hurt. That's all wrapped up in the show and in the book, but it was definitely something that really inspired us to keep going on those ideas.
The books are known for these puzzle elements that readers can play along with. How did you approach that element when it came to the show?
Manfredi: I would say that Phil and I are not puzzle masters --
Hay: Speak for yourself!
Manfredi: -- but we love them. There were some great puzzles in the book, so that we definitely took advantage of, and then there were a few that we found and adapted. What I love about the puzzles is that there's no one right way to solve it. If you ask the puzzle designer, he or she would say they intended it to be done a certain way -- and Reynie kind of always approaches it that way. But then there's Sticky, who relies on his immense amount of knowledge to just power through. Kate can disassemble anything, and Constance is just this absolute chaos agent. So there's no right way to do it. Reynie may have the technically correct answer, but that might not be what's necessary in the moment.
Moving forward, will the first season cover the entire first book? If you were renewed how would you approach future seasons?
Hay: The first book is this first season, basically. It really did lend itself to that kind of structure. And the subsequent books are all wonderful, and they're very different, too. So if we were lucky enough to continue and get another season, I think it would likely draw from a lot of them in different ways, as opposed to being very, very specific. We don't know yet because we haven't broken it down. But my feeling is, in a series of books, kids don't age quite as quickly as they do in real life. So I think as we moved on, we want to be true to who the actors are as they grow so that the tone and style and stories we tell are tonally congruent with that. But there's a tremendous amount of great and fascinating stuff throughout the rest of the book series, and I think it'll be interesting unearthing of stuff from all over the series if we get another season.
When you think about your younger viewers, what do you hope they take away from the show as they move forward in life?
Hay: I definitely hope that they engage -- and I feel confident they will engage with it. Because the kids that I know are so tremendously sophisticated and emotionally very intelligent. Oftentimes, I feel kind of in awe of how clear-eyed the kids that I know are about the world and how interested they are in asking questions about it. So our fondest hope is that this becomes kind of a seminal show for kids of a certain age, where they feel like it's their show, and it hits their sense of humor, and it hits their weird worldview. And hopefully, they feel recognized in it for who they are. The message of the show is that everyone has value, and there are many, many ways that value could be expressed.
"The Mysterious Benedicty Society" is available to stream on Disney+.