‘Snowpiercer’ Showrunner Says There’s Almost None of the Original Pilot Left in the Show

TCA 2020: “It takes a long time to get it right,” Graeme Manson says of the five-year journey to screen


TNT’s upcoming “Snowpiercer” adaptation has changed networks and showrunners and undergone major redevelopment since it was first announced years ago, but the series will finally make it to screen this spring.

Series star Daveed Diggs put it simply: “Takes a long time to make really good s—.”

The long-gestating show was first put into development at TNT five years ago, with Josh Friedman writing the original pilot and set to serve as showrunner. Friedman was fired in 2018 over “creative differences” and replaced by “Orphan Black” co-creator Graeme Manson. The show was then almost completely redeveloped — though the original cast, including Diggs and co-star Jennifer Connelly, stayed attached to the project — and shuffled around Turner’s networks before finally getting a firm May premiere date on Wednesday.

According to Manson, who appeared alongside his cast at the Television Critics Association press tour on Wednesday, almost none of the original pilot appears in the final version of the show.

“I think there’s a little piece of a sort of a special effects set piece,” he said. “But it was a full rebirth of the series when I came on. I pitched a different world.”

The post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama, based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel series and the Bong Joon Ho-directed film of the same name, takes place more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland and centers on the remnants of humanity who inhabit a perpetually moving train.

In addition to Connelly and Diggs, the ensemble cast also includes Alison Wright, Mickey Sumner, Susan Park , Iddo Goldberg, Katie McGuinness, Lena Hall, Annalise Basso, Sam Otto, Roberto Urbina, Sheila Vand and Jaylin Fletcher.

“I can’t speak much to the original project because I really wasn’t involved in it at all, but I was I just loved the movie,” Manson said. “I loved that tone, I loved the energy, and I loved that it was the weirdest action movie I’ve ever seen. I wanted, above all else, for it to be exciting like that.”

Manson also praised the original graphic novel for its “terrific flights of philosophical fantasy.” He recalled reading the original graphic novel and a preface from the writer which emphasized that the heart of a “Snowpiercer” story is the combination of class and political themes with genre elements.

“Above all,” Manson recalled reading, “don’t forget that it’s a hard-hitting action adventure.”

When asked what kept them with the project during its lengthy development process, Diggs quipped, “contractual obligations,” earning a laugh from his castmates.

“I don’t think we could’ve left if we wanted to,” he continued. “However I love this group of people … We haven’t seen each other for a few weeks, but I’m just so giddy to be around them again.”

Diggs also said he doesn’t see a five-year journey to the screen as a particularly long one, given his background in theater. “Five years is not long to develop a new piece for theater if you want it to be good,” he said.

“I feel like they’re different projects really,” Connelly added. “Really, this is what I think of when I think of ‘Snowpiercer’ — this version.”

“Snowpiercer” will finally premiere on Sunday, May 31 on TNT.