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Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three

Time to resume the quest. On your feet, Gunslingers, the journey is still ongoing.

So much has changed since my initial casting post on The Dark Tower, much of which I detailed in my last post. The Ron Howard-Produced The Dark Tower was released this past summer, bombed and will hopefully be forgotten in just a couple of years' time.

What this means is, should my TV series ever actually happen (it won't), the actors I cast here will probably be too old by that time. I've expressed concern in the past that my actors are going to age out of their roles (one of the reasons I don't cast child characters), so shouldn't I be worried about this one? Not really, because like I said, I'm proceeding as if this most recent movie never happened.

The Drawing of the Three is really where the story of Roland and his quest drew (ha ha) readers in. If they thought The Gunslinger was slow-moving and boring, this one was the far more kinetic. It was also far more King-like, whereas the first volume of this series was a decidedly different outing than usual. Oddly enough, the first time I read it, I was full of mixed emotions. It moved at a good clip and was never boring, but it also was so different I wasn't sure that I liked it. See, I'm one of those who actually enjoyed the first volume (though I totally get the complaints about it) and when I read the very first scene of this one, it felt so much like a betrayal that I thought it just had to be a dream sequence. Nope. Sorry, spoilers for the first scene; what Roland goes through right off the bat is very real.

I also wasn't sure I liked how each of those Roland "draws" were from our own world (maybe!) and were just humans. The fantasy reader in me kinda wanted his companions to be a mixed bag, maybe one a dragon or something. Also, even after I made peace with that (and today wouldn't trade these characters for the world), I kept thinking "this is Roland's story and yet Roland is the least focused on here!"

That wasn't entirely fair. Yes, this book is very different from the first one, but it  does set the tone for the rest, and it introduces two characters that by the end of it all felt like family. 2018 me feels that it is entirely appropriate that a bulk of this book is spent developing the characters of Eddie and Odetta/Detta because I know today that it's as much their story as it is Roland's.

Which brings me to my problem with how to adapt this. The Dark Tower is ultimately Roland's story, but his Ka-Tet (a term you either know or need to read the books to learn about) are just as big, give or take, a part of it as he is. As the books go on, long chapters of face-time are given to each. But they're not even mentioned by name in the first book. Just hints are given of who they are.

So, how do you handle this in a TV series? Book One is very short, and takes place entirely within Roland's world (All-World, it's usually called). Jake's flashbacks show glimpses of the known world but Roland never goes there. Book Two's plot is literally just Roland walking along a beach, coming to three magic doors, inside which are people from New York who he is supposed to "draw" into his world. Each one brings their own set of problems but each one of them is apparently crucial to his quest.

To add a sense of immediacy, there's also the fact that Roland is slowly dying of a venom that's coursing through his veins, which would be curable if he was anywhere near any medicine. But in that other world...

My answer to this is incorporate elements of this book into the first season. This would require some changes to how the characters react upon learning there's another world and a Tower to seek. Throughout Season One, give us occasional visits to New York of the 80's and 60's, and let us get to know Eddie, Odetta, Henry, Balazar, maybe even Jack Mort, who will remain just a guest star, but his mentality, wherein he plans his horrible murders by referring to good murderers who don't get caught as "Do-Bee's" and bad murderers who do stupid things and let themselves get caught are "Don't-Bee's", is just too awesome and must be shown in the series. My Kindergarten teacher used the "Do-Bee" and "Don't-Bee" system to reward/punish us kids.

Eddie and Henry have a dynamic that's later expanded upon in flashbacks and in Eddie's imagination. Odetta has a whole history of issues and Jack is the cold killer who made her what she is. But King's literary presentation of how we learn all this wouldn't work in filmed format. It would be too odd that Season One is a short season of maybe six episodes setting up a Gunslinger in an alternate world searching for the Man in Black to find answers about how he can find a Dark Tower that haunts his dreams, and season two is literally just him walking along a beach, finding a series of three doors, and behind each door is a person from New York that he must Draw into his world. We can't stop in, say, the second episode to explain who Eddie is and why we should care, and then have Roland Draw him. We should already know him. Already be invested in who he is and what's going on in his world.

We need to know what kind of relationship he has with his brother, and how much his addiction is starting to control him. We need to see him starting to work for Balazar, all working up to the first time he mules for him. This can all play out during the first season while Roland and Jake are crossing that desert heading for the mountains.

But it can't just be random. My advice would be that after the scene where the Oracle tells Roland of the Three that he will Draw, the scene where Eddie is introduced will harken back to that.

An episode will open up with a flashback to the Oracle whispering "The first whom you will draw is The Prisoner..." and then cut to Eddie waking up in bed and wondering why he was dreaming of a woman calling him the Prisoner. Perhaps he could even be shown to have dreamed about the Tower before. I can picture it now; when Roland tells him of the mission to find the Tower, Eddie's reaction will be to be stunned, wondering how Roland knows about that. Same thing could happen to Odetta; the Oracle starts an episode whispering "The second you will draw will be the Lady of Shadows" and then we cut to Odetta waking up and wondering why she lost time. Since she has two personalities, Odetta will dream of the Tower and long to go there while Detta will be afraid of it and want to stay away.

The actual acts of Drawing might take two episodes of Season Two. That way we don't spend too much time literally in one place doing one thing before moving on to find the path of the Beam, and reunite with a certain kid.

Now for the cast:

Langley Kirkwood is of course going to return as Roland, and honestly I'm not sure why I was so uncertain the first time I posted about this as to which of my choices was correct. Honestly, he's just so Roland.

Walter, the Man in Black, does not appear in bodily form in this book, but that has to change for the series. We will need to cut back to Walter from time to time, and the Gunslinger does occasionally hallucinate him. Come on back, Lee Pace.

Now to the new characters. Eddie Dean is a young junkie from 80's Brooklyn. When we first meet him, he's muling cocaine for a drug lord and about to pass through customs. But that's just the beginning of his character. Over the next several books, he grows into a well-developed, often funny, often tragic figure, and a very important character. Frequently Roland thinks to himself how much Eddie reminds him of Cuthbert from his first Ka-Tet, and Eddie has a lot to do with Roland learning to love again. I'll be honest, Eddie has changed many times in my head over the years. The initial actors I picked are all too old now (as is Aaron Paul, a fan favorite for this role, but probably only because of how similar Eddie can be to Paul's best-known role, Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad), but I was having a hard time settling on one this time. Oddly enough it was while re-watching the now-cancelled NetFlix series Hemlock Grove (where Bill Skarsgaard co-starred) that led me to my choice: Landon Liboiron, who can embody every aspect of Eddie's personality. At 26 he's a bit older than Eddie is described in the books (he starts off at 23) but not old enough to count.

The next role was also somewhat hard to cast and the actress has changed a lot in my mind over the years. Odetta Holmes is a Civil Rights activist in the 1960's who was involved in the protest at Oxford Town. She's also an amputee, missing the lower half of both legs. Despite this, Odetta is a strong, intelligent and willful woman, who doesn't spook easily and is probably the most healthy, physically and mentally, of the three (which is ironic, as you'll see in a moment). The problem is she's also a pacifist, doesn't trust Roland mainly because he carries guns, and her intellect will not allow her, at first, to accept that the situation she's in is real. Now, I said she was mentally healthy, and I meant it, but only about Odetta Holmes. The other personality in her body, however, is not. Detta Walker is one seriously messed-up individual, full of hate and loathing for nearly everything and everyone, believing that literally every white person she encounters wants her dead, and determined to take them out first. The good side to her is that she's fearless and made of total iron, utterly willing to face down any foe. As I said, the two of them inhabit the same body, and are utterly unaware of each other. If only there were some way to balance Odetta's goodness and morality with Detta's will and determination to act. The actress I chose is Rutina Wesley, who often exhibited both traits of the pair on True Blood.
Rutina Wesley as Odetta Holmes
Rutina Wesley as Detta Walker, Ma-Fah!
The third drawn is named "Death" and Roland realizes fairly quickly that this person on the other side is a means to an end, not the newest member of his Ka-Tet. Jack Mort is, quite simply, a monster. A successful tax attorney, Mort is thin, nebbishy and creepy (at least to a degree). And in his spare time, he pushes people into subway trains or drops bricks on them from the tops of buildings. And while Roland had believed up until now that Jake Chambers had been killed by the Man in Black, it turns out that in fact, Jack Mort was Jake's murderer. The Man in Black had only been using him. I wanted a guy who could play creepy very easily but could also play harmless pathetic nerds. I chose Adam Godley (who, strangely enough, appeared on Breaking Bad).

Eddie's brother, Henry Dean, doesn't have a lot to do in the main "present" scenes in this book, but his influence on Eddie is strongly felt for the rest of the series. Eddie is constantly reminded of the "wisdom" his brother shared with him, and keeps thinking how Henry would have handled almost every situation. In the third book in particular, there are many scenes that could be translated on film as Henry's "ghost" haunting Eddie. So, he will need to be cast, absolutely. I ended up picking a guy I'd considered for Eddie, only to toss him for being too old (Henry is about 8 years Eddie's senior). Zack McGowan of Shameless and Black Sails fame, because, well, he kinda has the face of a junkie.

There are two more characters I'm casting, because while they're fairly small in this book, they won't stay that way. Enrico Balazar is Eddie's "boss", which is kind of a laugh because this is Eddie's frist real job for him. He's a Brooklyn drug lord who enjoys building houses of cards. He's described as a Sicilian who is older and overweight, but I had a hard time buying that image of him. For one thing, Enrico Balazar is not a Sicilian name, and I don't see a problem with keeping that name but making him Columbian or something, instead. It's not like all New Yawk crime bosses are Italian, even if most of his men are (clearly not all). I pictured him played by David Zayas.

Balazar's right-hand man is Jack Andolini, otherwise known as Old Double-Ugly, but never to his face. Also, whatever else you think of him, he's definitely not old Double-Stupid, as he serves as both muscle and council to Balazar. He's described as huge and utterly intimidating, and I picked Matthew Willig, who stands about 6'5" but's actually capable of acting.

I'm headed into what is uncharted territory for Yours Truly. Like I said, I have not read much of what King was putting out in the early 90's. Misery is the next full novel (I'm reading it right now) but I won't be doing a casting for reasons that should be obvious. After that we have a few short stories and The Tommyknockers, which I think probably will be getting its own post, we'll see.

But the next post's title might throw you a bit.

Next Up: Deal With It!


  1. (1) "and will hopefully be forgotten in just a couple of years' time" -- Oh, man, I think it's mostly forgotten already. I still need to make the time to do a review of my own on that; I literally keep forgetting about it!

    (2) "It was also far more King-like" -- Very true. A lot of that, I think, has to do with the fact that he spends so much of the novel in the point of view of characters from our world. "The Gunslinger" is an alien perspective in that sense, and that probably accounts for the differences in tone. Pretty cool.

    (3) "when I read the very first scene of this one, it felt so much like a betrayal" -- Man, I love that scene so much, for that very reason. The first time I read this novel, that scene was so shocking and affecting that I thought it was going to make me sick. King wasn't giving me what I wanted; he was giving me the truth. That sort of thing is a major aspect of the entire series, in a way, isn't it?

    (4) "We can't stop in, say, the second episode to explain who Eddie is and why we should care, and then have Roland Draw him." -- I don't think I agree with this. It works just fine the way King wrote it; we didn't know him before Roland encountered him there, and it doesn't hurt readers any. Granted, tv is a very different medium. I'd say end an episode with Roland stepping into Eddie's head, and showing us who/where he is. Then, next episode, play it all from Eddie's point of view, culminating in Roland's appearance. From there, you can mix the two perspectives, no problem. Same approach would work for Susannah and Jack.

    (5) I only watched the first season of "Hemlock Grove," but I could see Liboiron as Eddie.

    (6) I really don't like Rutina Wesley at all, although I probably have to attribute that to the crapfest that was "True Blood." The only other thing I've seen her in was "Hannibal," and she was very good there.

    (7) David Zayas is a pretty good shout for Balazar!

    1. 1) Mostly I want everyone involved with that movie to never attempt to make another anything based on it. No TV series, no sequel. They don't have to give up the rights but they need to hire someone who will produce an actual adaptation.

      2) I agree with this.

      3) Understand, today I love this scene. It's a visceral punch to the gut that I still feel even this time through. But the first time I couldn't believe it. I thought "No! The Gunslinger needs his hands!"

      4) One way or another I think a TV series would do this differently. It certainly wouldn't be the first time we ever meet Eddie is when Roland enters his mind.

      5) He looks just like I used to picture Eddie before I chose an actor. I kept thinking of actors and discarding them for various reasons, like Seann William Scott and Milo Ventimiglia, and I've never been on board the Aaron Paul train. I still think people only want him because Eddie and Jesse have some things in common (some). Paul is visibly too old (at least in my opinion) and I don't think he has the steel Eddie needs.

      6) True Blood was awful in terms of writing, but the actors from that show are terrific. It's one of the only reasons I ever watched it. Rutina Wesley can turn on that crazy accent and then turn it right off again, and she can do sweet and kind and murderous.

      7) And strangely enough, this is the one I thought you'd disagree with the most. What did you think of Adam Godley as Jack Mort? And google some shots of Matthew Willig to see just how freakin' big he is.

    2. (1) Agreed.

      (5) Aaron Paul is definitely too old at this point, although if they were going to introduce Eddie into a sequel to the movie, that would be okay (since they clearly aren't really adapting the books' characters anyway). I think he could have done it if they had filmed it even half a decade ago, but yeah, at this point he's out of the running in my mind.

      (7) Godley -- with whom I'm not super familiar -- seems fine. Willig would be a great casting decision for somebody, but I don't know that Andolini needs to be a cartoonishly large person. The more realistic the better, and a guy that size reads as anything but realistic on camera.