Books Festivals SXSW TV

SXSW 2019: “NOS4A2” Series First Look

In 2013, author Joe Hill released “NOS4A2,” a roughly 700-page horror-fantasy novel. The book follows a girl named Vic McQueen (AKA The Brat) who can travel over a nonexistent bridge (the Shorter Way) to find lost things, and a librarian named Maggie who can use Scrabble tiles as a clairvoyant. But the story’s darkness comes from Charles Manx, an immortal character from ‘Christmasland’ who keeps his youth by stealing that of others (with the help of his henchman Bing Partridge).

Now “NOS4A2” is set to become a TV miniseries on AMC, with showrunner/creator Jami O’Brien at the helm. The show’s pilot premiered at SXSW on March 11 to much acclaim. It stars Ashleigh Cummings as Vic, Jakhara J. Smith as Maggie, Olafur Darri Olafsson as Bing and Zachary Quinto as Charles Manx. Though the novel follows Vic at different ages, the show seems to choose to focus on Vic as a teenager in a troubled household. But, like the book, the series is mixing real-world pain and drama with the horror-fantasy elements of Charles Manx and his Christmasland.

It’s a beautifully shot pilot, and the style makes abstract concepts more visual. Each time Vic rides through the Shorter Way she suffers a headache and throbbing eye, which the makeup department and Cummings’s acting skills bring to life. Maggie’s Scrabble readings are similarly hard to visualize, excepting the tiles themselves, but Smith puts herself into a place where we can see her working hard to make something of the messages she gets from the tiles.

Zachary Quinto as Charles Manx, with his Wraith
Photo Credit: AMC

Special effects and makeup as a whole on “NOS4A2” are impressive. Each time Vic rides across the Shorter Way, the camera spins upside down in a disorienting move similar to how Vic must feel in her magical travels. Quinto’s makeup to play Charles Manx at different ages reportedly takes about four hours! And the children that Manx steals youth from? Their makeup is terrifyingly real. Pale faces, dark eye circles and sharp teeth: No thanks!

All of the show’s actors bring something special to their roles, and there isn’t a single weak link. Even the supporting characters — like Vic’s parents — carry their weight in the narrative. But the raw emotion that Cummings brings to the role of Vic is just picture-perfect. It will be exciting to see these characters come to life even more throughout the series, and to see the actors grow further into the roles.

The last thing I’ll say is this: If you read the book, you are sure to notice quite a few differences in your viewing of the TV show. But don’t take them as weaknesses; acknowledge them as choices made by people who love Hill’s story and wanted to make it the best onscreen version it could be.

We’re looking forward to seeing the rest of “NOS4A2” on AMC — are you? Let us know in the comments!

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Featured Image Credit: AMC

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