Looking for Alaska had been stuck in development hell for thirteen years, meaning that the novel’s film option is now old enough to enter the YA section and purchase its cult-classic source material.
The novel rings true to its audience in part because it was based on John Green‘s own experiences in boarding school. It’s hard to imagine the quirky, paternal Green as a teen nightmare, but, apparently, Green was a chain-smoking hellion who did almost no work that had nothing to do with elaborate pranks he and his friends were notorious for pulling (and pulling off, might I add). Looking for Alaska fans will recall Miles’ cohort’s attempts to honor Alaska by hiring a stripper to give a graduation speech—John Green recalls it because it was something he actually did. Though Green’s career reached new heights (and our emotions, tbh, reached new lows) with the release of The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska won readers’ hearts as much as it stepped all over them. Human, funny, and devastating (arguably what being human means), the novel was sure to last for years to come. And it has.
Image Via @lUCIDroSES wE hEART iT
Looking for Alaska had been optioned for the big screen shortly after its publication, but interest began even before. The O.C.‘s Josh Schwartz, the youngest series creator of all time, felt the manuscript’s pull while it was still a draft. For years the novel adaptation languished in its purgatorial state, likely because of the challenge inherent in squeezing a cult-classic novel into a two-hour film. The solution? An eight-part series produced by Paramount Television and Fake Empire Productions. Schwartz wrote the pilot, and, when he approached Green with the idea of a serial, he saw how much ~green~ it would make him. Also, we can assume he felt it would be an effective way to tell the story. We do, too!
(Oh, and Josh Scwartz also developed the CW’s Gossip Girl. So you can bet this series will be something to talk about.)
After the announcement, Green hosted a Reddit AMA in which he answered all of your unanswered questions: no, he is not interested in a second season. Anyone who has read the book will probably understand why the story won’t extend beyond its established plot. Green has also said that, while he himself will take a backseat in the series’ production, he does personally approve of the pilot.
Image Via Mashable
In October, fans got more news: Sierra Burgess is a Loser actress Kristine Froseth will star as Alaska, and Charlie Plummer will star as Miles. John Green subsequently released details of his phone call with both:
I spoke to Kristine and Charlie on the phone yesterday and it was really special to have a conversation with the people who will become Miles and Alaska. I’m so grateful to them and to everyone involved with the Looking for Alaska series. It’s all starting to feel very real!
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The series feeling very real is definitely better than it feeling dubiously real, which is what fans feared when news wasn’t forthcoming over the summer. Looking for Alaska fans had been teased like this before—a 2014 movie announcement came attached with all the trappings of a ‘real deal:’ a director, an overload of hype. That didn’t pan out. But, as more Hulu adaptation news has become available throughout the winter, it seems apparent that this will.
Casting news continued into the Spring of 2019. In March, Empire actor Denny Love was cast as Chip Martin, Pudge’s college roommate better known as ‘The Colonel.’ As a poorer student, The Colonel lambasts the wealthy elite at Culver Creek, a school that, for all his shenanigans, he has worked very hard to attend. Whereas Miles has a fascination with famous people’s last words, The Colonel memorizes international capital cities to an uncanny degree of accuracy. Love shared with local news outlet Madison 365 that he felt a personal connection with the character—one which we’re sure will bring depth to his portrayal:
I read the first episode, and I remember telling my girl, ‘I think I just found my show.’ And she was like, ‘What? Really? What is it called?’ And I was like, ‘It’s called Looking for Alaska.’ And she was like, ‘Oh my God, I love that book.’ And I said, ‘Wait, wait, what? It’s a book?’ And she’s like, ‘Yes, I love that book. I read it when I was in high school.’ So I immediately went to Barnes and Noble, and I read the book in less than a day… and I thought to myself, ‘This is mine. This is it. This character is me.’
In the last week of March, we also learned that Riverdale‘s Jordan Connor was cast as Kevin, a ‘Weekday Warrior.’ This critical epithet is The Colonel’s invention, a term he coined to put down students who leave the rural Alabama campus and go back to their wealthy suburbs for the weekends. Deadline recently announced Miles Halter’s full cast of classmates: Lara (Sofia Vassilieva), a Romanian student with feelings for Miles; Takumi (Jay Lee), a dastardly prankster; and Longwell—a vicious (if uncharacteristically intelligent—Weekday Warrior (Uriah Shelton). It seems like the cast will be as lovable as the characters they portray.
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Will the adaptation be as perfect as we’ve hoped? We don’t know. In fact, there’s actually NO WAY of knowing, a thought which will sponsor all of our anxieties leading up to the eventual release. Are we excited? YES. Are we nervous? HELL YES. But we and John Green have both of those things in common.
Green acknowledges that, even with his support, it’s possible the adaptation will not go exactly he planned. That’s the point, he stresses. It’s not his plan at all. While Green’s writing has been the starting point for several ongoing adaptations, these adaptations are new stories with distinct creative visions. So he isn’t concerned that the adaptation will be unlike the book; he’s afraid one could be against the intention of the book:
Do I ever worry an adaptation will go completely against what I was trying to get across? Yes, of course—and that’s especially challenging here, because I was trying to write in Alaska about the way that Pudge’s romanticization of Alaska was so horrifically destructive and I wanted the story to be about the dangers of idealization/romanticization of those you claim to love, but it’s easy to fall instead into the standard story of a boy learning lessons from an enigmatic girl. (Basically, I never wanted it to be a story of Pudge learning important lessons from Alaska. I wanted it to be a story of Pudge having to grapple with his real negligence toward his friend and its real consequences.)
I don’t know if the show will accomplish that—I don’t even know if the book accomplished it.
But let’s not forget: Green read the pilot and approves! Thankfully, that means we can assume the scenario described above is more of a hypothetical. And, speaking of, I’ll hypothetically be starting that Hulu free trial I’ve been hoarding the second this series drops.
Featured Image Via Penguin Teen.