By Samantha Puc
Whenever executive producer Kevin Williamson (Scream, The Vampire Diaries) puts his name on a project, it’s guaranteed to be super-creative, at least a little dark, and full of twists; essentially, nothing like what the audience expects it to be. That includes Williamson’s newest project, Tell Me A Story, which premieres on CBS All Access on Oct. 31.
— CBS All Access (@CBSAllAccess) October 5, 2018
Combining the classic fairytales “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel & Gretel,” and “The Three Little Pigs,” Tell Me A Story is a gritty, modern-day story that pulls morals from the original Grimm Brothers stories and subverts them. Through the course of the first season, these three tales will slowly intertwine to create something very unique, according to Williamson.
“This is originally a format from Argentina, where they were doing an anthology,” Williamson said during a press panel at New York Comic Con. “When I watched it and I thought, well, this could be so much more than just a one-off. So, we decided to take three fairytales and intertwine them.”
“[Williamson] has really done a really good job of modernizing them but keeping the morals,” said Dania Ramirez, who plays one of the siblings. “What you can take away from the fairytales is still present in today’s day. If you look back at the original tales, they were pretty dark as well.”
“They were morality tales,” Williamson agreed. He said he wanted to question how we interpret those morals in the current day.
For example: James Wolk and Paul Wesley play two of the three little pigs, who are depicted in the series trailer as armed robbers.
“We all know how ‘The Three Little Pigs’ ends, or do we? Who’s the wolf? Who’s the pigs? Who’s good? Who’s bad? Who’s in between?” Williamson asked. “Life is riddled with bad decisions and bad choices. How do you crawl out of them?”
In keeping true with the three little pigs having homes made of different materials in the original story, Wolk said that each of the three “pigs” in the show have living spaces that will be visited during the series and will, presumably, reveal much about their characters.
“I would say the most preparation that the show calls for, more than the action, is the emotional preparation because there’s some dark stuff,” Wolk said. “I feel like it is our jobs as actors to portray that authentically.”
Wesley remarked that emotional preparation is particularly important for Wolk, suggesting that his character arc will be one of the most intense. Meanwhile, for Wesley, diving into Tell Me A Story meant uncovering just how dark the Grimm Brothers fairytales really are.
“I didn’t really know much about fairytales,” Wesley said. “Obviously, I knew as much as the average person and obviously, once I got the part, I started reading up on them. They’re very morbid and very scary. I can understand why someone such as Kevin, who’s done things like Scream or The Following would want to pursue this. It’s a cautionary horror tale, in my opinion.”
Billy Magnussen, who plays Nick (“Little Red Riding Hood”), said the series is “sexy, dark, dangerous. My character — or at least our storyline and my end of it, is about obsession and how destructive and crippling it can be when you become so obsessed about something.”
Opposite Magnussen is Danielle Campbell, who plays Kayla (the wolf). In opposition to Magnussen’s character being obsessive, Campbell said Kayla is constantly seeking distraction from the pain of her mother dying.
“She and Nick’s character end up in a very complicated situation that continues to kind of get worse and worse and worse,” Campbell said. She added, “I think the show is a lot different from other things that are on TV right now. Everyone thinks that the show has a supernatural component, but it doesn’t. It’s modern-day, it’s New York. These characters are dealing with some of the most intense, crazy, ridiculous situations that you just don’t understand how they got themselves in or how they’re going to get out of it.”
“I was watching [the Argentinian anthology] and thinking, if we had to write these fairytales today, what would they look like?” Williamson said. “I sort of feel like we live in a very interesting time in America. There’s Rage America. It’s so dark; things seem a little hopeless. I sort of feel like we live in a time of despair, in a lot of ways. You wake up in the morning and think, ‘I can’t believe that happened today.’ I kind of wanted the show to reflect that.”
“That’s why we chose these three, because we thought that they were vastly different in their morality tale, and they would complement each other and they didn’t overlap,” Williamson said.
“They intertwine, but a lot of times, we’re living in our own worlds,” Ramirez added. “The really exciting part about working on a show like this for someone like me is that I get to watch the episodes and really watch a show that I haven’t seen filmed the whole time, except for my storyline.”
Tell Me A Story premieres on CBS All Access on Oct. 31. For more, follow CBS All Access on social media.