Showtime's dramatic series adaptation of Let the Right One In is playing with a brand new set of characters, setting, and expanded mythology from the novel or even the feature films before it. But its roots are in the source material not only in the specific subject matter of a young vampire and the relationships it forms, but also in themes.
"It's a new story that really is at the same time very much a love letter to the film," showrunner Andrew Hinderaker said during a Television Critics Association press tour panel for the show, calling the film adaptation "not only one of the best horror movies, but also so moving."
All of the versions focus on the relationship between a young vampire and its caretaker, as well as that young vampire and a human friend. But Hinderaker saw "real creative space to build upon what was already there" in the film, especially with his vampire and her caretaker.
In this version of the story, Madison Taylor Baez plays Eleanor Kane, the tween vampire who was turned a decade ago and now lives in secret with her father Mark (Demián Bichir), who also acts as her supplier of blood, whether that means opening his own veins for her or procuring the substance from strangers.
The show is "exploring addiction and exploring what a parent will do for a child when they're struggling with addiction," Hinderaker said. "It felt like this incredible gift to take what was in the foundation of the film and explore the lengths that this father would go to to keep his daughter alive."
Although Eleanor is the one with violent urges, Mark is the one who may get violent in order to satisfy her cravings, while instead teaching her not to harm anyone. Her ability to temper her urges is especially important in building a relationship with Isaiah (Ian Foreman) who lives next door with his own single parent (Naomi, played by Anika Noni Rose), but who he only meets outside and at night. (Because vampires can't go out in the sunlight and no one is supposed to know Mark has a daughter because then there would be questions about why she is shut in the house all of the time.)
The relationship between the children in the film was something Hinderaker called "astonishingly beautiful and poignant and poetic" and therefore an "aesthetic inspiration" for the series. But complicating matters is that Naomi is a detective investigating a series of murders that appear so gruesome everyone thinks they can't possibly be done by someone's hand, Hinderaker said. But they are. The violent tendencies the vampires in this world can exhibit are just that severe.
"I love that this woman is a hunter. She is extremely intelligent; she is a lover of her child: She loves this kid and would do anything for this kid to the point where she ends up hurting his feelings trying to protect him. She is so many things all wrapped in one, and I think that leads to something very interesting because so many times she make a decision for her kid and that is at odds with something else," Rose said. "I find her intriguing in the way that she's like a kaleidoscope. ... She's in flux at all times and juggling at all times how to be the best she can be because she also has an A-type personality.."
Set in present-day New York City, Showtime's Let The Right One In also introduces the mysterious Logan family, which features at least one member who is a vampire, while other members are trying to find a cure for that condition. Logan family members include Arthur (Željko Ivanek), Claire (Grace Gummer), and Matthew (Nick Stahl).
Claire is not a character from the film, so Gummer noted that in working with Hinderaker and executive producer and director Seith Mann, she spent a lot of time "asking a lot of background questions just so I could really get a sense of where her goodness and her heart and her anger and her pain lies."
"She's very complicated and she does very complicated things to save her brother and to find a cure, which makes her a pretty good adversary to [Mark]," she continued. "The show is always toeing the line between good and evil and who's doing the right thing and who's doing the wrong thing. It's in the gray zone where everyone lies, and it's for good reasons. And I think that's how we live our lives anyway as complicated, three-dimensional people."
As episodes go on, the three families' individual stories will undoubtedly become more intertwined, and that may even require flashing back to see how Eleanor and/or Matthew became vampires to further explain the rules around and abilities they exhibit.
There is a line in the book, Hinderaker said, that reads, "to be a vampire is to be an infection," and a version of that line carried over to the film as well, so for the series he talked to a virologist "about the idea of, if this were an infection, how would it work?"
"What emerged from that, born from the source material, was a set of rules [of vampires]," he said. But, "science alone can't tell the full story," and as the title suggests, there are other rules, such as vampires needing to be invited into homes.
Let the Right One In premieres Oct. 7 on Showtime's digital platforms and then airs linearly on the premium cable network Oct. 9 at 10 p.m.