Noga Landau (The Magicians) and Melinda Hsu Taylor (The Vampire Diaries) are among the executive producers who have brought a new interpretation of Nancy Drew to our television screens with a show that premieres tonight (October 9) at 9PM ET/PT following Riverdale.
The series takes the character from the classic books and puts her in a more modern setting, as now Nancy Drew has to deal with a murder and possible supernatural occurrences in Horseshoe Bay. As with the classic books, Nancy is surrounded by an ensemble of friends, and familiar faces like George, Carson Drew, and Ned Nickerson are reinvented with new twists, and in some cases like “Nick’s,” better nicknames.
KSiteTV’s Craig Byrne had the privilege earlier this year of speaking with Noga Landau and Melinda Hsu Taylor about The CW’s big new mystery.
KSITETV’s CRAIG BYRNE: How did you both become interested in Nancy Drew?
NOGA LANDAU: We both grew up reading Nancy Drew. I grew up going to the Scholastic Book Fair and picking out the one I was going to get, and then I just convinced myself that I was Nancy Drew, and I would sort of run around and spy on my neighbors be like, they’re up to something. And it’s like, no, they’re just fixing their car in their driveway. She tapped into this spirit that I think so many people have for mysteries lurking below the surface of everyday life.
MELINDA HSU TAYLOR: I also read Nancy Drew as a kid, and I was a big reader, because I was very, very shy. I grew up in Maine, and at the time, it was like, mostly white people. Everybody was nice, but I felt very timid and self-conscious, so I would hide in my bedroom and then read [books like] Lord of the Rings over and over again, because in those stories, if you’re different, it’s cool. And I really gravitated toward anything that was adventure, or escapist, or like fantasy, science fiction, Nancy Drew was part of the kind of adventure side of my bookshelf. But I also loved that she had all these different friends, and that they would solve things by themselves, and then they didn’t need grownups around them. They didn’t need somebody telling them what to do. And in fact, usually they were doing what they were not supposed to do. Opposite of my childhood. [Laughs] So, you know, I really gravitated toward that part of her character.
And Horseshoe Bay is in Maine, correct?
MELINDA: It is!
NOGA: [The real place is] outside of Vancouver, and we realized it was just the perfect town for the show, so we sort of swooped in there. And they have been very nice and letting us take over the town.
The original Nancy Drew TV series from the 1970s (starring Pamela Sue Martin) had some episodes that were directly adapted from the books. Will you be doing anything like that here?
NOGA: Not really, but we are going to be taking certain pieces of the canon and sprinkling them cleverly through our episodes in surprising ways that should be a really fun treat for fans of the books.
Speaking of the parts of the canon that you sprinkle in, there are a lot of characters from the books that are in this series. There’s a lot more diversity, which is wonderful. Did that diversity come from the writing, or did it come from who happened to be cast?
NOGA: That was always there from the beginning.
Each of the characters seems to have a secret past. Can you tease any of those, or talk about where we’ll be seeing any of those characters as we meet them?
MELINDA: I will randomly start with Ace because he’s my favorite. [Laughs] He’s so interesting. Alex Saxon is so hilarious, and a lot of the stuff that he says and does, he improvises on set, which is great. I mean, they’re all very funny, but Alex really has a gift that we’re showcasing as much as we can.
His backstory is that he has a dad [where] new police chief McGinnis did him a solid back in the day, and now that McGinnis has Ace a little bit in a bind when he finds him maybe growing more plants have a certain kind, instead of sending him to jail, or having him do 1000 hours of community service, McGinnis says okay, you work for me now, and I’m going to call you in whenever I feel like it. That is something we’ll get to see play out over the course of the season.
NOGA: Nick – now we call him Nick instead of Ned – he has a very complicated backstory in the sense that he is a good guy who, at a time, got caught in a bad situation and made a really irreversible choice. It’s also something for Nancy to investigate and unpack, because everything is not entirely what it appears to be. That’s going to come up in future episodes in a really big way.
George is one of many kids from different dads and a single mom who had her when she was really young, and she is now kind of pursuing this relationship with Ryan Hudson, an older married guy whose wife was just murdered in a parking lot, so it’s not great timing, George! It’s like she wears her armor in life, but what’s beneath it is a very kind of vulnerable person who’s more similar to Nancy in ways than she’s willing to admit. But really, I think that the George-Nancy dynamic is one of the most important parts of our show.
MELINDA: And then Bess is also really fun. She’s got this really hidden backstory in terms of how how she got to Horseshoe Bay, and why she’s there, and why she’s not exactly who she says she is, and yet, there is truth to what she’s claiming. At the same time, she’s living in this van, and what’s that about. You know? She’s a fun character.
Maddison [Jaizani, who plays Bess] is naturally very bubbly and sweet and can deliver these kind of loopy lines with total sincerity, and she can get a laugh without you feeling sorry for her.
Is this a series that will have a lot of flashbacks moving forward? Because there’s some stuff hinted about Carson Drew in the pilot, for example.
MELINDA: We’ll definitely see a big flashback with him later on down the line. I’d say every handful of episodes, there will be a flashback. So, yes.
Is there any kind of like naming convention you’ll have for episode titles for the show?
NOGA: Every episode, the name of it and looks like a classic Nancy Drew book. So “The Tale Of,” “The Curse Of,” “The Secret Of,” “The Haunted…” they are all based on the structure of the Nancy Drew books.
Can you talk about what it was like to get Pamela Sue Martin for the series, and will we see her come back?
MELINDA: She was so cool. We don’t plan to have her back currently, but she’s a mysterious figure. She herself is so nice. It was an interesting window, because I used to watch that show, too, as a kid.
She was so great on set. She was a pro, and the crew was like “oooh!” when they heard that she was coming. She couldn’t have been warmer, and the really touching letter she wrote to Kennedy was like human being to human being. “I’ve been through this, and it seems like a blink of an eye ago that I was in your shoes.” It was really good mentor-like advice.
Can you talk about how perfect Kennedy McMann was for the role of Nancy Drew?
NOGA: We saw thousands of people, literally, for for the role, and then it got down to the short list, and Kennedy was the smart one. She was the one whose brain was working ahead of everyone else. And what is Nancy Drew, if not the smartest woman in the room? But it’s not just that. It’s that she’s this warm, funny, quirky, down to earth person. And she’s brave, too.
MELINDA: And enormously versatile as an actress. You give her a direction and on a dime, she’ll do the scene a completely different way. She has a spot on memory, knows everybody else’s lines, never misses her mark. She’s great, and then as a person, she’s also like, really kind of an old soul, which really works for the character. She has a really stable family life herself, which I think is great, and that also works for the character.
Even though she doesn’t really have that right now, on the show.
MELINDA: We actually had to give her that direction in the audition, because the scene that she did the audition was when Carson comes to the police station to pick her up, and they have this little argument. And I said, ‘Kennedy, if you don’t mind me asking, what is your relationship like with your dad?’ She said, ‘oh, he’s my best friend.’ I was like, ‘That is so awesome. But imagine your dad is somebody who you’re a little afraid of, you’re always chasing his approval, but you never feel like you lived up to his expectations, and that guy comes to pick you up at the police station, and you’re so embarrassed.’ I may have shared a couple stories from my youth. Not from police stations, but just from wanting Dad’s approval. And she played the scene in a completely different way, and it was fantastic.
This is a decidedly more adult Nancy Drew. Can you talk about the decision to go that way, rather than something that maybe a 12 year old could tune in to?
NOGA: I think it’s age appropriate in this day and time to to show what we show on screen. I also think that we have an opportunity with Nancy Drew. To show a girl who is not only smart, brave, driven, complicated, fraught… like, all the things on all the spectrum, but also that she has healthy, consensual, good sex with people that she cares about, and that you can have all those things and still be the hero of the show. And I think that’s just important for girls and boys, everyone to see up on screen.
Can you talk about the spectre that Dead Lucy has over Horseshoe Bay?
NOGA: Dead Lucy is an urban legend in the town, and then she’s here, and we don’t know why. Did she kill Tiffany Hudson, or is the reason why she’s suddenly here a lot more complicated than that? What we’re going to do is figure out who was the girl behind the urban legends, and why that does matter to our story.
You can browse KSiteTV for more Nancy Drew coverage, and you can actually watch the show itself TONIGHT (October 9) at 9PM ET/PT on The CW! Take a look at a trailer for the series below.