Before gearing up for the newest episode of “The Shannara Chronicles,” titled “Safehold,” Zap2it got to sit down with series creators – and executive producers – Miles Miller and Al Gough to talk about MTV’s hit series.
Miller and Gough dished on factoring Eretria’s bisexuality into the mix, which scenes they decided to cut from the book and how real world issues affect the way they write the inter-species dynamics of “The Shannara Chronicles.”
The fantasy genre has always been a bit of a boy’s club, but you’ve created two great characters in Amberle (Poppy Drayton) and Eretria (Ivana Baquero). What inspired you to make that dynamic so complex?
Miles Miller: It was a big part when we were first given the book. That’s exactly right, it’s usually like a boy scout trek to Mordor or whatever … in a way, Terry [Brooks] was ahead of his time. Now when you look at all the YA from “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” and things like that …
Al Gough: … they feel sort of derivative of this. [Shannara] is kind of the granddaddy of YA. It was sort of YA before there was YA. That was something that really appealed to us in terms of the really strong female characters — that they were badass, they were capable, they had points of view that didn’t relate to romance or to men or to boys and they had goals and ambitions that were very relatable.
They came from different sides of the tracks and neither of them had had an easy life. Amberle had been trapped and sort of isolated from the world in Arbolon and the palace. Eretria had been basically abused — and her history is very dark and twisted — so I think we really felt they were two damaged individuals, who come together and find with Wil (Austin Butler) this friendship, which is very special and unique.
That relationship and that triangle is incredibly complex with Eretria’s bisexuality, her attraction to Amberle and the mutual attraction for Wil. It was really trying to find a new take on a love triangle particularly in the prism of a fantasy world.
Miller: And they have their own prejudices beyond their mutual attraction to Wil, so I think that’s also been something you don’t see a lot in these kind of love triangles. Usually it’s just about the boy … they have their own issues that have nothing to do with him as well.
What are the biggest issues you’ve run into adapting the book?
Miller: It’s a huge fantasy book and those are challenging by nature. I think what’s interesting about this first trilogy of books Terry has is that they were written at a time when the primary readership was boys, so there were a ton of battle sequences in the book that we didn’t put on-screen.
There was a huge sequence that you’ll see in the finale when the Dagdamor and the demon army come at Arborlon, but there was a lot of skirmishes … they just didn’t progress the story.
Also, you know, the books were written in a much gentler time. So it was really looking for the complexities with Wil, Amberle and Eretria that are more relatable to audiences today versus somebody reading the book in 1977.
We’re living in a world right now with a lot of xenophobia and volatility, so does the show have an agenda to fight that?
Gough: Well I certainly think episode number 6, which is called “Pykon,” we sort of dealt with our version of a Guantanamo situation, where Amberle learns that the elves aren’t as benevolent as she’d thought; that she’s been lied to her whole life.
She learns that her grandfather who seems like this kindly old king, actually tortured people for the good of the world. I think for her, this is a journey of enlightenment in terms of learning that the world she thought worshipped elves, and the elves were kindly and good …
Miller: … the elves were there to protect everybody and take care of them, and then you realize that’s actually not necessarily the case. They’ve been sort of in it for themselves, which is Amberle’s view of Rovers.
Then, when you hear Cephelo (James Remar), who is clearly not a good guy, he made a lot of points about Pykon and how they tortured people. You’re like, ‘Oh my god, he was right!’ It’s her starting to realize that these other races have legitimate gripes.
“The Shannara Chronicles” airs Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.