When fans of the 1995 film “12 Monkey” tune into Syfy for the premiere of the TV adaptation, there’s going to some changes changes to get used to. The one that may be the most starting is seeing Jeffrey Goines, the character played by Brad Pitt, is now a woman. Jeffrey has been transformed into Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), a math genius stuck in a mental hospital who time traveler James Cole (Aaron Stanford) encounters on his quest to save the human race from a deadly virus.
Why such a drastic change, though? For co-creator Travis Fickett, it was an easy decision to make. “The character was always different,” he tells Zap2it. “What we intended to do with the character was different from what Brad Pitt played in the movie.”
Fickett realized that “anybody that we ask [to play the character] has to live in the shadow of what Brad Pitt did.” That’s when a new idea was presented: “What if we made it a woman?” Fickett remembers co-creator Terry Matalas’ wife asking. That left the door open to a plethora of new possibilities for the character.
“Then there’s potential sexual chemistry with Cole,” Fickett says. “The first meeting is different, everything is different.”
Still, when it came to locating the right actress, casting wasn’t easy. “We read people. There were a lot of interesting performances, but it tended to be a version of Brad Pitt’s, some kind of manic explosion,” he recalls. That’s not what Fiickett and Matalas wanted, though.
Luckily, they found their Jennifer. “Emily Hampshire came in and it was the first time I was like, ‘That’s a crazy person who I don’t think wants to be crazy,'” he says. “She’s such a fascinating actress in the way she’s designed it and played it as a real person. It needs a real person who has an agenda and a load of ideas locked inside that crazy head.”
That casting in particular was a major step in differentiating the show from the movie. Make no mistake, when tuning into “12 Monkeys,” you’re not getting a simple rehash of the film. “I think we did a good job of keeping the spirit of the movie alive, but not telling the same story,” Fickett says. “We can be our own thing, being inspired by that original film.”
“12 Monkeys” premieres Friday, Jan. 16, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.