Ever wonder how novel adaptations end up on our television screens? Here’s the story of one of them, Sundance Channel’s interesting new series HAP AND LEONARD:
by Fred Topel
Jim Mickle’s movie Cold in July brought Joe R. Lansdale’s writing back to the big screen. The only previous movie adaptation was the horror comedy Bubba Ho-Tep, but Mickle, along with cowriter Nick Damici, captured Lansdale’s hard boiled southern crime thriller. Now that team is bringing Lansdale to series television with Sundance Channel’s Hap and Leonard.
James Purefoy plays Hap Collins and Michael K. Williams plays Leonard Pine, two out-of-work men in the ’80s. When Hap’s ex Trudy (Christina Hendricks) brings them the location to a sunken stash, Hap and Leonard agree to help her find it. And everything goes according to plan and they part as friends, right? We sat down with Mickle before Hap and Leonard’s panel for the Television Critics Association to discuss the new show, which premieres this week on SundanceTV.
You’ve done a hard boiled crime story with Cold in July. Had you been thinking about what you might be able to do in television for a while?
Definitely television. I didn’t know it would be sort of grown out of what we’d already done with the Lansdale thing, but definitely. Movies get harder and harder to make and harder and harder to find the right audience for. When you’re doing character-driven genre, that can be really tough. I think television can be really attractive when you want to spend a little more time on a story I guess.
Did you discover Hap and Leonard through Cold in July?
No, Hap and Leonard was one of the first Lansdale things I read, so maybe 10 years ago. I knew about Lansdale throughBubba Ho-Tep, remember that film? I saw that. That kind of blew me away. I was like, “Whoever did this, I want to read everything they’ve done.” So I tracked down a lot of Joe’s stuff, one of the first of which was I think Two-Bear Mambo, the third book in the Hap and Leonard series. Cold in July came after that but there’s some overlaps too. The Don Johnson character in Cold in July is in the Hap and Leonard universe so there’s cool overlaps….