Period dramas are certainly having a moment. The latest to join the ranks? The Great Gatsby.
Yep, the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is heading to the small screen — envisioned as a big budgeted, closed-ended miniseries. Roaring ‘20s, anyone?
Gatsby Series Spearheaded by Vikings and Tudors Creator
The series is being spearheaded by none other than Michael Hirst. You’ve likely seen his work if you’re a fan of period shows. He’s best known for films Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, plus the Emmy Award-winning TV series The Tudors and Vikings.
Now, Hirst is teaming up with A+E Studios and ITV Studios America to bring us a (hopefully) extravagant TV adaptation of The Great Gatsby. There isn’t a network involved in the project yet. The co-producers plan to shop the series around to premium cable and streaming outlets.
Blake Hazard, a great-granddaughter of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald — and a trustee of the estate — will serve as a consulting producer.
The novel, first published in 1925, has seen numerous adaptations for TV and the big screen. Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio is arguably the most famous adaptation (and spawned some Leo memes). Oh, and there was that time that Andy Kaufman famously read The Great Gatsby in its entirety to a crowd that came to see his stand-up routine.
More Gatsby? Yes Please!
With all the adaptations over the years, do we really need another?
Well, yes. I think we do. And not just because there has never been a Great Gatsby TV show to make any genuine impact (though that’s also a good reason to bring the story to the small screen). I think it’s the perfect time for us to reimagine this story.
“As the critic Lionel Trilling once wrote: ‘The Great Gatsby is still as fresh as when it first appeared, it has even gained in weight and relevance.’ Today, as America seeks to reinvent itself once again, is the perfect moment to look with new eyes at this timeless story, to explore its famous and iconic characters through the modern lens of gender, race and sexual orientation,” Hirst said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Fitzgerald’s profoundly romantic vision does not prevent him examining and exposing the darker underbelly of the American experience,” he continued. “Which is why the story speaks to both tragedy and hope, and why it continues to resonate today.”
A Reimagining of the Classic Novel
Hirst’s Gatsby won’t be a direct adaptation. The series will dig deeper into the hidden lives of its characters and explore the classic story in terms of the racial divide that existed in America during the 1920s. Gatsby will explore New York’s Black community in the ’20s, as well as the musical subculture that influenced the era.
To really get it right, the project has brought on Farah Jasmine Griffin to serve as a consultant on the series. Griffin is the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies at Columbia University. She will work directly with Hirst, and consulting producer Hazard.
“I have long dreamt of a more diverse, inclusive version of Gatsby that better reflects the America we live in, one that might allow us all to see ourselves in Scott’s wildly romantic text,” Hazard said. “Michael brings a deep reverence for Scott’s work to the project, but also a fearlessness about bringing such an iconic story to life in an accessible and fresh way. I’m delighted to be a part of the project.”
All in all, it’s shaping up to be a fresh take that hasn’t been done yet. I have faith that Hirst will stay true to the classic novel, but build on it with a modern reimagining that will be more reflective of our America — both then and now.