By JUDY SLOANE
Front Row Features
PASADENA, CA-Based on the book of the same name by Ann Napolitano, “Dear Edward” tells the heartbreaking and uplifting story of Edward Adler (Colin O’Brien, “Wonka,”) a 12-year-old boy who is the only survivor of a commercial airline crash that kills his family. As Edward and relatives and friends of the deceased passengers try to my sense of the tragedy, unexpected friendships, romances and communities are formed. The series will premiere on Apple TV+ on February 3, 2023.
Creator and Executive Producer Jason Katims (“Saturday Night Lights,” “About a Boy,” “Parenthood”) came to the TV Critics Association tour in Pasadena, California, along with the star of the series Colin O’Brien, to talk about the drama.
Q: Jason, your writing always has a gentle humanity about it. Where do you think you got that from?
Jason Katims: I don’t know where I got it. I will say that I started by writing plays, where I felt it was always about character. It was always about people. What I’ve tried to do in whatever project I’m working on is to find that human connection, get underneath the characters, write from the inside out and just find what it is that we’re all looking for which is connectivity. And then what are the obstacles to that; our own flaws, our own pasts, our histories, all of those things.
I think all of those things go into the equation. I’ve also always loved people’s voices. I love hearing people speak. I love hearing words. I just love to listen to the way people talk and how they interact and of the silences between things, and then try to incorporate that into writing.
Q: Colin, survivor’s guilt is a very difficult thing to process for anyone of any age, much less someone as young as yourself. How did you get into the headspace and how much of that do you understand?
Colin O’Brien: When I was talking to Jason at the director’s callback, we talked about these things. And before scenes, I remember I would sometimes just put my head down [and] think things through. During the pandemic, we lost our grandpa on my dad’s side. And we couldn’t really have a funeral for him at the time. And so, I just used things like that to try and help me bring life to this character and bring life to these things the character would express and try and make it seem more real.
Q: When there’s a young person on the set, there’s always this conflict between do we share everything with him, how much do we make him go through? Would you rather have everything out in the open, or do you understand that people want to protect you?
O’Brien: I think there’s a balance. I think child actors can definitely handle a lot more than you might think in terms of the weight to a script or a role. I’m really glad Jason could trust me with that.
Katims: We would be talking about scenes and I would have to remind myself that he’s a child actor because he really approached this role not only so professionally, but with a desire to deeply understand every moment. And if there ever was a time when he didn’t understand the moment, he would come to me or the director of that episode and work it through. It’s a lot to be a young man and have to be responsible for [a series.] The show is called “Dear Edward.” It was amazing for all of us to get to work with him.
Q: Jason, when you watch TV shows and movies, are you a big crier or do you just sadistically make other people cry? (everyone laughs)
Katims: It’s funny, I do cry. I’ve cried on set. You get to work with these incredible actors, about stories that are about people. In this particular case, it’s a story about resilience and the power of the human spirit. And the fact that people, under these extraordinary, very difficult circumstances are redefining themselves and finding their own power. I feel like when you get to tell stories like this, you have to open yourself up emotionally.
Q: Colin, that plane crash scene looked extremely disturbing. When you were on set for that were you extremely conscious of, okay, this is a set, this is my job, or did that have any reality for you?
O’Brien: Something interesting is they actually rocked the plane cabin inside of a studio. I remember at the time of shooting I was really curious what that would look like in the final product. And when [I was] doing voiceover my mom cried while watching it when the editors showed it to us. Sorry, Mom. I think it turned out great.
Q: Jason, since this is based on a book, do you see this going multiple seasons if allowed?
Katims: The intention is we would love to do future seasons. I wanted to explore the story in such a way that would set itself up to continue to expand and grow which is why when we first optioned the book I talked to Ann Napolitano, who wrote the beautiful book that the story is inspired by. We talked about the fact that we would take some liberties with the book and add more characters that weren’t in the book, so that it would set up a situation where you would have a story that would continue these lives that we would want to know more about.
The story begins with this event that’s very dramatic, but I feel like what the story is ultimately about are these characters, and the relationships that have been formed; unexpected relationships with people who never would have known each other who have become deeply connected through circumstance. You’ve always got to ask is there more that I want to know about these characters, is there more story to tell? And I definitely feel that way.