Today Peacock premieres its new series, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol
. The series is based on Brown’s international bestselling thriller and follows Robert Langdon (Ashley Zukerman), a symbologist who must work against the clock to solve a series of deadly puzzles after his mentor, Peter Solomon (Eddie Izzard), is captured. He is aided by Solomon’s daughter, Katherine (Valorie Curry).
Monday, cast members Zukerman, Curry, Izzard, Rick Gonzalez (Nunez), Beau Knapp (Mal’akh), and Sumalee Montano (Inoue Sato), as well as showrunners Jay Beattie and Dan Dworkin, and executive producer Brian Grazer, took part in a panel as part of the TCA summer tour.
Knapp, who’s character is covered in tattoos in many of his scenes, talked to Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision about how long it takes to get them applied. “It depends on the day. If it's just my hands and feet, it's three and a half hours, but if we are doing the full body, we are talking eight hours in the chair, which is brutal, but it's worth it once you see the show.”
The cast and crew also talked to SciFi Vision about how they themselves feel about puzzles. Star Zukerman likes them, and it has helped him develop his character. “That is something I enjoy anyway, and I've convinced myself that it's now research [but] it has escalated, how much time I've spent doing puzzles and playing chess. I think that there is something interesting that happens when you spend a lot of time figuring out these puzzles, like the crossword or sudoku. You start to think a little differently, and I think that has actually helped me in the way Langdon thinks about things. It's a different language as soon as you spend time with different material like that…You are what you eat, and if you just keep eating puzzles, that is how your brain starts to work, and that is something I've enjoyed. So, now I've convinced everyone that that's been an essential part of the research.”
Both Dworkin and Izzard feel they aren’t good at puzzles. Izzard added, “I'd like to add that I suck at puzzles, and I don't like chess, and I don't like crosswords, because I can't do them, but I can do sudoku, and I'm good at strategy. So, it's interesting, because I think chess is actually something that confines you with strategy, because the strategy is set, but real life is about thinking out of the box, and I can think out of the box. But puzzles, I would know someone like Ashley, like Langdon, in my life to solve my puzzles. That's what I would do.”
As with the original novel, there are quite a lot of puzzles in the series. According to Beattie, “If you talk about puzzles, that's what this novel is, but to approach it for television and creating ten hours of content, I think…there's a spine of a narrative structure to it. We certainly had to break it apart and then reassemble it. So, it's a bit of a remix in that way.”
Aside from puzzles, obviously another big part of the series is secrets and secret societies. Grazer finds such things interesting. “I've always found ‑ I think everyone finds secret organizations ‑ organizations that control the world, they are compelling. They exceed the force of gravity…There’re so many people that have these underlying philosophies that are often true about secret societies - the Illuminati, of course, which is referenced in these books - and they are endlessly interesting.”
He also revealed that he does believe there are actually some secret symbols in the real world. “Yes, I do think there're secret symbols, and I think there're secret symbols of the world that guide us towards or away from things. I do think that there's unifying force in the world.”
Dworkin expanded more on specifically what they brought from the book to the series. “In terms of how closely the series follows the novel, it's a tough question to answer, because the bones are all pretty much intact. It gave us a great framework and skeleton for the season. There is a lot of stuff from the book that people who have read the book are going to be glad to see, and there's maybe a couple things that were in the book that they are going to miss, but, by and large, the moves are very similar, but when you have to fill out ten hours, it is incumbent upon you to make up a lot of new stuff. So, we have filled in a lot of stuff that was left somewhat open in the book, and we've created a couple new characters, and we've created new back stories. We've created new elements.”
Grazer talked to the press about the book being made into a series, as opposed to another film. “As we see right now, certainly in our modern cinema or video, both, cinematic form just takes size and shape differently all the time. It's so fluid that way. So, we found that the character was so strong that the character and his journey actually warranted and sustained itself as a series as opposed to a movie…It has more propulsion in a serialized form as a series, actually. So that's sort of how we ended up with it this way.”
In the series, Langdon and Katherine come at things from different perspectives. Langdon is often the skeptic, and Katherine, the believer. She works in noetic science, which deals with studying and understanding intellectual and spiritual capabilities and its effects on the physical world, such as with healing. Dworkin thought that that part of the Katherine’s character was important to adapt. “That was an element that I gravitated towards. When you are looking at source material, you need to find the stuff that you really want to mine as a writer. That was something I found very cool, a little bit unlike other Dan Brown books, very fresh, and in shows like The X Files
. I like living in that world. You can't quite go there in a Dan Brown story, because everything needs to ultimately be grounded and steeped in a kind of reality, but you can flirt with it, and I love that. I love the element that that brings to the show, and I love the dynamic that it kind of fosters between [Langdon] and Katherine. It's just essential when it comes to their relationship, he being a skeptic, she kind of being a quasi‑believer, and them kind of having to meet in the middle at various points, that's kind of cool. So, that's one of the things that kind of got me excited about the show.”
The actors each took time to talk about their characters in the series. When speaking about playing Langdon, Zukerman said that he did not feel pressure to live up to the Tom Hanks’ version of the character from the films. “I was just genuinely honored to have been chosen. I know this is material that just means a lot to people, and to have been chosen to join that family was just a big thing. And I think maybe something that helped me not feel that pressure was that even though this is the third book of the series, we are using it as an origin story. So, there is a distance we have from that timeline, and studying the book, I could actually look for clues and behaviors to unravel and sort of present the person who was going to become the character everyone loves. So, I think we actually lean on people's love of the films or their love of the books. I think that's something that actually helps us.”
Curry talked to the press about what attracted her to the role of Katherine. “[I played] a psychopathic serial killer for a couple of years, and I had a wonderful time doing that, and, honestly, a big part of what attracted me to playing Katherine is that despite being somebody who has experienced a lot of trauma - and that's something that she unpacks over the course of this season, [and] as is everyone, we are all haunted by our demons - ultimately, as a character, her pole star is possibility and curiosity, and it's a field of study that hinges on the premise that humanity is basically empathetic and cooperative. And I felt like that was a person who I wanted to let into my skin for a while and that that would be a real pleasure and honor to do so.”
Gonzalez teased a bit about his character, Nunez, who is a new character and not originally in the book. “I can't say much except that we know he's a Capitol policeman, and the circumstances are obviously that he's now thrust into a world that he knows nothing of. So, what we'll probably, hopefully, get to see… is someone from the outside looking in and challenging sort of how this whole world exists and how they see things and sort of how he can interject his perspective on trying to help. So, what I love about Nunez is this idea of a character sort of being the audience and giving that perspective in the room. So, I'm excited for people to get to know Nunez. It's been a real treat.”
The actor also compared Nunez to his character on Arrow
, Rene Ramirez (Wild Dog). “As Valorie sort of hinted, new characters are tormented in certain ways, and there's things propelling these characters into their purpose, into going on this journey. And I think, for my character, there's something propelling him. I think, as the season progresses, we'll learn more about what's propelling my character to follow this story to be involved in some sort of way, and I think that sort of mirrors itself in Arrow
, my character finding a purpose to fight crime. And there was something that was leaning on this character in terms of having that need to do that. Specifically how they are different is sort of how they approach life and their perspective on it, and then I think there's this, I wouldn't say insecurity with Nunez, but there's this mechanism inside of him that sort of deals with uncomfortable situations and how he connects to people, and that's very different from how my character in Arrow
[connected] with people...So, I admire the way Nunez is, because he's so much more gregarious and outgoing and [funnier] than I could ever be. He just has this energy that I love about him. So, we'll get to meet him more, and I'm excited to see what people think.”
Montano also teased a bit about her character on the series. “I will say that our showrunners and writers have done such a great job of, to me, not tokenizing Sato's character at all. There's so much to her. She's really written as kind of a complicated badass that holds a lot of secrets, but I think that complexity lends to a humanity. That is what I connected to…her humanity. There's a lot more to this character than was in the book. So, I'm looking forward to having audiences get to know her and get to know her emotionality as the secrets get revealed.”
She also gave some insight into her preparation for the character. “I am a big nerd. I love to research and do lots of things. And, of course, I read the book and watched the movies and learned as much as I could about the CIA…I guess the testimony to all the work that we've all put in is really what a great experience this has been for me working with this cast and crew. Everybody just pours themselves into creating the best show possible, and it's been an amazing experience, an amazing ride, and I hope that people will really respond to the show. I think we have a really fresh take for this franchise, and I'm super excited for it.”
The actress has played similar characters before in video games and animation, and she was excited to get to play one for television and not just use her voice. “I would always get to play these characters, really smart, strong women in video games or in the animated world, and now I was so excited, because I finally got to play someone similar in the live‑action world, and that has been such an incredible experience.”
Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol is available to stream starting today on Peacock.