Will Trent Author Karin Slaughter Gets 'Super Honest' About The ABC Series Casting Book Characters (Including Betty) And Southern Authenticity

Will Trent came to primetime in the 2023 TV premiere schedule to debut Ramón Rodriguez as an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, whose talents set him apart even while his social skills are less refined. The new show is based on the Will Trent novel series written by Karin Slaughter. In a sneak peek for the new episode on January 31 (seen above), Will shows how attached he already is to Betty the chihuahua. Read on for the author’s “super honest” thoughts about changes from book to screen, as well as the castings for the characters… including Betty! 

Karin Slaughter is the New York Times Best Seller of more than twenty novels, including ten in the Will Trent series. Her written works mean that the ABC series had plenty of source material to draw on to bring the characters to the screen and build their world in Atlanta. When she spoke with CinemaBlend about her books and the show, she weighed in on the cast. While she wasn’t involved in choosing the stars, there is one scene-stealer who is a standout for her: 

I wish they had let me choose Betty, just because I would love to be around that many dogs. They just know what they're doing [with casting]. I think they've done an exceptional job, and I'm really pleased with it. But no, I wasn't involved with it… I feel so sorry for Ramón, because it's like, you just can't take your eyes off her. I mean, yeah, he's a sexy guy and all that, but you know… Betty.

While Betty may not be top-billed on the cast of Will Trent, the above sneak peek for the January 31 episode – called “The Look Out” – suggests that Ramón Rodriguez’s character would probably agree about the pup’s importance for the show! The good news for the missing Betty is that if anybody could be trusted to pull out all the stops to find their dog, it would be the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s best, with the help of Angie (Erika Christensen). 

Of course, casting characters (other than Betty) meant some changes from what Karin Slaughter wrote for them on the page. Readers will know that Ramón Rodriguez doesn’t exactly match the description for the blond Will Trent from the books, and the success of the show depends on how well the titular character is portrayed as well as those around him. When asked what she thinks of the actors who were cast to bring her characters to life on TV, the author shared:

I'm gonna be super honest. I was a little nervous, because I had pictured them in my head, and I was worried that my readers would have problems. But for the most part, they're as happy as I am. I always remind myself that my Dutch readers think Will rides a bike to work, and my Brazilian readers think he speaks Portuguese. So everybody has a different idea of what they look like. At the end of the day, you have to cast an actual person, and I would much rather have someone who understands the character, really gets where he's coming from and knows the kind of man he is than somebody who might not get all those things, but might be more Scandinavian-looking, if that makes sense.

If the author vouches for actors playing characters who don’t match their physical descriptions from the book, then readers and viewers alike can have faith that the show is doing those characters justice! As Slaughter pointed out, fans from all over the world have their own images from what they read, and the actors' performances and understanding are more important than hair color. She went on to name some more standouts from the first season so far: 

Particularly Iantha [Richardson] as Faith is amazing. She just brings a different level to the role. And of course, Sonja [Sohn] as Amanda just hits those lines very succinctly, those good Amanda lines that are a bit biting to Will and Faith. I think it just all comes together beautifully.

Changes from page to screen in any adaptation are inevitable, and in fact happened with the Netflix presentation of Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, which diverged from the source material in some particular ways. So, did the author have any points from her Will Trent books that she wanted to be adapted as accurately as possible on the TV show? The author opened up, saying:

Well, a couple of things, because I live in Atlanta. Atlanta is a very multicultural city. We're a majority minority city, and we've been that way since the early 1970s. I wanted to make sure that that was captured in not just the people who are talking on screen, but the people around them, to have that reflection of a multicultural city, and they've gone to some very interesting parts of Atlanta and outside in the metro area. That was really the main thing I wanted to make sure. You know, you can't put this in Vancouver and have the extras sounding like they're Canadians trying to do Southern accents. The Southerners really sound Southern in this setting… It's really cool having that knowledge of the fact that it's a show about Atlanta that takes place in Atlanta.

Not all shows are able to actually film in the same areas as where they’re set; the author's example of Vancouver actually doubles as many different places across many different projects, including a number of shows on The CW. Will Trent is an exception, as it is both set in Atlanta and able to film in Atlanta. Viewers have already seen the authenticity in ways that range from the accents of various actors to even the climate. Karin Slaughter went on to praise the show’s authenticity in bringing the books to the screen:

I love when they do those little cuts that show different parts of the city. I've read ahead, [and] some of the scripts are going to be in different areas that you don't really hear talked about, and they're really embracing the history of the city. There's a lot of blood in the soil that has a memory of some of the tragedies that have happened here, but also some of the tremendous progress that's happened in Atlanta. So I think they're just doing a really good job of making sure if they go to a place and they talk about that place, they show it for what it is, the good and the bad.

Will Trent has already touched on some of the tragedies of Atlanta and even beyond in Georgia, notably including the episode set at Lake Lanier. Fans will have to wait and see where else the series will explore in Georgia, but Slaughter’s comments after reading ahead suggest that there’s a lot to look forward to. 

The next new episode of Will Trent airs on Tuesday, January 31 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. Called “The Look Out,” the clock will be ticking for Will to solve a shooting case. Take a look at the promo: 

It looks like Will’s friction with others in law enforcement hasn’t gone away, even though he and Faith have settled into a strong (and slightly snarky) partnership. New episodes of Will Trent air on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC, following The Rookie: Feds at 9 p.m. and The Rookie at 8 p.m. after the time slot changes for the new year. If you’ve missed any of Will Trent’s first season so far, you can catch up streaming with a Hulu subscription.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).