What Mr. Mercedes TV Writer Dennis Lehane Thought About Bringing Stephen King Favorite Holly To The Show

holly mr. mercedes

It's not often that a novel can introduce someone halfway through its story and then have that character become the most celebrated part of the book. But Stephen King made just such a thing happen when the emotionally erratic Holly Gibney entered Mr. Mercedes fairly late in the cat-and-mouse game. David E. Kelley's excellent TV adaptation of the novel will finally introduce Holly to viewers soon, and when bestselling author and episode writer Dennis Lehane spoke with CinemaBlend about his work on the show, I asked what he thought about bringing the fan favorite from page to screen. In his words:

I truly don't think about an audience. I just don't. I just think about doing the job. You know, and that's the same way as when I'm writing my own stuff. . . . I just think about what's the truth of the material, and Holly comes in halfway through the book, so she comes in halfway through the show. And she's this wonderful gust of new blood that shows up, and she's so strange and quirky and neurotic and damaged. She's this wonderful character, and once again, [Stephen King] gives us these ten-dimensional characters that we can drill down on, so it was great to have her show up and have a lot of fun with her.

Gotta love that kind of honesty, right? Of course, Mystic River and Shutter Island author Dennis Lehane wasn't being straight-up dismissive of audiences or fans when he said that. Rather, he never wants to let outside opinions rain down on the work he's doing, especially when that work involves turning part of a highly acclaimed Stephen King's novel into a live-action series. Lehane had also told me that was mostly why the show itself didn't look to King for advice on how to handle the adaptation. And one can only assume the suggestions would be endless if the writing staff attempted to get hot takes from readers who adored the book.

More to the point, though, Dennis Lehane was jazzed (in his own understated way) to bring Holly Gibney out to play during the second half of Mr. Mercedes' initial season on Audience Network. After all, there are few co-lead protagonists quite like her in the annals of either literature or television, since she's got mental and physical quirks for days, on top of being quite intellectually incisive. And, having seen actress Justine Lupe in action for Episode 6, one of several that Lehane is credited with writing, I can attest to the character's introduction achieving the same kind of seismic story shift that her first appearances makes in the novel.

Not that Dennis Lehane was only happy about bringing Holly to life in this episode and beyond. As someone whose fandom of the novel landed him the gig in the first place -- being a colleague of David E. Kelley did help, of course -- the author was pleased to tackle the storytelling for many of the characters, with one other one in particular.

Yeah, it's meaningful to bring them all to life, you know? I love Holly, I love Hodges, I love Jerome. I, for whatever reason, I really drove down on Deb. That was a lot of fun for me. . . . Stephen writes very rich characters. There's a lot to bite into and chew on. So for somebody just translating that to the screen, it can be an embarrassment of riches.

Deb definitely does have some interesting moments coming, as well as Holly, and we'll have more to say about that after Episode 6 has made it to air. For those who want a first peek at what Justine Lupe's Holly is like in a very small dose, check out the trailer below, while trying not to glare at Brady the whole time.

As one of the most enjoyable TV adaptations of Stephen King's work, Mr. Mercedes airs Wednesday nights on Audience Network at 8:00 p.m. ET. Check out how the horror-driven drama playfully called out American Horror Story: Cult recently, and to see what other shows may put a tingle in your spin on the small screen in the near future, head to our fall premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.