The creators of Limetown explained the challenges and changes that came with adapting their podcast into a TV show. For those unfamiliar, Limetown is a hit podcast that is joining several others in getting the adaptation treatment. Like some other recent podcast-to-TV series, Limetown is a fictional story.
As you can tell from the trailer, Limetown follows Jessica Biel’s Lia Haddock, who is a journalist determined to solve the mystery of what happened to hundreds of people who vanished from a neuroscience research community. What was the hardest part of adapting the podcast for television? Limetown's creators weighed in during a chat with CinemaBlend. Co-creator Zack Akers gave his take first, telling me:
Well, I think the hardest part in adapting it was finding Lia because so much of her character was. . . You know, if you're adapting it from the podcast you know her character is the one who was editing and creating the shows that you're hearing, so everything that you're presented from Lia is very curated, it's very calculated, and it's all to sort of create this image of her that may or may not be true.
Finding Lia was central to the television series’ progress for a great reason. As you can tell from Zack Akers’ comments, she is Limetown’s primary protagonist. Limetown creators have talked about how they knew Jessica Biel was the right choice to play the inquisitive journalist. In finding Biel, there was also the element of exploring who Lia is. Zack Akers continued, saying:
And so, when we were adapting it, it was like who is this person? Who is this character? And, you know, it all sort of stems from this idea of like what kind of journalist places story over safety of her sources. You know, what kind of journalist pursues this, pursues these answers knowing that they potentially could harm and even kill people. And that was really interesting to us as not only journalists but what kind of person does that? And then what kind of toll does that take on a person? What sort of psychological issues do they have to deal with along that process? Who do they have to be to do that?
Limetown’s deep dive into these questions is set to begin Wednesday, October 16. As you can tell from Zack Akers’ comments, Lia Haddock is a journalist on a mission. A part of that quest includes finding out what happened to her beloved uncle, Emile Haddock (Stanley Tucci). He is among the 300 that went missing. On exploring the psychology at play in Limetown, Akers continued, saying:
And, you know, when we were asking ourselves these questions that’s where we were able to fill in a lot of that character and that to me was the hardest part because it was. . . so psychological, and so in the weeds, and so sort of beyond what we had imagined for the podcast originally.
The challenges of bringing Limetown to life in the medium of television did not end there. Limetown co-creator Skip Bronkie shared the other tribulations that presented themselves during the adaptation process. For anyone who has ever wondered what it takes to bring a story to life for the cameras, Bronkie provided another angle to things, saying:
One thing I’d add was something Zack [Akers] and I had to come to terms with, which was kind of fascinating. When you think about the differences between podcasting and television, is in podcasting there are. . . no practical constraints on the story you're telling, which is to say. . . you can have as many scenes as you want. You can, you know, those scenes can be anywhere. They can include characters that are doing whatever you want them to do because it's all audio, and so there's no, there's literally no practical constraint.
Bringing Limetown to life also involved bringing its eponymous town to the screen. The place is at the center of the mystery. For those listening to the podcast, the area has only been imagined by their minds. Putting it on screen came with its share of complications. Skip Bronkie said:
And you know it could be as simple as, you know we found the perfect town that would represent what Limetown always was in our minds. But okay, this is a perfect town, but it is a real town, and there’s a Montessori School right there, and that can never close. So, you have to worry about kids running in and out all day. Or you can't shoot in this town past 5 p.m., so all those night shots you wanted, you're not going to get them in this town. So, I just think we as creators had to quickly come to terms with what making television was when it came to practical constraints, and that was a rude awakening.
As any fan who has had their favorite book adapted to the screen can attest, changes often have to be made. Bringing a podcast on-screen is really no different. How did Limetown’s creators balance deciding how much they wanted to change and keep when adapting the podcast’s story to the television show? Skip Bronkie, said:
Well, I mean, first and foremost, we knew . . . some non-negotiables and you know one of those being that the thematic heart of the story, sort of the why now of it all. It is this collision between humans and technology and that question of whether technology will be the thing that saves or destroys us and so knowing that that’s sort of a non-negotiable, knowing that that’s sort of the heart of what's happening in Limetown itself, we can start to use that, and build around that.
The relationship between humans and technology was not the only thing that Limetown’s creators had their eye on keeping intact. There was also their lead character, Lia, as a journalist determined to get to the bottom of a mystery that has spanned decades. Skip Bronkie continued, saying:
We knew that we wanted to keep Lia Haddock as the character, she was in the podcast, but build on her. You know everything that Zack [Akers] said about Lia . . . exploring what kind of a character would continue to tell a story knowing it's putting herself at risk and putting the people she is speaking to at risk, getting to the heart of that psychosis, and really understanding that we knew those were things we wanted to do on the TV show. And then beyond that, we really were very very flexible and very open to building the world.
There were some changes that Limetown’s creators made in translating the podcast to television. In fact, in doing the show, Limetown’s creators got to do something they had not gotten to do in the podcast. Skip Bronkie continued, saying:
We love red herrings, and so we love putting in twists, and turning corners that don't necessarily lead anywhere, and showing a character that’s at a dead end. And, or, a character that’s truly stuck between a rock and a hard place and trying to see how that character gets out of that place. And so many of those situations you definitely thought if you saw Episode 3, it makes for really good television to have a character run into a dead end. And that's a lot of what we did in the television series that. . .we weren't able to do necessarily in the podcast.
If you have already listened to the Limetown podcast, it sounds like there is a little something new for you. The show is full of cliffhangers, red herrings, and twists! What more could you possibly ask for in a television experience? Exactly. Your chance to watch Limetown is almost here!
Limetown premieres Wednesday, October 16, at 3 p.m. ET with two episodes on Facebook Watch. The dramatic thriller is one of this fall’s premieres.