The Syfy channel breathes new life into a classic. When you think of Neverland, you may think of Peter Pan or Michael Jackson’s world-renowned home, but originally Peter Pan was a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie (1860-1937). The story is legendary around the world, and we all know Peter Pan as the boy who refuses to grow up. The Syfy channel gives it an updated look and is one of the first Syfy original stories to take on the Syfy Countdown to Christmas week.
The two-night miniseries event takes us on many different journeys and brings together elaborate fantasy and classic sets along with a fantastic cast fit to play these legendary characters. The cast includes Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) as James Hook, Kiera Knightley as the voice of Tinker Bell, Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies) as Captain Elizabeth Bonny, Oscar-nominee Bob Hoskins as Smee, who if anyone remembers, played Smee in Steven Spielberg’s film Hook, Raoul Trujillo (Tin Man), and Charlie Rowe (Pirate Radio) as the most infamous character, Peter Pan.
Recently, the fairy tales have been resurfacing with shows like NBC’s Grimm and ABC’s Once Upon A Time, so the Brothers Grimm may have been the inspiration for this fairy tale reinvention. We have seen vampires (and we still love them), but Willing believes he could easily live in Neverland, Oz, or Wonderland. There is a fascination with the stories and retelling them for a new generation.
During a recent Q&A, Charlie Rowe, Rhys Ifans, Anna Friel and writer/director Nick Willing took time to discuss the legendary tale. Many people have grown up with the story and are familiar with the different variations. Anna Friel admits she was encouraged to take the role because of her six-year-old daughter. She adored the idea of there being a new take on the story, and felt the magic was taken above and beyond with Syfy’s version.
The film is slightly different from the various versions because it is a prequel. Nick Willing wanted to show why a boy would not want to grow up and how he ended up in Neverland with pirates, fairies and sword fights. “I just let my imagination run wild and felt it would make an intriguing movie,” Willing said.
Charlie Rowe originally found himself reading for the part of Fox, Peter Pan’s best friend. Playing Fox was not Rowe’s first choice, so he spoke up and said he wanted to play Peter Pan. Nick apparently had the same thought as he called Rowe the next day to ask him if he would like to play Peter Pan. He felt it was an amazing character and was happy he was able to play him.
Nick felt Charlie was the right person to portray Peter Pan. he said he must have seen at least four-hundred kids, and then finally his Peter Pan walked through the door. He went with his instinct and knew right away he made a good choice.
Friel felt it was one of the best scripts she had read and loved the fantastic element and the magical concept. She was also very excited to play a villain. She had a conversation with Willing on the phone and said he spoke so eloquently about the story and what he had envisioned it becoming on-screen.
Rhys was sitting in a bar in a beautiful village in Spain (you can almost envision him doing so), and received the script for Neverland. He could not put the script down and fell in love with the story. He felt Nick was telling a beautiful story and painting his own psychosis of the arrival for the embodiment of evil.
The challenges involved making these familiar, beloved characters new and fresh and adaptable to Willing’s story. Rowe said he learned a lot from Rhys and Anna and being around Nick, he realized the character he was portraying was similar to Nick and used him as inspiration for Peter Pan.
The new tone for the characters was set by this cast immediately, according to Friel. She said the performances were unique, and her character in particular was newly created. She found many ways to invent her character and bring her to life, so she fit with the story and the original characters.
Rhys said he never felt like he was working with a child actor, but a professional actor from the very beginning. Hook is brought to life by Rhys, and he adds new emotions and a lot of new maturity. He felt safe with the cast and Nick, and believes Hook truly develops and gets a fresh start.
Willing was excited to bring this project to Syfy, because he knew the network would allow him to take a lot of risks and reinvent the story as much as possible. Syfy is brave enough to delve into the dark areas in which it is often more difficult to do on the big screen or another network. He wanted to experiment with the project and make it elaborate and creative for the viewers to imagine they could be in Neverland with these characters.
The film takes on the fantasy genre and the cast was fine with being able to create a mesmerizing, unforgettable project for the Syfy viewers. Friel said she found it fascinating that they started filming in a real environment on a real ship, then moved towards green screen and had so many fantastic visuals of what it would be like in Neverland.
Rhys described it best; no one is going to have to leave the comfort of their own home to be transported to such a magical place. Neverland is thrilling, exciting, emotional, psychological and magical from start to finish. The cast is excited for viewers to watch the characters they created and gave a new life to, and Nick Willing is excited to have viewers enter the world he created as a writer.
Rowe’s playground for Peter Pan and Captain Hook was the set. He is excited for a new generation to be able to have them back on-screen thanks to the Syfy channel, and hopes he did Peter Pan justice. Willing said if you want to know where Peter Pan came from and how he ended up in Neverland with the lost boys, and why this strange place is the home to fairies and pirates, and why Peter Pan does not want to grow up, you are going to want to sit down and grab some popcorn with your family to watch Neverland.
If you want to get lost in your own imagination and join this amazing cast and enter Nick Willing’s version of Neverland, make sure to watch this amazing story unfold and take a night or two off as a grown-up and watch Neverland on Syfy Sunday, December 4, and Monday, December 5, at 9/8c.