New Developments in The Alienist TV Series

Although no official news has been released as yet regarding casting in the TV adaptation of The Alienist, a recording of what appears to be an audition for the part of Marcus Isaacson surfaced two days ago (the recording has now been pulled down), suggesting that casting may now be in progress. If this recording is genuine, it is certainly an intriguing time in the production’s development for fans of the novel, and I am sure that visitors to 17th Street will join me in wondering who will land the parts of their favourite characters.

Also as a result of the audition recording surfacing, some insight into the direction being taken with the script appears to have come to light. Here, however, the news is more troubling. Specifically, two of the excerpts used in the audition recording suggest that Marcus has been developed into something of an immoral character, completely inconsistent with his portrayal in the novel. In addition to singing a Jewish prayer over the bodies of the Zweig children with an inappropriate chuckle at the end, we discover that Marcus has invited a woman with a baby into his family’s home, with Lucius suggesting that he only did so in order to “fornicate” with her. Although Marcus attempts to defend his actions through the Torah, Lucius retaliates with a suggestion that if Marcus had “bothered” to read the Torah, he would know that it states that we need to control our impulses because, “That’s what makes men different from beasts.” The scene ends with Marcus stating, “I guess I fall somewhere between the two, then.”

Typically I would not share my concerns like this in a public forum, but given the extent of the changes that have been made to a character like Marcus in what appears to be a genuine audition recording, I can’t help being concerned at what this signifies about the direction in which the production may be heading. After all, if it was felt necessary to provide Marcus with a sexual partner and portray their relationship in this manner, what might it signify for the portrayal of characters such as John and Sara, or Kreizler and Mary? While the inclusion of gratuitous sex and violence seems to have become a standard part of book-to-screen adaptations in recent years, the inclusion of such material should, at the very least, be psychologically realistic and respectful of the original source—and this is especially important for any characters that have known trauma.

Of course, I still retain hope that the excerpts from the script that surfaced in the audition recording will not be representative of the production as a whole, particularly as it pertains to the changing of characters. The novel’s themes of corruption, hypocrisy, the impacts of childhood trauma, and psychological determinism are powerful enough in and of themselves without the need to add any further drama.

6 comments on “New Developments in The Alienist TV Series

  1. The audition tape looks genuine to me. Where did this dialogue come from? Not the Alienist novel that’s for sure. I really hoped the team members would be portrayed as they were described in the novel.
    When the TV series announcement was made I commented that I hoped the production would truly represent the book. This film clip doesn’t give me hope.

  2. That particular bit of dialogue is troubling, of Marcus’ sexual prowess. That just doesn’t seem to be anything worthy of the character or even worth showing an audience. Makes no sense, really. Stick with the books, producers!

  3. This is so disappointing! I don’t understand why Paramount and Anonymous Content WOULDN’T consult Carr on this? Seems like a no-brainer, to me, particularly since the books have SUCH a serious, devoted following – and the man CREATED them!

    Clearly, whoever wrote this script doesn’t GET the Alienist, or its characters. If they continue on this path, the TV show will certainly not have the soul of the book. (If any soul, at all, given the content of the audition tape, which was pretty gross).

  4. Such an unfortunate turn of events here. The project showed such promise when Mr. Carr was hired as a consulting producer! In fact, Mr. Carr stated he came on board to make sure the series stayed true to the book for the sake of the fans. Clearly, Anonymous Content and TNT have chosen to ignore the insights of Mr. Carr. Fans of both the book and Mr. Carr are well aware of his struggles with Hollywood–mostly the lack of respect Hollywood has shown for his work and efforts to keep any on-screen version of The Alienist true to the powerful story it relates. Perhaps as more people relay their disgust with these developments, the producers will re-evaluate their chosen course.

  5. No offense to the actor in the recording–he seems like a good, genuine actor–but that scene and what it says about the character he’s portraying isn’t in line with the book at all. I can understand changing some scenes, dialogue, etc in the interest of cutting down material and if there’s a shorter way of showing something than how the book does it, but why would you need to change someone’s personality like this? Why do you need to make someone more exciting in a manner that is so not in keeping with his personality in the book? I hope it’s just an early audition script/tape and they’ll be truer to the book and the characters in the actual production.

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