Jason Katims has a knack for telling a story.
It’s what the writer has done for the majority of his career.
Yet, when he read Ann Napolitano’s 2020 novel, “Dear Edward,” he was moved enough to want to option it for television.
Flash forward to today and Katims is readying the premiere of “Dear Edward,” which will debut on Apple TV+, on Friday, Feb. 3.
“Dear Edward” tells the story of 12-year-old boy, Edward, who becomes the lone survivor of a plane crash.
As he and others affected by the tragedy try to make sense of what happened, unexpected friendships, romances and communities are formed.
The series stars Colin O’Brien as Edward, Taylor Schilling as Lacey, Connie Britton as Dee Dee, Anna Uzele as Adriana, Idris Debrand as Kojo, Carter Hudson as John, Eva Ariel Binder as Shay, Dario Ladani Sanchez as Sam, Ivan Shaw as Steve, Brittany S. Hall as Amanda, Audrey Corsa as Zoe, Amy Forsyth as Linda, Maxwell Jenkins as Jordan, Jenna Qureshi as Mahira, Khloe Bruno as Becks and Douglas M. Griffin as Milo.
“What was so unexpected were the relationships that developed, in particular between Edward and his neighbor Shay,” Katims says. “I thought, ‘I really have to tell this story for television.’ ”
Katims knew he would have to expand on the novel in order to make it work for television.
During his initial conversation with Napolitano, he wanted to be respectful to both the novel and the novelist, and began to tread lightly when discussing the changes he would make in adapting her book for television.
“I told Ann that for me to make the book into a series, it would have to evolve, and that I would need to introduce new characters,” he says. “And she said, ‘The novel is the novel. You just go ahead and make your show. I just want you to tell a beautiful story.’ ”
That support gave Katims the freedom to create characters like Dee Dee, Adriana, Kojo and others that are connected to, but not in Edward’s immediate circle.
Katims was at the helm of the TV series, “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood,” and wanted to have an ensemble cast for “Dear Edward,” that would enable viewers to go from one storyline to the next while always remaining emotionally invested in all of them.
For Edward’s aunt, Lacey, life has been a struggle, particularly when compared to the life her sister led until the crash. When Edward comes to live with her, she gets the child she always wanted but in a completely different way than she could ever have imagined. She has to learn how to parent a 12-year-old who’s gone through a devastating loss, as well as steady a wobbly marriage to John.
For Katims, the role of Lacey was the connective tissue of the series because she’s the only character that travels between Edward’s world and the grief group.
Katims had not previously worked with Schilling but had admired her work for a number of years. When she was cast as Lacey, he found a fearless performer who used all her tools as an actress to uncover the emotional truth.
“Every single scene she’s in, it feels like you’re living there with this woman at that moment,” says Katims. “It never felt like Taylor was acting. I really don’t know how she does it but it’s sort of miraculous.”
While Lacey is the glue, the character of Edward anchors the story and Katims acknowledges the sheer luck involved with finding 13-year-old O’Brien for the role.
“He’s a spectacular actor who’s wise beyond his years,” he says. “While he brings such a natural gift to the work he is an incredibly hard worker and very dedicated to his craft.”