Snowpiercer star confirms characters were “completely different” in the original unaired pilot
Behind-the-scenes problems and a showrunner exit led to a massive rewrite of the apocalyptic drama – and as confirmed by actor Annalise Basso, some cast members were given totally different roles in the finished version
Netflix’s latest sci-fi release Snowpiercer offers an intriguing story – the last of humanity travel through snowy wastes on a high-tech train, while rebellion brews between the classes trapped onboard – but perhaps the even more intriguing drama was going on behind-the-scenes during the series’ troubled production.
With high-profile departures, “extreme” reshoots and more, the series (based on Bong Joon-Ho’s post-apocalyptic movie Snowpiercer as well as original French graphic novel Le Transperceneige) hasn’t had the smoothest journey to screen, with some railway-appropriate unexpected delays that nearly threw the whole project off track.
Now it’s here – but some strange changes to key characters make it clear just what a troubled production the series has had.
“My character changed a lot from the pilot to Snowpiercer 2.0,” series star Annalise Basso told RadioTimes.com. “They're two completely different characters.”
But perhaps that’s no surprise given the series’ troubled history. Snowpiercer’s original pilot was filmed in 2018 by Doctor Strange’s Scott Derrickson from a script by showrunner Josh Friedman – but following “creative differences” Friedman was replaced by Orphan Black creator Graeme Harper, who planned to reshoot parts of the first episode.
Derrickson later revealed on Twitter that he had refused to return, citing yet more creative differences. "The 72-page Snowpiercer TV pilot script by [Josh Friedman] is the best I’ve ever read,” he wrote.
“The feature-length pilot I made from that script may be my best work. The new showrunner has a radically different vision for the show. I am forgoing my option to direct the extreme reshoots.”
Now, years later the series has finally arrived – and a few people have noticed that in Harper’s finished series, quite a few cast members are playing extremely different roles from the ones they were announced with, suggesting the “extreme” changes Derrickson had alluded to.
For example, series lead and ex-Hamilton star Daveed Diggs was supposed to be playing a rat-obsessed drug addict, but is now a fairly clean-cut ex-homicide detective. British actress Alison Wright was supposed to play a low-status member of the train’s third class, but is now a haughty member of the train’s staff.
Also among the changed? Basso, who noted that the nature of the changes was significant.
“I don't know how much I'm allowed to say but I'll just say that they're really different characters and it's a very different show,” Basso told RadioTimes.com.
In the original announcement of the series, Basso was set to play “a quiet and diligent Midwestern girl who lives with her parents in a third-class cabin and works in the greenhouse car” – but in the finished series she’s instead the chaotic scion of a wealthy family in the train’s first class, with her name also changing from LJ Anderson to LJ Folger.
“She's one of the youngest passengers in first class and she's full of rage and she's friendless, a little bit of a nihilist and I guess the only time she's happy is when she's causing chaos,” Basso told us.
“LJ is really unstable and destructive and directionless and in that sense we're nothing alike so it was challenging trying to get into that headspace.”
Also nothing like LJ? The LJ Basso was supposed to play – but according to her, the differences are just proof of how versatile the premise is.
“That’s what I love about Snowpiercer,” she told RadioTimes.com.
“You have Snowpiercer the movie directed by Bong and that's a completely different story told through a completely different viewpoint or perspective, and then you have Josh Friedman's version, and you have Graeme's version.
“Each version is beautifully unique and creative and tells the story in such a unique way.”
And who knows? Given the surprise news that Zack Snyder’s planned cut for Justice League The Snyder Cut is finally getting a release after that film’s own production issues and reshoots, maybe the original TV version of Snowpiercer isn’t lost forever either.
Snowpiercer’s first two episodes are available on Netflix UK now, with new episodes released every Monday. You can also check out the best Netflix series and best Netflix movies to keep you entertained or visit to our TV guide for more to watch.