Mankind’s fate may rest with one youngster in ‘The Passage’

New Fox drama returns Mark-Paul Gosselaar and others to weekly work

Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Saniyya Sidney star in “The Passage,” premiering Monday on Fox.

The “Passage” in the title of a new series could refer to a young character’s rite of passage, but it actually means more than that.

Based on Justin Cronin’s book trilogy of the same name, “The Passage” is one of the new year’s first new television dramas as Fox premieres it Monday, Jan. 14. With filmmaker Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Blade Runner”) among its executive producers, the show returns Mark-Paul Gosselaar (“NYPD Blue,” “Saved by the Bell”) to weekly work as a federal agent assigned to transport a young test subject (Saniyya Sidney, “Fences”) for Project Noah, a secret operation involving a virus that either could save or destroy the human race.

The agent ultimately comes to feel more responsible for the youngster than even he expected, going on the run with her while mankind’s fate hangs in the balance. Jamie McShane (“Bloodline,” “Sons of Anarchy”), Emmanuelle Chriqui (“Entourage”) and Henry Ian Cusick (“Lost,” “The 100”) also are among stars of the saga.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar stars in “The Passage,” premiering Monday on Fox.

A co-producer of the series, author Cronin reports that film rights to his “Passage” novels were purchased more than a decade ago. “Adapting it for an entirely different medium that has a different toolbox, it has different things that it can do,” he reasons, “and things that it can’t do that I can do. For that reason, I’m completely agnostic on this. I’m really excited by what they’re doing. I didn’t write a novel where people would read the book for an hour and then not read it again for a week … so the rhythms are completely different, the constraints are different and the requirements are different.”

Also an executive producer of the show, Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield,” “War for the Planet of the Apes”) was attached to direct a movie version when he suggested that the Scott Free production company make it as a TV series instead. “Literally, they laughed at me and said, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no,’ ” he recalls, “and that’s because they had spent a lot of money to try and do (feature-film) drafts. And I was like, ‘No, no. Really.’ It was just that the story is so massive and so beautiful.”

Gosselaar says of his “Passage” involvement, “What hooked me was the relationship with Amy (played by Sidney). I have a 12-year-old daughter, so I can relate. For me, that was the heart of the story.” Young co-star Sidney notes she’s been learning a lot from working with TV veteran Gosselaar: “When I act and I’m with him, it feels wonderful, just being able to play a girl that really needs someone, it’s really that whatever Amy’s going through, I’m going through. So I need Mark-Paul, always.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

jbobbin has 1900 posts and counting.See all posts by jbobbin

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