While the bones of the A Wrinkle in Time book are preserved in Disney’s big-budget adaptation, there are certain changes (like the erasure of the Murry twins) that stand out in the film. In addition to the diverse casting of the film, one of the more inspired changes from the book comes in the detail that Charles Wallace, Meg’s younger brother, is adopted. In fact, the film starts with that detail, as a nervous Meg gets ready to meet her brother for the first time and is reassured by her parents.
Den of Geek had a chance to talk to A Wrinkle in Time screenwriter Jennifer Lee about the decision to have Charles Wallace be adopted during a recent press event in Los Angeles. She told us that the decision came from director Ava DuVernay, and it was made after scene-stealer Deric McCabe was cast in the role. The now nine-year-old is of Filipino descent, and Lee said DuVernay wanted “to be true to his culture as well and be respectful.”
Lee said that the decision wasn’t a simple one in the respect that the writer and her director didn’t just want for the adoption to be a throwaway detail. The creators wanted to play out how Charles Wallace’s adopted identity would affect the story and the characters.
“What I love is it wasn’t so simple as saying that and that’s why,” said Lee. “We talked about what that does to the story. And to me, what I got very excited about, is: we’re speaking to every family. And we’re not saying it has to be related or blood or one type of family. And by him being an adopted, I feel like you included all families.”
While A Wrinkle in Time is about Meg Murry’s search for her missing father, the relationship between Meg and Charles Wallace is the true heart of the film. It’s still relatively rare to see adopted characters in films that aren’t explicitly about adoption. The fact that Charles Wallace’s adopted identity is both central to the story and irrelevant to the love that Meg has for her little brother is one of the best parts of the film.
“You didn’t doubt their love,” continued Lee. “You didn’t feel like it was, ‘Well, you have to.’ It was a love that’s saying this is a family, and this love is very real, and this love is a relationship that is beautifully balanced. So, in a way, the conversation made us look at the film differently, and we actually realized we could do more with that relationship.”
For many adopted kids out there, A Wrinkle in Time represents important representation, and makes for one of the most successful aspects of the film. The decision to have Charles Wallace adopted into the Murry family rather than born into it doesn’t just change the story; it makes it better.