Prequels, sequels, and complete re-imaginings. More and more, the stories of the silver screen are finding new life on the small one. Generally (and thankfully), however, it is rare for a TV adaptation of a popular film, movie, or previous TV show to be a straight remake.
In the case of Amazon Prime’s Hanna, a remake is exactly what you get… at first. The first two episodes of this eight-episode first season take the viewer on a very familiar journey. Past that, however, the show offers new twists, turns, and changes that allow the story grow and expand into new avenues of exploration.
Starring Esme Creed-Miles as the titular Hanna, with Joel Kinnaman taking over the role as Erik Heller and Mireille Enos as the new Marissa Wiegler, tha Amazon Prime adaptation of the 2011 Joe Wright film was created by the original film’s co-writer, David Farr.
While the film felt a little like a hyper-colored fairy tale punctuated by electronic grooves of The Chemical Brothers, this new story grounds itself a little more in reality, focusing on the emotional tolls of all the parties involved, but without leaving the body count at zero, either. As Farr puts is: “The film is just completely wonderful and so charismatic. So [Wright] went with that journey, took a big fairy tale take on it. In a way, it was a blessing. He left a space for a treatment that is much better suited for television.”
Gun battles, hand to hand combat, high octane chases, mystery and intrigue—it’s all still there for the fans, along with a much more mature and thoughtful soul searching journey. Farr continues: “This has become a completely different kind of telling, and of course it goes way beyond the film in terms of narrative. The film is only present in the first two and half episodes, once you get past that it is into new terrain. It is a political thriller, in a way that the film wasn’t completely, and it is very much a coming of age story of a woman who was brought up in the forest and knows nothing of the real world, and to find out who she is, she has to head out into it.”
Obviously, the casting of Hanna is crucial. The star needs to be young enough to be seen as a teenager, but old enough to take on the physical and emotional tolls they story maps out, too. The daughter of actors Charlie Creed-Miles and Samantha Morton (currently creeping viewers out as Alpha on The Walking Dead), Esme Creed-Miles may not be a name many are familiar with, but she does have some handy credits to her name (Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely).
Though, taking on a role like this could be daunting for many, but Creed-Miles didn’t seem to be phazed by the challenge, telling us: “Everything was relatively new to me. It all happened kind of quickly, and I can’t recall my thought process… It was a really formative journey. I actually grew and changed a lot, due to the hard work. That was really, brilliantly challenging.”
The role of course comes with many challenges it self, especially some physical ones. Creed-Miles recalls, “It was difficult… but it was a welcomed challenge, as I always wanted to see what it would be like to be strong, and fast, and flexible. So it was a gift to be provided with personal trainers and martial arts experts to teach me these things…”
Still, though, she points to the toughest aspect of the project as something many in the business can relate to, saying: “The hardest part is the nature of working in film and television; the hours are very tough. Also, I guess, what it means to be an actor—what you’re doing is having to reconstruct yourself and your own psyche, which can be really disorienting sometimes.”
Action is a very big part of the Hanna universe. Pretty much everyone involved with the story gets caught in some very sticky places that call on some real fighting skills to get out of. Though, the one person on the cast with a deep personal background in a martial arts style, had only a few chanced to display their prowess. I’m of course talking about Mireielle Enos. As co-star Joel Kinnaman puts it: “She is a legit, Taekwondo black belt. She’ll kick your head off.”
Having those skills and passion for the art though, makes what some may consider a daunting task to film, a more enjoyable experience for Enos. “It was so fun,” she told us. “I’m one of those weirdos that does yoga and it makes me super angry, but if I get to kick and punch people, I’m the happiest girl.”
Of course, there are groups of rabid fans who are thrilled to see Enos and Kinnaman on screen together again, ad they both co-starred in The Killing for AMC (later picked up by Netflix for a final season). The two had a specific goal of working together again, but Enos didn’t think it would actually be on this project that the two would reunite.
“In my mind, the role of Eric was supposed to be much older than where Joel was in my mind, who will always be 33,” said Enos. “I was asking about European actors who were in their 40s, coming up with ideas. Then David Farr revealed that Joel was on the top of their list, and it made me so happy.”
While working together again was the goal, it doesn’t mean they were willing to do it for just any project. Kinnanman explains: “We said to each other, if we find something to do together, it has to be something that was very different from The Killing. Here, the character dynamics are polar opposites, so it felt right.”
Due to its story and history, Hanna is not the type of show that can exists on many network stations. This was something that was going to be either on a cable station or a streaming service (and, of course, we now know which avenue was taken here). Though, from what you hear through the grapevine, streaming services do offer more freedoms than even the cable networks do.
Kinnaman playfully expands: “I think there is so much content being created now, and a lot of the places like Amazon and Netflix, they have so many productions going on, they don’t have enough executives to fuck it up. So, you kind of get to do what you want. You definitely need executives too, but there is so much going on. That, combined with audiences becoming much smarter and expecting complicated nuanced storytelling; I think a lot of the fear is gone. People are so much braver. For something to break through now, it takes so much more, it takes something special. The old paradigm of just doing something that will work, that won’t rock the boat, that won’t get the ad buyers upset; that’s not really working anymore…”
These freedoms though, also can lead to some interesting new developments for actors as well. When working in TV, actors have always dealt with a different director over multiple episodes. Now, though, with the creative minds taking much more control, it seems as it actors take much more control over their characters than before.
As Creed-Miles says: “As an actor, I had the most power than I’ve ever had before, because I was able to create and arc and pursue that idea fully, because as every new director that came on, no one knew Hanna like I knew Hanna. That is something that I knew inside me. So any kind of direction I took form them was obviously welcomed and I love collaborating with people, but ultimately I felt like I had a power with Hanna, which was really empowering.”
This still doesn’t mean that actors put all the weight on their own shoulders. Creed-Miles continues: “Sarah Adina Smith directed the first two episodes. I really felt like she established an ascetic and a conceptual drive that kind of carried the rest of the series. So I was always Whats App-ing her, even after we finished the first two episodes, asking her questions about Hanna’s character and her motives, and she was a great support to me.”
Hanna can be seen in full for Amazon Prime members starting on March 29th. You can read our full, spoiler-free review here.