WOOL is coming to Apple TV in partnership with AMC.
I’ve written about the origin of the WOOL novels in the past, so I won’t bore you with that. But the road to adapting the trilogy for the screen has been just as wild and twisty. It started back when I was still working in a bookstore, watching my sales take off, and I had to violate my boss’s policy of having cell phones at our desk because I was expecting a call from Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian.
It was around this time that I put in my two-weeks notice. Not because I was fielding calls from legends of cinema, but I was starting to earn more from my book sales than I was from selling other people’s books. It was going to be a better use of my time to write more stories. Back then, all I wanted was to support myself with my art, rather than doing it on the side. I didn’t take the film deal seriously, because I knew that these projects don’t actually get made. I wrote a Twitter thread about this recently. Nothing ever gets made.
I was right, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The folks at Fox produced two excellent scripts and attached a few directors, and we nearly crested the hill once or twice. But I kept my expectations low the entire time. I’ve watched others go through development hell over the years and knew how easily the wheels can come off. I was just happy to be in the mix, having creative discussions with other artists, reading brilliant scripts, talking about storytelling and this world that I’d dreamt up. Every little step was an absolute dream.
Five years ago or so, after all these efforts and close calls, I managed to get the rights back. This was a minor miracle, and it wouldn’t have happened were it not for the amazing folks at Fox and the fine people on Ridley and Steve’s teams. I owe them for allowing me to take a chance elsewhere, even after they’d invested so much time, effort, and money into the project. They didn’t have to. And yet they were among the first people to reach out and congratulate me yesterday. There are great people in Hollywood, despite rumors to the contrary. :)
By the time I got the film rights back, WOOL was a much bigger global brand. When we did the first deal, the book hadn’t yet become a huge bestseller. Now it was in over 40 countries and had hit the New York Times bestseller list twice. Also, television had by this time grown into an incredible medium for adapting stories. You could let a book breathe on the small screen, rather than truncating it. Instead of going for the biggest name in Hollywood to boost my book sales, I wanted to see if we could get a TV show made.
There were a lot interested parties. It eventually came down to three companies that start with the letter “A”. I started thinking of them as the AAA service that lends a hand when you get a flat or run out of gas, putting you back on the road again. But I could only choose one, and the pressure was immense. So many readers have high expectations for this series; I get emails and social media comments about it all the time. I ended up going with AMC, and we began developing WOOL for TV. But then Apple tapped us on the shoulder and asked if they could get involved. Miraculously, I’d ended up with two-thirds of my top choices.
As I’ve gotten to know the teams at Apple and AMC, I realize just how lucky I got. I was already a fanboy for AMCs shows. BREAKING BAD, MAD MEN, BETTER CALL SAUL, and the criminally under-watched HALT AND CATCH FIRE. And now Apple is making some of my favorite shows of all-time. TED LASSO was the best thing I saw during the pandemic, and possibly the most joy I’ve ever felt watching TV. One of my fav shows on TV right now is FOR ALL MANKIND. We live in a golden age for television, and these are two of the best companies at it right now. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Things started to feel real when Graham Yost was attached to showrun WOOL. In the world of TV, showrunners are the most important piece of the puzzle. They serve as the head writer, but also the creative boss. Directors might change episode to episode, and so they all report to the showrunner. Graham would be in charge, and his background was impressive. JUSTIFIED was his creation. And he helped produce THE AMERICANS, one of the finest shows of all-time. Again, I was over the moon. We were batting a thousand at this point.
I joined a writers’ room in LA back before the pandemic struck, and we laid out the episodes of season one and started talking about how many seasons it would take to tell the story we had in mind. These were among the best weeks of my life. The room was full of creative, brilliant people who all loved this world, and we had a blast coming up with ways to delight and surprise fans of the series and all the viewers who will be new to the silo. I assumed this would be as far as things went, and I was completely satisfied. But then Graham took our vision to the higher-ups and they told him to have his team go write the scripts we’d outlined.
I’ve been fortunate to read these and offer notes over the last year. I can’t wait for you all to see what’s in store. Some of the scenes that are only glossed over in WOOL are played out in spectacular fan service. Again, I figured this was where the road would end, but that’s when we got a soft green light to start casting. It was yet one more major step that I couldn’t tell anyone about.
Holding all these steps back has been exhausting. I know how much you all want to see this get made, and with every little bit of progress I wanted to share my excitement with you. But we couldn’t say anything without an announcement, and the folks in charge were smart enough to not want to announce anything until it looked like a sure thing. So that’s where we are now. With the roles cast and contracts signed and finalized, the news was finally able to drop this week. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more soon as we get to filming. You won’t believe who’s in this cast. Some major shocks are ahead. And yeah, I’m right back to dying over here keeping secrets.
The long and short of it is that this isn’t a normal “hey this thing got optioned” announcement. It’s a “people are building sets and going over their lines” announcement. Sound stages are booked. Travel plans are being made. We might just be over the hill.