Emmys: Nominated Series Inspired by Books

10:00 AM 8/23/2019

by Lexy Perez

Audiences got to see 'Sharp Objects,' 'Killing Eve' and 'Fosse/Verdon' leap from book pages to the small screen.

'Sharp Objects,' 'Killing Eve' and 'Fosse/Verdon'
'Sharp Objects,' 'Killing Eve' and 'Fosse/Verdon'
Courtesy of Networks

This year's Emmy Awards is filled with contenders hoping to win that coveted trophy. Though many led to binge-worthy sessions from TV viewers, on the other hand, readers saw well-known stories fly from the bookshelves onto the small screen. 

Whether taking on Gillian Flynn's dark mystery surrounding the disappearance of two young girls while following the secret past of troubled detective Camille to tackling the mysterious circumstances behind a historical nuclear disaster that could only be portrayed through real-life accounts shared in books, it can be questioned whether this year's race revolves around the best in TV versus who achieved the best book adaptations. 

From HBO's Sharp Objects to FX's Fosse/Verdon, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at the Emmy-nominated series inspired by books. 


  • 'Sharp Objects'

    Courtesy of HBO

    In 2006, author Gillian Flynn made her debut with Sharp Objects, a thriller centered on troubled protagonist Camille, who returns to her hometown to report and investigate the murders of two young girls. Though the limited series proved to be a success for HBO, it was a 12-year-long journey for the story to be adapted. "We were told quite a bit by people that men don't want to read about women and women don't want to read about heroines that they can't root for. And that's inherently wrong. Of course, we did get it sold — but there was still constantly that hesitancy," Flynn told The Hollywood Reporter. The series adaptation directed by Jean-Marc Vallée stars Amy Adams, Patricia Arquette, Chris Messina and newcomer Eliza Scanlen. Despite executive producer Marti Noxon teasing the idea of a possible second season, there are no formal plans for one. The series earned 3 Emmy nominations including best limited series, best lead and supporting actress in a limited series or TV movie for Amy Adams and Patricia Arquette. 

  • 'Killing Eve'

    Gareth Gatrell/BBCAmerica

    The BBC series Killing Eve may have become a hit for the network — the series was renewed for a third season — due to its premise of a cat-and-mouse game between an intelligence agent (Sandra Oh) in London and the assassin she's investigating (Jodie Comer), but fans can be surprised that Oh's Eve and Comer's Villanelle are based on characters from a pair of novels written by British author Luke Jennings.

    Jennings' Codename Villanelle were four e-novellas published online between 2014 and 2016. Similar to the series, the books follow a Russian orphan, Villanelle, who murders her father's killers and is then trained as an assassin. Years later, Villanelle meets her match in Eve Polastri, an agent at MI5 (known as the British version of the FBI). The four e-novellas were later compiled into a single novel and released in April 2018. The series earned nine nominations for this year's Emmy Awards, including noms for best drama series, lead drama actress for Oh and Comer, supporting actress for Fiona Shaw, writing for a drama series for Emerald Fennell's "Nice and Neat" episode, a directing nom for Lisa Brühlmann's "Desperate Times" episode, as well as production design, casting and editing. Author Jennings has praised the series adaptation, describing Oh as "perfect" for the role of Eve in an interview with Town & Country published earlier this year. 



  • 'House of Cards'

    Courtesy of Netflix

    For six seasons, fans of the Netflix series House of Cards followed the ruthless politics of Francis Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) before the final season, helmed by Robin Wright, centered on the mysterious death of Underwood. (Spacey was fired after facing sexual assault allegations amid the rise of the #MeToo movement.) The political saga may have debuted in 2013, but the premise was based on a 1989 book penned by British author Michael Dobbs. The book was set in the U.K. and followed politician Francis Urquhart who would do anything to become prime minister. The success of Dobbs' original House of Cards led to his story being adapted into a miniseries for BBC in 1990. After earning 14 BAFTA nominations, Netflix revamped the series to center on American politics. The series aired its final episode this year, earning two Emmy noms: a lead actress in a drama series for Wright and supporting actor in a drama series for Michael Kelly. 

  • 'Chernobyl'

    Liam Daniel/HBO

    HBO's nominated five-part miniseries is centered on the historical nuclear disaster that occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant, Ukraine. The series stars Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson. Though the story continues to be a mystery to this day, show creator and writer Craig Mazin utilized historical data, varied accounts and oral histories to craft a coherent onscreen story for an audience. In order to explain how he brought the story to life, Mazin took to Twitter after the series finale to share a "bibliography" of ten books that he found "fascinating" and considered to be "useful" handbooks including: Svetlana Alexievich's Voices From Chernobyl ("Absolutely essential, and heartbreaking, reading."), Chernobyl 1:23:40 by Andrew Leatherbarrow ("a fantastic combination of travelogue and historic and scientific recounting."), The Truth About Chernobyl by Grigori Medvedev, The Legacy of Chernobyl by Zhores Medvedev, Chernobyl: A Documentary Story by Iurii Shcherbak, Piers Paul's Ablaze, Chernobyl: Insight from the Inside by VM Chernousenko and Chernobyl Record by RF Mould. HBO's Chernobyl earned 19 Emmy noms including best limited series, lead actor in a limited series or TV movie for Harris, supporting actor and actress in a limited series or TV movie for Skarsgård and Watson, writing for Mazin and directing for Johan Renck. 


  • 'Game of Thrones'

    Helen Sloan/HBO

    HBO's long-running series Game of Thrones has captivated audiences with a myriad of tales that take place in the medieval setting. The show, which ran for 8 seasons, derives from author George R.R. Martin’s 7-volume series A Song of Ice and Fire with the first novel published in 1996. Though the final season concluded earlier this year, the drama has outpaced Martin's source material for the plot. When addressing the ending of the HBO series adaptation, Martin admitted that he won't reveal a publication date for The Winds of Winter, the next planned installment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The most recent edition, A Dance With Dragons, was released in the summer of 2011, shortly after the first season of the HBO series. He also shared that his ending won't be the same ending as HBO's. "Book or show, which will be the 'real' ending? It's a silly question," writes Martin. "How about this? I'll write it. You read it. Then everyone can make up their own mind, and argue about it on the Internet." Though the series faced a divisive final season, Game of Thrones shattered Emmy records, earning a staggering 32 nominations including drama series. This year marks the fourth time Game of Thrones has led the pack of nominations, beginning in 2014 with 19 nominations, 2015 with 24, 2016 with 23 and 2018 with 22 nominations. The series was not eligible in 2017. In acting categories, Thrones posts its biggest number of nominations yet by far, with 10 different actors receiving nominations. Nominated for the eighth time for his role as Tyrion Lannister, star Peter Dinklage extends his record for most nods for a single performer in a drama, male or female. Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke are also nominated in the lead actor and lead actress in a drama series categories. It's their second and fourth nominations for the roles of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, respectively. They were previously nominated in the supporting actor categories.

  • 'Fosse/Verdon'

    Michael Parmelee/FX

    Earlier this year, FX debuted its eight-part series Fosse/Verdon, which chronicled the symbiotic relationship of showbiz couple Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon. The couple is recognized for creating such Broadway classics as New Girl in Town and Redhead, and films Damn Yankees and All That Jazz. The series stars Academy Award-winning actor Sam Rockwell as Fosse and Michelle Williams as Verdon (The series marks Williams' first TV role since Dawson's Creek). Thomas Kail, Steven Levenson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Joel Fields, Rockwell, Williams and George Stelzner serve as series executive producers. According to Levenson, the team relied on biographer Sam Wasson's 2013 book Fosse when bringing their story to the small screen. "When I became involved, there was already Sam Wasson's biography called Fosse. Everyone who read that book, including me, was struck by how Bob Fosse is such a legendary figure," executive producer Levenson told The Hollywood Reporter. The series picked up 17 Emmy noms including best limited series and lead actor and actress in a limited series or TV movie for Rockwell and Williams. 




  • 'A Very English Scandal'

    Kieron McCarron/BBC pictures

    Amazon Prime's three-part British comedy-drama, A Very English Scandal, stars Hugh Grant as British Liberal political party leader Jeremy Thorpe, who in 1979 was tried and acquitted of the murder of his ex-lover Norman Scott (played by Ben Whishaw). The drama, which first premiered on BBC One in 2018, was written by BAFTA winner Russell T. Davies. The series was directed by Academy Award nominee and BAFTA winner Stephen Frears (Florence Foster Jenkins, The Queen). During The Hollywood Reporter Drama Actor Roundtable, Grant admitted that he was wary of ever starring in anything for TV until reading the script for A Very English Scandal. "There's no question that the TV's full of fantastic writing and everything, and this was a brilliant project. I had to say yes," he said. Frears' adaptation was based on author John Preston's A Very English Scandal, which published in 2016. The series picked up four Emmy noms, including a best actor in a limited TV series or movie for Hugh Grant, supporting actor for Ben Whishaw and writing and directing. 

  • 'The Handmaid's Tale'


    Hulu's hit series The Handmaid's Tale starring Elisabeth Moss, Ann Dowd, Samira Wiley, among others may have just wrapped its third season, but the tales from women of Gilead have long been known by readers. The series is adapted from Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel which explores the dystopian republic called Gilead, in which women are forced to abide to powerful men in their subservient roles. Like the show, the book is told from the perspective of handmaid Offred, who was taken from her husband and child and forced to bear children for powerful families while abiding by a new world order. Though having received some nominations, The Handmaid's Tale third season could not qualify for this year's awards due to the season premiering later in the year past the eligibility period. However, the Hulu series was able to submit some later episodes from its last season in categories like directing, writing, guest acting and technical areas, due to the Television Academy's "hanging episodes" rule and because some of Handmaid's season two episodes aired after the voting period for last year's Emmy nominations. The Hulu series earned four Emmy noms this year including guest actor and actress in a drama series for Bradley Whitford and Cherry Jones, a writing nom for Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder's penned "Holly" episode and director for Dana Reid.


  • 'Orange is the New Black'

    JoJo Whilden/Netflix

    Netflix recently wrapped its seventh and final season of Jenji Kohan's Orange Is the New Black, centered on the female inmates of Litchfield Penitentiary. The series followed characters such as Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson (Danielle Brooks), Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne), among others as they navigate the trials and tribulations of the prison industrial complex. "Empathy is hopefully a legacy," creator Jenji Kohan told The Hollywood Reporter of the series' overall message. "We hope the cultural impact is empathy and recognition of the humanity of the other, of people who aren’t familiar to you; of broadening opinions and feelings and opening up empathy." The series is adapted from a 2010 memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman, who recounts her time as an inmate at a Connecticut penitentiary, as documented in the series. For this year's Emmys, the Netflix series only secured one nomination for guest actress in a drama series for Laverne Cox. As with The Handmaid's Tale, the series failed to meet the eligibility period for this year's nominations.