James Patterson Says CBS' 'Zoo' Will Be "Better Than the Book"

"Hopefully our show is thrilling in the way a summer popcorn movie is thrilling," executive producer Jeff Pinkner said of the upcoming thriller.
Courtesy of CBS

James Patterson has seen 10 of his books make the jump from the literary world to Hollywood. So the famed author's high praise for the upcoming TV adaptation of his bestseller Zoo on CBS is not to be taken lightly.

"People always say the book is always better than the movie," Patterson told reporters Monday at CBS's summer press day. "In this case, I think the series is going to be better than the book."

Zoo, which premieres in June on CBS, centers on a wave of violent animal attacks against humans sweeping the planet. As the assaults become more cunning, coordinated and ferocious, several individuals are thrust into the race to unlock the mystery of the pandemic before there’s no place left for people to hide.

"You have a choice. You don’t have to sell the work. The book remains the book and it doesn’t change," said Patterson. "This has been by far my best experience working out here."

Like so many of Patterson's other adaptations (Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider), Zoo was originally eyed for the big screen as a "more contained thriller" a la District 9 and Cloverfield. "It became clear there was such a bigger world to explore," said executive producer Cathy Konrad, "tacking it down wouldn’t do it justice."

Executive producer Jeff Pinkner (Fringe) has expanded upon that and then some. He revealed that the first season will not end where the book does and that there is a five-season plan for the show, with possible room for more.  "It's going to change a lot from the book, which is excellent," said Patterson, who also cited an expanded cast of characters.

While the book focuses mainly on two characters — Jackson (James Wolk), a renegade zoologist and Chloe (Nora Arnezeder), a worldly former diplomat — the series is more of an ensemble drama with five leads. "When we first talked about this, [James] said, 'Take these characters, take the spirit of the book and go on an adventure,' " said Pinkner.

That adventure also includes, appropriately, a lot of traveling. In the first season alone, the characters travel to Tokyo, Rio, Antarctica, Paris, Alabama and Africa, among other destinations. "There's no standing sets on this show. "There's no place for people to return to," said Konrad.

The constant change in destinations and scene partners is a way Pinker hopes to keep the cast — and viewers — on their toes. "Many shows offer a condition and then there's kind of a template in the story, and we're very anti-that," said Pinkner. "They literally have no idea what country they're going to, what animal they may be dealing with.

"Hopefully our show is thrilling in the way a summer popcorn movie is thrilling."

Zoo premieres on June 30 at 9 p.m. on CBS. Watch a preview below.