'The Passage' Tackles a Huge Canvas by Focusing on a Key Relationship

'The Passage' (FOX)
Steve Dietl/FOX

From writer and executive producer Elizabeth Heldens, and based on author Justin Cronin's trilogy of the same name, The Passage focuses on a secret government medical facility experimenting with a dangerous virus that could either cure all disease or cause the downfall of the human race. The series stars Mark?Paul GosselaarSaniyya Sidney, Vincent Piazza, Brianne Howey, Jamie McShane, Caroline Chikezie and Emmanuelle Chriqui.

When it came time to adapt Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy as a Fox television series, showrunner Liz Heldens chose to open up the time-spanning show by doing a deep dive into a central relationship: Brad (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar), a transporter who brings humans — generally prisoners, who are dubbed cargo — to a secret government facility, and Amy (Saniyya Sidney), a young girl who has been flagged as key to potentially save humanity.

Though young Amy is initially wary of her captor, the duo grow closer during the pilot. “I wanted to bring it to a place of where they had committed to each other,” Heldens said Saturday during the show’s New York Comic Con panel.

What helped the onscreen bond solidify was the shooting order for the pilot. “We did it in a very linear fashion, the shooting for Amy and Brad,” Gosselaar said. “That was good for our relationship. … When she first met me, she was very ‘Stranger danger; who is this guy?’”

But the duo have taken to each other. “I have a daughter who is roughly that age,” Gosselaar said. “[Saniyya]’s growing, she’s experiencing things, and she’s just an amazing actor.”

With the first season encompassing the first book of the series, the writers have room to expand the world, including the test experiments in the facility. 

“We get to take a deeper dive into the original 12 death row inmates,” Heldens said. “It’s like a bench of supervillains we have [to play with]. … Some are sympathetic, but some are just bad.”

Cronin, for his part, is content to let the books and television show exist separately: “I write novels. I let the TV people do the TV stuff! It’s thrilling and strange and fascinating for me.”