Television·Trickster

Making the connection: How Eden Robinson's best-selling novel 'Son of a Trickster' came to the screen

When adapting a novel for the screen, inevitably, changes will occur. Pacing and timing are factors, as is budget. And whether it’s Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, or The Watchmen, when those changes happen, dedicated fans will worry if the new adaptation will hit the mark.

Author Eden Robinson lays out the fundamental elements from her book the TV show had to capture.

(Eden Robinson, CBC)

When adapting a novel for the screen, inevitably, changes will occur. Pacing and timing are factors, as is budget. And whether it's Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, or The Watchmen, when those changes happen, dedicated fans will worry if the new adaptation will hit the mark. 

For Eden Robinson, author of the Trickster trilogy, deciding to hand over the rich world she created in her novels had to start with a connection. That was found in Michelle Latimer and Tony Elliot, and how their vision for Trickster aligned with her own.

"In the beginning of my career, when I was first dealing with TV and movie options, the way that people envisioned Indigenous life was really narrow," recalls Robinson on a video call from her home in Kitimat, BC. 

"With Michelle, we shared a vision of having as many Indigenous crew, in addition to the cast, on set. Just sort of opening that door. So, we had long chats about our dreams of what film and television would look like with more Indigenous participation, because there is a lot of talent out there, it just needs a chance."

In order to move the project forward, Robinson's story about a teenage boy learning about his magical lineage while also paying the bills and not failing school, needed to be adapted. The show would have to capture the essence of the story, and appeal to fans of the characters and plot of the novel, while also retooling for a new medium and audience. So, Robinson began the work of breaking down the fundamental elements from her story, the parts that would be crucial to maintain if the spirit of her novels were to translate to the TV series. 

Humour

"The sense of humour is paramount to me," Eden says. 

"And that is definitely in the scripts of the series." From Jared's Tasty Bucket scooter delivery service to his and Maggie's constant domestic back-and-forth bickering, Joel Oulette and Crystle Lightning, who play Jared and Maggie respectfully, have a chemistry that plays out that humour wonderfully onscreen.


The "craziness of the Trickster"

It was important to stay true to Eden's depiction of the Trickster himself, particularly "the moral ambiguity of his character," as the best-selling author puts it. Robinson's Trickster is largely based on Wee'git, the shapeshifting raven in Haisla storytelling.

"He's not all good, he's not all bad. He's very complicated and he plays many different roles, and he does the same in the TV series." 

Upon meeting Wade (played by Kalani Queypo), Jared is right to be suspicious of this man claiming to be his biological father, but is also drawn to him as he begins to learn more about himself. And while Wade remains mysterious, he does prove to be a fatherly figure to Jared.


The connections between the characters

Robinson recalls one of her first meetings with Latimer and Elliot where they showed her the six-episode outline and all the plot points they were aiming to hit. She was then reminded that a show's budget limits a cast of characters the way her imagination and writing doesn't. For example, the TV series had to make the decision to only cast one grandmother and feature far less classmates of Jared.

Despite the necessary changes, Robinson was pleased that "the essential bits of the novel stayed in the TV show."

And the most central connection in the story, both novel and series, is the one between Jared and Maggie. 

"I've enjoyed watching Joel and Crystle interacting. That's the kind of thing I live for as a writer… they still have that connection."


 

Trickster airs Wednesday nights at 9/9:30 NT on CBC and is available to stream for free on CBC Gem.

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