When Tell Me a Story premieres on CBS All Access this Halloween, viewers might be surprised by what they see. Showrunner Kevin Williamson adapted an Argentinian anthology series and intertwined three classic fables to create this new show, bringing each tale into the modern era, inverting their moral lessons and setting everything in New York.
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At an industry event in August, Williamson said, “What I like is that there’s nothing on TV like [Tell Me a Story]. It sits in its own little world.” Deadline reported on a panel he and the cast did at TCA, where it was revealed that the first season of the show is based on the stories of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel & Gretel” and “The Three Little Pigs.”
Viewers who are looking for a new series to fill the void Once Upon a Time left behind when it ended in the spring might enjoy Williamson’s vision — as long as they aren’t afraid of something “gritty and dark” that is very much based on characters dealing with the current, divisive culture of “rage America.” Based on the official trailer and interviews with Williamson and the cast, we have a few predictions on how these stories will unfold.
1. Characters, including “Hansel & Gretel,” may get involved in criminal activity
During an interview at New York Comic Con, Williamson revealed that the three fables he based Tell Me a Story on will intertwine at some point during the series, but not necessarily in a way that viewers could predict. “By the end, they all connect,” he said, but he also said that this process happens slowly.
Series star Dania Ramirez, whose character is the modern-day “Gretel” (called Anna in the story), said the stories are often parallel without overlapping: “Every story is complementing each other, without the need to overexpose a character in the other storyline just to make sure that they matter.”
Williamson hinted about how he modernized the stories as well. With “Hansel & Gretel,” whose parents abandoned them in the woods because of famine, we’ll see Ramirez and Davi Santos (who plays her brother Gabe, per IMDb) act out a version of that same story that’s more applicable to today.
From the trailer, we suspect their particular plot deals with class and race. It’s also apparent that all three stories deal on some level with crime. Anna and Gabe, for example, seem to be trying to cover up a murder.
And since Williamson said he wanted to play with morality, we feel confident in saying that the characters in Tell Me a Story most likely fall somewhere in the gray area between purely right and purely wrong.
2. The 3 Little Pigs are just as violent as the Big Bad Wolf
Building on that first theory, let’s look at some facts: in the Tell Me a Story trailer, “the three little pigs” are armed robbers. At NYCC, Paul Wesley said the series is “a cautionary horror tale.” He added later, “I think humanity is quite gray.” Considering that he plays one of the armed robbers, that seems like a fair observation — but it also says a lot about how Williamson approaches the tales he chose for this series.
Wesley and costar James Wolk, who’s character seems to be some kind of investigator — in this instance, the “Big Bad Wolf” hunting down the “three pigs” — also teased one of the more infamous parts of the fable. “Everyone has a home that will be visited,” Wolk said. The question is, how will they be destroyed? And will the pigs ultimately be more violent than the wolf?
3. “Little Red Riding Hood” is not who we expect
During an interview at NYCC, series stars Danielle Campbell and Billy Magnussen revealed that, despite her character, Kayla, draping a red cape over her head in the official trailer and being handed a red coat by Kim Cattrall in both the long trailer and the teaser trailer that was released in August, Campbell might not be playing the iconic Red Riding Hood.
Instead, she might actually be playing “the wolf” — which, based on clips in the official trailer above, suggests she’s going through some potentially unexpected changes (like a beastly werewolf perhaps?). We can assume she’s the one bearing a beast tattoo in the final moments of the trailer, making her literally “marked by the beast” — and we are so intrigued by how that will play out with Magnussen taking on the more docile, subservient role in the dynamic with his character, Nick.
4. Family drama will play a big part
Campbell said at NYCC that Kayla has lost her mom, which motivates much of her story. In the trailer, we see Ramirez and Santos embracing on the hood of a car; we also see them arguing throughout and expressing intense emotion, including some tears.
“My brother’s gotten into some trouble,” Ramirez says at one point before the camera pans over stacks of money and then Santos gets into a physical altercation that ends with someone breaking his neck on a low table during a fall. Uh-oh.
5. The 2 “wolves” might know each other
During Wolk’s voice-over in the trailer, he says he once wanted to have a family — right before the camera cuts to Campbell interacting with what approximates hers. Is Cattrall her aunt? Foster mom? We’re so curious about this relationship and how it will unfold. But, since his character seems to be “the wolf” in the pigs’ storyline and Campbell said at NYCC that she’s “the wolf” in hers, there’s a high likelihood that when the stories connect, as Williamson promised, these two will go head-to-head. Or maybe they’ll team up?
6. “Gretel” might team up with “the pigs”
Although Santos is playing out “Hansel & Gretel” with Ramirez, he’s the only character we see walking into a destroyed living space — which is a major plot point in “The Three Little Pigs.” As the stories connect, will we see Gabe getting involved with “the pigs” in an attempt to help himself and Anna? Will we see “the wolves” destroy them all?
When Wesley’s character is being interrogated in the trailer, the investigator says, “You and your three friends robbed a jewelry store.” We also see four men in pig masks chasing down Wolk and his female companion on the streets of New York. Is Gabe possibly the mysterious “fourth pig”?
7. No one is safe from harm
Williamson is no stranger to writing dark, gritty, terrifying content — some of his previous screenwriting credits include Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, Teaching Mrs. Tingle (which he also directed) and Cursed. Plus, he created Dawson’s Creek, The Vampire Diaries, The Following and Stalker. He knows how to craft tantalizing, terrifying tales where harm can come to characters regardless of how good or moral they are. If all the main characters in Tell Me a Story survive until the series finale ends, we’ll be pretty surprised.