Since 1930, the bold and independent detective character Nancy Drew has inspired young girls to accomplish bigger and better things. Originally intended to attract the female readers who were already avidly following the amateur detective brothers The Hardy Boys, the Nancy Drew series of books took off with an unexpected level of popularity for decades to follow. Though she was originally written as a model of both domestic and feminist perfection, girl readers responded most to Nancy’s intelligence, bravery, and autonomy. Over the years, the character was redesigned to reflect the changing culture, but later books unfortunately focused more on her romantic interests than her strengths. Now it appears a new series for CBS will be reinventing the female sleuth once again.
The teenage Nancy, often illustrated in the early days with strawberry blonde hair and dressed in sweater sets and pearls, will be transformed into a 30-something NYPD detective. CBS sought to make a more diverse casting choice for the title character, and now it is being reported Person of Interest star Sarah Shahi has been cast in the role.
The official description of the series describes an older, wiser version of Nancy. Her independent detective work has been replaced by a job with the police, “where she investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, all while navigating the complexities of life in a modern world.” Anthony Edwards (E.R.) will play Nancy’s father, Carson, a skilled lawyer who graduated from Yale. The book version of Nancy lost her mother at a young age, and we assume the series will use that same history.
The fate of Shahi’s Person of Interest character, the assassin Shaw, seemed uncertain when the actress left the show on maternity leave in 2015. The writers kept viewers in limbo until Shahi confirmed she would be willing to return for season 5, the likely last installment of the series set to air this spring. You may also recognize Shahi from Chicago Fire, Fairly Legal, and The L Word. She played an LAPD detective in the 2007 series Life, with current Billions star Damian Lewis.
Vanessa Ferlito (Graceland) is booked for the pilot as Nancy’s former NYPD partner George. Hopefully she’ll have a larger role in the series, as part of the appeal of the books was that much of the action involved three female leads: Nancy and her friends, cousins Bess and George. There’s no word yet if there will be some version of Ned Nickerson, the longtime boyfriend of Nancy in the book series, in the new TV show. Felix Solis has been cast as Nancy’s lieutenant on the force, who she’ll apparently have a somewhat contentious relationship with.
Shahi is a popular, capable actress and it’s doubtful there will be much criticism of the casting choice. Fans of the books will more likely be skeptical about pushing Nancy Drew so far from her origins as a teenage sleuth to an adult NY detective. This could be yet another project that resembles the source material in name only.
Considering the many different writers of the Nancy Drew book series (many of them using the same pseudonym, Carolyn Keene) and the different reboots of the character in print and on screen over the years, it’s not impossible to imagine this latest version could work, however. If the TV series can capture the spirit of the original character, who covered a wide spectrum of admirable and relatable feminine characteristics, it could be a hit with both new and longtime fans. Even if it doesn’t entirely reference the vintage books, a well-written, independently minded and resourceful female character played by Shahi sounds like a great idea.
Screen Rant will have more details regarding Nancy Drew as they are made available.