An adaptation of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series has long been in the works, first as a movie from Warner Bros. and Mike Newell (Prince of Persia), then as a TV series produced by Sonar Entertainment and Farah Films. Almost a year ago, MTV acquired the Shannara series and ordered a 10-episode first season based on the pilot script by Al Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville), with Jon Favreau (Iron Man) set to direct the premiere episode. Favreau has since become an executive producer on the series and stepped down as the director of the pilot; Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) will instead direct the first two episodes.
Though we haven’t heard much in the time since MTV acquired Shannara, the network has now cast the lead in its series, which will focus on The Elfstones of Shannara, the second novel in Brooks’ Sword of Shannara trilogy.
Deadline is reporting Poppy Drayton (When Calls the Heart, Downton Abbey) will play Amberle Elessedil, an Elven Princess and the leading character in MTV’s series. Shannara takes place thousands of years after the destruction of modern civilization, in a medieval-like period where fantasy creatures such as elves and trolls exist. Amberle is a member of the Chosen, a group of Elves responsible for the protection of the magical Ellcrys tree.
In the book on which MTV’s Shannara series is based, The Elfstones of Shannara, Amberle and Wil Ohmsford, a healer, go on a journey to create a new Ellcrys tree that will banish demons from their land. The television series bypassed the first book in Brooks’ series presumably because it has been heavily criticized for its similarities to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
MTV is new to fantasy series - their other scripted shows all take place in a modern world, though some, like Teen Wolf, have supernatural elements.
Additionally, the network has attempted to expand its teen-geared content into genre series with its upcoming reimagined take on Scream and the adaptation of R. L. Stein’s Eye Candy. Now, Shannara will tap into another genre: fantasy.
However, Shannara isn’t necessarily a risk for MTV. Following in the wake of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones’ success, there is a proven audience for fantasy series on both the big and small screens.
Additionally, adaptations of young adult novels have become their own powerhouses at the box office and on television - many of which have female protagonists. Now, more than ever before, seems to be the best time for MTV’s Shannara series to see success.
Whether or not Drayton will be able to live up to fan expectations for Amberle in Shannara, though, remains to be seen. Although she may fit what many readers had in mind for the character, it’s impossible to meet all expectations. That said, Drayton and MTV will have the chance to bring more people to the popular Shannara book series once the show debuts.
Shannara is in the very early stages of development.