TVWe Went Ahead and Cast the TV Adaptation of A Little Life
Does anyone have Scott Rudin's address so we can send him an invoice?
If you're one of the many people who read A Little Life, Hanya Yanigihara's critically acclaimed second book, then you probably fall into one of two camps: You either devoured all 720 of its pages as quickly as humanly possible, even though some of them were hard to read, or you hated it. Whether due to its length or its difficult subject matter, you dismiss it as an overpraised and unrealistic portrayal of both abuse and male camaraderie.
The GQ staffers who've read it all bunk in that first camp; its pages have made the grown men and women in this office burst into tears, reconsider our relationships, and call our dads just to say that we love and appreciate them. (And we're not alone: A Little Life got rave reviews, a spot on the shortlist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, and—perhaps the only endorsement that actually matters—a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars on Amazon.) So when the news broke this week that producer Scott Rudin and director Joe Mantello had purchased the rights turn this book into a miniseries, we immediately began imagining what its adaptation will look like, and which actors will bring the story to life. After many emails, several Slack conversations, and one sorely under-utilized poll on Twitter, here's who we've picked.
Jude St. Francis: Rami Malek
Jude is an unusually magnetic protagonist. His emotional and physical highs and lows don't just inform the plot, they are the plot. From the very beginning, caring for him is almost a secondary occupation for Willem, JB, and Malcolm, the college roommates who become his best friends in adulthood.
Jude's described as being almost preternaturally thin and having an undefinable race; no one can tell at first sight exactly where he's from. Which makes Rami Malek spot-on perfect for the role. His work on Mr. Robot has proven he can be the gravitational center of a complex story, and while he looked hale and hearty in the pages of GQ, his endearing frailty on Mr. Robot nicely captures Jude's mien.
Acceptable Alternatives: Theo James could also be from anywhere (remember Mr. Pamuk?) but he'd have to let go of some of that hard-earned musculature to make it convincing for die-hard fans of the book. Ben Whishaw, who's lean like an Italian Greyhound and manages to give his characters a slightly dark allure, could pull it off too. But that casting runs the risk of white-washing yet another lead character.
Willem Ragnarsson: Garrett Hedlund
The bright, shiny foil to Jude's dark and secret past, Willem has movie star looks and a social ease that only really attractive people possess. It's hard to begrudge his good fortune: Over the course of the book he actually does become a movie star, which feels like an appropriate reward for how carefully he watches over Jude. And while there are lots of good-looking young white guys in Hollywood, none of them are as well equipped to capture Willem's Nordic brand of humility as gracefully as Hedlund.
Acceptable Alternatives: Liam Hemsworth and Jake Gyllenhaal would also make good Willems—they've both got the acting chops and the jawlines for it.
JB Marion: John Boyega
Where comic relief can be achieved in a story of this depth and profundity, JB provides it. He's famous visual artist, but he spends a lot of the book looking for other forms of attention and validation, which more often than not his friends and doting family are willing to provide. Suburban comfort and forkfuls of Caribbean home cooking render him a little plump, but we'd imagine there's no one who'd be a better sport about getting out of shape for a role than John Boyega.
Acceptable Alternatives: Sorry, but there aren't any.
Malcolm Irvine: Alfred Enoch
The biracial and internally conflicted Malcolm is a child of a wealthy Upper East Side family. He's a nerdy architect-in-training questioning his sexuality at the beginning of the book, and eventually opens his own firm designing homes for his friends (once they can afford his fees, that is). He's the kind of character who would have made sense on Gossip Girl, if that show had ever felt the need to cast a complex young man of color.
Acceptable Alternatives: We haven't seen nearly enough of Charlie Barnett since season three of Chicago Fire. Or if Donald Glover can manage to get away from the set of Atlanta, he'd make a great Malcolm, too.
Andy Contractor: Dev Patel
One of the most important relationships Jude forms is with his physician, Dr. Andy Contractor, who's described in the book as half Gujurati and half Welsh. Dev Patel already has the accent down pat.
Acceptable Alternative: Suraj Sharma in a lab coat. Where do we sign?
Caleb Porter: Corey Stoll
Without saying too much, Caleb's an asshole. But he's a hot asshole, with a forthrightly sexual physicality and an intelligence you can see—and those last two qualities almost always make us think of Corey Stoll.
Acceptable Alternatives: We don't picture anyone much younger than Stoll playing this part, but Ed Skrein (did you see Deadpool?) and Jai Courtney would also make fantastic Calebs.
Harold Stein and Julia Altman: Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney
Harold, one of Jude's professors, and his wife Julia become surrogate parents for Jude and his motley crew of friends. They're affable, wealthy (but not in an annoying way like Malcolm's mom and dad), and utterly kind. And while we get that casting the roles isn't like forming a presidential ticket, there are no two actors working today who have better chemistry playing a married couple than Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney. They're so good at it they've done it not once but twice!
Acceptable Alternatives: We're gonna hold strong on this one, too.