‘Big Sky’: Author C.J. Box, Show’s Stars Eager to See Novel 'The Highway' Adapted for TV (Exclusive)

ABC is set to premiere Big Sky on Tuesday and with it, the first novel by C.J. Box to head to the screen. Box, a New York Times best-selling author and a writer of 27 books, is excited to finally see one of his creations, his 2013 thriller The Highway, turned in a television series. Making it even more enticing for him was who he would be passing the creative baton to: David E. Kelley, the man behind shows like Big Little Lies, Ally McBeal and Boston Legal.

Box told PopCulture that once he first communicated with him about his vision of Big Sky, he was sold. “When David Kelley came calling I had an instant rapport with him,” Box explained. “He’s a brilliant writer who likes writers.” As all authors are concerned about when handing over their licenses to television and movie writers, Box wanted to ensure that his two main characters, Det. Cody Hoty and Det. Cassie Dewell, would be kept to true form. With Kelley at the helm, Box knows they are “in excellent hands.” They’ll also be led by two recognizable actors on the show with Ryan Phillippe portraying Cody and Kylie Bunbury as Cassie.

With COVID-19 altering the show’s initial plans of filming in the states, Big Sky has since relocated its production north of the border. Box is also serving as an executive producer but is not involved in the day-to-day shooting and with the pandemic raging on, has been unable to visit the set. That being said, Box is confident that all he created will be replicated just as he would want it and adjustments will fit in line with his vision. “Changes are going to be made,” Box admitted. “It’s the difference between rowing a boat solo and going on a giant cruise ship. What I hope is that the series is as good as I think it will be and that it’ll drive readers to check out the books. In fact, that’s already happening.”

Two of the show’s stars, Jade Pettyjohn and Natalie Alyn Lind, both told Pop Culture they are excited at the opportunity to be able to put their own spins on Kelley's characters. The two will be playing sisters, Grace and Danielle Sullivan, and will be involved in quite the predicament as evidenced by the trailers: being kidnapped. Pettyjohn admitted it can be “daunting” but at the same time, it’s an “uplifting” experience being able to have so much content to pull from that it makes it easier to transition into character. Likewise, Lind called the book a baseline for them to follow and everything from the books are building blocks for their television adaptations. Lind has been involved with other shows that are based on prior content after her experience as Silver St. Cloud in Gotham and as Lauren Strucker in The Gifted. It didn’t take long for Lind to realize that Kelley was going to be adding his own twist on these characters, saying, “I think David Kelley does such a good job of taking these character's baseline and just completely changing the dynamics from the book so the viewers have a new experience.”

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If two of the series’ stars can add any more excitement to the highly-anticipated premiere, Lind summed it up spoiler-free by predicting viewers will be “shocked” at what goes down in both the pilot and throughout the show’s duration. Pettyjohn agreed with her co-star, believing the Box adaptation will be a new addiction for T.V. junkies, “I think shock is the word for it. It'll keep you on the edge of your seat for sure.”

Big Sky will debut on Tuesday at ABC at 10 p.m. ET. Viewers looking to find Box’s novel, The Highway, can secure a copy at most major bookstores found on his website.