'The Passage' - Mark-Paul Gosselaar Leads An Emotionally Rich Adaptation Of Justin Cronin’s Vampire Novels

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10 January 2019

FOX, Jan. 14, 9:00 PM ET

By Jacqueline Cutler

The details are grim: a terrifying pandemic, blood-drinking fiends and a kidnapped child. And that’s just in the pilot.

Despite all of that, The Passage (premiering Monday) is strangely heartwarming. The FOX drama focuses on a sweet relationship between Brad Wolgast, a rogue agent played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and Amy, an orphan played by Saniyya Sidney. Based on Justin Cronin’s bestselling trilogy, it deftly weaves Wolgast and Amy’s plight against the backdrop of humans infected with a virus that stops them from living yet prevents them from dying.

Scientists, intent on preventing a global catastrophe, need a child to test their vaccine. But what parent would sacrifice their child? The government intervenes and assigns Wolgast to kidnap Amy, whose mom just died of an overdose.

Sidney delivers a startlingly raw performance, one that left Gosselaar, himself a father to four kids, moved. “The level of maturity Saniyya has,” Gosselaar says, then pauses to consider her talent. “It’s eye-opening to see what level she’s starting from, and she’s 11.”

Her character is hardened by the realities of knowing what a visit from children’s protective services is typically like. She’s rightly suspicious of Wolgast until he proves himself a worthy protector.

“I asked what is important about vampires and that world,” Gosselaar recalls after reading the script. “Then as I read it, it has so much heart, and Amy and Brad’s relationship hooked me into wanting to take on the show. I then read the books and became a fan of the books.”

Readers be warned: Major changes from page to screen were necessary.

“My character expires in the first quarter of the first book,” Gosselaar notes. “I asked if I am going to die. I am No. 1 on the call sheet, so they said you are not going to die.”

As intriguing as the pilot is, Gosselaar was not cocky about the show’s success. He’s still smarting over the cancellation of Pitch, which he loved. So while acknowledging The Passage is excellent, Gosselaar admits he doesn’t know what lasts.

“I don’t think anyone has any idea, and that’s the beauty.”
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