“The Spiderwick Chronicles ”showrunner discusses the differences between the books, film, and TV series

Aron Eli Coleite tells "Entertainment Weekly" he had to make some "tough choices" when it comes to choosing which creatures appeared in the first season.

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Roku Channel's The Spiderwick Chronicles.

It’s been over two decades since Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black first introduced fantasy readers to The Spiderwick Chronicles. The five-part book series — which followed siblings Jared, Simon, and Mallory Grace as they discovered the magical world around them using their great uncle's field guide — spawned its own film starring Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, and Nick Nolte in 2008, but has largely remained quiet since its spinoff book series ended the following year. Now, Spiderwick is back in a thrilling new television adaptation that features a few major changes to its original tale.

For starters, the Grace children are all teenagers in the show. Writer and showrunner Aron Eli Coleite tells Entertainment Weekly that the decision to transform The Spiderwick Chronicles from a children's series into a “more YA driven” one was made before he joined the project, but that he was very interested by the idea. “I wanted this family to feel grounded, real, and dealing with real problems — not to be really skewing to Scholastic age,” he explains. “And so I was wholeheartedly like, ‘Yes, let's dive into this. Let's age up our characters. Let's make their issues just slightly more sophisticated.'"

Still, Coleite maintains that the Grace family hasn't changed just because they've gotten a little older. “They are still exactly who they are in the books, they have the same drive, they have the same personality,” he adds. “By aging it up, you can actually talk about the issues.”

<p>Courtesy of the Roku Channel</p> Lyon Daniels as Jared Grace in 'The Spiderwick Chronicles'

Courtesy of the Roku Channel

Lyon Daniels as Jared Grace in 'The Spiderwick Chronicles'

The newest iteration of The Spiderwick Chronicles follows the Grace family as they move from New York to Michigan after Jared (Lyon Daniels) gets expelled from school. When otherworldly phenomena begins to occur in their mysterious family home, Jared, his twin brother Simon (Noah Cottrell), and sister Mallory (Mychala Lee) must overcome their own strained familial bonds and work together to protect the human world from the evil ogre Mulgarath (Christian Slater).

DiTerlizzi and Black were both “instrumental” in helping to adapt the series for television while still making sure that it maintained the original magic of Spiderwick, Coleite says. “What was really important for me from jump was getting not only their sign off, but their creative contribution to, what is this world going to look like? And who are they talking to? And how do we keep Spiderwick Chronicles being Spiderwick Chronicles even though we are going to adapt and change some things and build out the world?”

As a result, the showrunner says that the series takes time to explore the complicated relationships between the entire family — including mom Helen (Joy Bryant) and aunt Lucinda (Charlayne Woodard) — in much greater detail than ever before. “One of the things that was really important to us was juxtaposing this fantastical world with a real world and real stakes and real family drama. And if they weren't equally as intriguing, both would fail,” he explains. “We needed to have both sides of it, so we can juxtapose [that] this is a real family going through real issues that feel modern and contemporary, and, by the way, they are now being introduced to a whole other, magical world that has its own rules that they need to understand and adapt to.”

<p>Courtesy of the Roku Channel</p> 'The Spiderwick Chronicles'

Courtesy of the Roku Channel

'The Spiderwick Chronicles'

And, as it turns out, the family will be navigating the magical world without any help, because the pages of their uncle Arthur Spiderwick’s field guide to fantastical creatures have been ripped clean out of the book. Instead, Jared, Simon, and their pals will have to scour the town for miniature locked doors and solve fascinating puzzles in order to retrieve the lost pages. It is the series' biggest departure from its source material, and a move that Coleite knows will likely surprise readers and those who have seen the film.

"It was one of the early buy-ins that I wanted to get from Tony and Holly, which is we need to have quests for our heroes," Coleite explains. "Here's the book, and then you open it up and the pages are all gone. And where are they? And how do you get them back? [That] seemed like a great driving quest. And then the idea of them all being hidden and they're having to be puzzles to get them out was just a delight. [We were] in the writers' room like, 'Okay, how do we make each one of these tests?' ... We have so many more for other seasons to come."

Further complicating their quest is Mulgarath, who is also hunting for the pages as part of his plan to take over the human world. Although the ogre is introduced toward the end of the book series, Coleite says he chose to weave Mulgarath into the mix during the show's first season because he's "the best villain, and every good season of television needs a really amazing villain at the start of it.”

He continues, “I didn't want to wait ‘till season five to reach Mulgarath. I was like, ‘Really sorry!’ I want to make sure he's in the first season, because he is so iconic. He is a legitimate fairytale villain with a capital ‘V.'"

<p>The Roku Channel</p> Thimbletack and Jared Grace in 'The Spiderwick Chronicles'

The Roku Channel

Thimbletack and Jared Grace in 'The Spiderwick Chronicles'

So, instead of following a direct book adaptation structure similar to that of Percy Jackson or Harry Potter, Coleite says the first season of The Spiderwick Chronicles is more of an amalgamation of the first and last books in the series. “It really was like, ‘Well, I don't have enough to go book-by-book, so what makes the most sense for a first season?’" he recalls. "Not only in journey, not only in having a really good villain to fight against, but also having to consider, well, as much as I want every single creature from Spiderwick Chronicles to be in season 1, we are going to have to make some tough choices.”

That means, sadly, letting go of a few recognizable creatures, like the clever hobgoblin Hogsqueal, in favor of focusing more on “important” characters like Thimbletack (Jack Dylan Grazer), the brownie that resides in the Spiderwick mansion. However, if given the chance to continue the series, Coleite is more than ready to dig deep into some of the other fantastical worlds waiting just outside the family's front door.

“I would love to have gone into the world of the dwarves. I would love to gone into the realm of the elves. We give a lot of little bread crumbs and hints of these other worlds and of the other books, but we have to be judicious: it's eight episodes, we can only tell so much story,” he explains. “What really immediately made sense to me is taking [Book] One and [Book] Five and allowing ourselves the benefits of, in seasons to come, hopefully, then we can explore other worlds. Season 2 can focus on the realm of the dwarves. Season 3 can focus on the realm of the elves [and] we can have major, really iconic features and characters appear throughout.”

The Spiderwick Chronicles is now available to stream on The Roku Channel.

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