University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop director M.O. Walsh’s second novel, “The Big Door Prize,” is being adapted into a television series for Apple TV. The book, released in September 2020, garnered early praise with starred reviews.
“I'm psyched! This is dream stuff for me,” Walsh said. “I think every fiction writer would like to see their work cast back at them on screen. It's just so rare that it actually happens that I'm incredibly grateful.”
Skydance Media, with writer David West Read of “Schitt’s Creek” fame, will oversee the television adaption.
Production is scheduled to begin in September, but that could change, Walsh said.
“I imagine it will be next year before anything airs,” said Walsh who will be a producer and serve mainly as a consultant for the series.
“I very intentionally do not want to interfere too much,” he said. “David and the writers he hires are all experts at television scripting, not me … I have read the pilot script and seen the first season outline and I love all the ideas he has, as well as some of the changes necessary to make it into a series. I have total faith.”
Walsh received multiple bids from production companies for the option rights and met with several to discuss ideas.
“They were all great and smart, but I got the feeling with David West Read that he saw the book exactly the same way I did,” Walsh said. “The things he really wants to bring to the series are the same things that are most important about the book to me; the humor, the heart. I also really loved his work on ‘Schitt's Creek’ and the fact that he has a playwriting background.
“After several conversations, I had no doubt he would do a great job with the material and that I was lucky to be in his orbit,” Walsh said.
The book is set in the small fictional town of Deerfield, La., the type of town where “everybody knows everybody,” Walsh said.
The novel starts with the arrival of a strange new machine at the local grocery story that looks like a photo booth. However, the machine claims that it can tell a person what their utmost potential would be by analyzing their DNA.
“So, people who have been construction workers for the last 20 years might get a readout from this machine saying they would actually be a really great chef or tennis player or accountant, if they pursued it,” Walsh said.
“The more people try the machine, the more the town gets engrossed with it as people start trying out some strange new paths.”
Among those trying out the machine is the novel’s main couple, Douglas and Cherilyn, who get very different readouts that makes them question if they are truly as happy as they’d thought, Walsh said.
“This is not a sci fi novel. It’s a more humorous and heartfelt look at people and how they square themselves with their dreams,” Walsh said.
Walsh said he has heard the short list of actors that Apple TV plans to approach, but he can’t divulge any names.
“It's an exciting list! Still, I can't say and won't know anything official until they do,” Walsh said. “I'll just sit back with my popcorn and wait!”