These days, it seems like every member of young Hollywood is involved in a YA series adaptation of some sort. While speaking with Emma Roberts about her new film Adult World at the Tribeca Film Festival, Tor.com got her to spill a little bit about Delirium, the TV pilot she recently wrapped. She spoke about where on the YA spectrum the show falls—gritty realism or ethereal metaphor—and what draws her to characters like Lena Haloway.
Lauren Oliver’s novel Delirium envisions a dystopian United States where every citizen is afflicted with amor deliria nervosa, or the love disease. Lena (Roberts) longs for her 18th birthday when she can finally get the surgical cure... that is, until she meets Alex Sheathes (Daren Kagasoff).
When I was suffering withdrawal from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy after finishing Mockingjay, I sought out similar dystopian series Divergent (by Veronica Roth) and Delirium. Each took a radically different approach to the concept of a strong young woman who fights against the tyranny of her futuristic government. To that end, I had to ask Roberts if she and the producers had had Delirium’s YA contemporaries in mind when they created the pilot.
Yes, it’s your typical dystopia where there are government agents keeping secrets and controlling how the young people conduct themselves. But villifying a chemical process like love brings a very ethereal feel to the story and could therefore be harder to nail down. So which was it? Roberts explained:
“We definitely played it more real, which is why it came across almost creepier—it was like, our world today, but turned upside-down. I liked that it wasn’t ethereal, and it wasn’t about magic. It’s more just about, ’What if our world was like this?’ That to me is really cool—when you take the modern world and add a twist to it, like how people would react to that twist.
“In the show, when you turn 18, you get ‘cured’ of the delirium, which is love. Your whole life is run by the government, basically. My character ends up falling in love and runs off to start a rebellion. The writer, Karyn Usher, wrote Prison Break, so she made it much more action-y and much more mature. So I think that it all has a really wide audience.”
The Delirium pilot wrapped last month, with the cast tweeting plenty of on-set photos leading up to the wrap party. Kagasoff, whose character Alex has supposedly found a way around the cure, shared this very creepy photo. It’s the Crypts, where thieves and resisters to the cure are held.
And here’s what ”the cure“ looks like:
When asked what attracts her to these characters, Roberts emphasized that it’s that particular yearning for completeness:
”I think it’s fun, as a young woman, to get to play characters that are searching for something, whether it’s their identity, or looking for love, or trying to find something they’re passionate about. I’m 22, so I’m still kind of figuring myself out in some ways and finding new things everyday that are interesting and cool."
Does Lena succumb to amor deliria nervosa? We’ll find out this fall, if Fox greenlights the Delirium pilot. It’ll have plenty of YA competition, with The CW’s The Selection another fall contender and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hitting theaters in November.
Photos: Daren Kagasoff’s Instagram
Natalie Zutter is a playwright, foodie, and pop culture blogger. Her writing has appeared on BlackBook, Ology, Bookish, and Crushable, where she discusses celebrity culture alongside internet memes (or vice versa). Weekly you can find her calling in to the Hunger Games Fireside Chat podcast, reviewing new releases at Movie Mezzanine, and on Twitter.