Garth Risk Hallberg Goes Behind the Scenes of the City on Fire Adaptation

Garth Risk Hallberg Goes Behind the Scenes of the City on Fire Adaptation

The series adaptation of Garth Risk Hallberg's bestselling , City on Fire , premieres on Apple TV+ today, so we asked Hallberg the uncanny experience of seeing his book come to life, handing over the creative reins (with “a license to kibitz”), ingenious acts of translation, and more. * How does it feel to see your characters and come to life on screen? There's that scene at the end of Being John Malkovich where John Cusack is running around the interior of his mind, crashing through doors that join seemingly discrete times and places, an image that commingles comedy and intimacy and lunacy. I can say that stepping onto the City on Fire soundstages in the Bronx last summer felt a little bit like that. Like stepping into a large, persuasive, but slightly trippy externalization of the inside of my head. On one of the stages was the apartment of Regan and Keith, mostly as I'd imagined it (making a few interior decoration allowances for the show's time transposition from 1977 to 2003). But it was like: oh, wow, there are the photos just inside the door that Samantha notices, and there on the wall is some art by their six-year old daughter Cate. And here's a report card from the Wenceslas-Mockingbird School. Surreal! Uncanny soon gave way to cool, though. On the other soundstage, the production team had assembled a three-story, immersive version of the Phalanstery, the downtown squat where some characters from the novel do their dreaming and scheming. It was pretty much as I'd imagined it, except relocated from a brownstone in the East Village ('77) to a tenement on the Lower East Side ('03). The interior was so fully realized and so maximized for pothead goofing off that I didn't want to leave. Apparently, neither did the actors (I was told it became the hangout during shooting breaks). And here came Max Milner as Nicky Chaos, climbing up the stairs in character to greet me. Or possibly to indoctrinate me into his Phalanx? Freakier still was watching actors on those sets enact scenes […]

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