Stephanie Danler’s 2016 novel SWEETBITTER follows 22-year-old Tess as she moves to New York and dives into the restaurant industry. Danler’s has a very specific, lyrical, immersive quality, which she said the new TV series based on her book, starring Ella Purnell as the young waitress, will attempt to replicate.
“Visually, we made it as immersive as possible. We wanted the show to feel like a sensory assault. We wanted it to feel sensual from every angle, whether she was eating food from a halal cart at 2:00 in the morning or having her first oyster, and I think that that’s where you get the lyricism of the prose,” she told reporters at the show’s Television Critics Association 2018 winter press tour panel. “It’s translated through the way that we inundate the audience with all of our colors and sounds and sights and also through Ella’s face, which is so deeply expressive and lets you know the awakening that’s happening.”
The six-episode series will debut in the spring of 2018, and span Tess’ first two weeks in the Big Apple—just one small chunk of the book.
“This show is very much about a sensory awakening,” showrunner Stuart Zicherman said, adding that the theme of the first season is “intoxication.”
The book was critically lauded, and Danler said the reason she wanted to adapt her own work for the screen is so she could collaborate and expand the world that she wrote.
“One of the reasons is because I wanted to expand the world of the book and make something new, so I tried to come to it as open as possible. It’s such a deeply collaborative process, so much different than the loneliness when you’re writing a novel,” she said. “It was hard work, but it was never difficult.”
Explained star Purnell, “this show is about a young, 21-year-old lady coming and developing a palate and becoming a person. She gets a taste for everything. Before she comes to New York, she’s a blank slate.”
“Sweetbitter” will premiere on Starz in Spring 2018.