Dear Edward May Be the Next Drama Binge-Watch You Need

Stars Connie Britton and Taylor Schilling, and series creator Jason Katims talk about the story's appeal, highlighting renewal following tragedy in the adaptation of Ann Napolitano's novel, and the power of resiliency.

by | February 20, 2023 | Comments

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Dear Edward, the new Apple TV+ drama about a titular 12-year-old boy who is the sole survivor of a plane crash that kills hundreds of people, including his entire family, is, needless to say, not meant as a light-viewing experience.

The 10-episode series — now a bingeable four episodes in — adapts the 2020 novel of the same name by Ann Napolitano and focuses on more than the grief of this tragic story, though; characters like Edward, Lacey (his aunt and new guardian), and newly-widowed Dee Dee face their new lives and the old baggage of their loved ones, while others who lost family members in the crash, find love, new careers, and new truths in the aftermath of heartbreak.

Orange Is the New Black alum Taylor Schilling portrays Lacey, whose heartache about the loss of her sister and a series of miscarriages has to take a backseat to instant parenthood, while also dealing with her traumatized nephew.

“We meet Lacey and she’s already in this space of letting go of her idea of what she thinks her life should be.,” Schilling told Rotten Tomatoes. “And she’s already prepped and primed to undergo some sort of breakthrough. She’s kind of having a dark night of the soul, and it all kind of is of a peace. But certainly I think the letting go of conceiving and giving birth to a child, her kind of surrendering that dream, is the center of how she’s operating in the world. That, I think, is what everything else organizes around. She’s so brave in learning to let go and meet life where it is.”

Friday Night Lights star Connie Britton, as Dee Dee, whose free and fabulous lifestyle is interrupted not only by the death of her husband in the crash, but also by the reveal of the secrets he had been keeping from her and her daughter. Emmy- and Golden Globe–nominee Britton may be looking at additional awards nominations for Dear Edward, as she beautifully layers Dee Dee’s grief with some well-timed moments of fun and levity to deliver a nuanced — and it turns out, personal — portrayal of devastation.

Connie Britton and Audrey Corsa in "Dear Edward"

(Photo by Apple TV+)

“As an actor, it’s really fun to have your character fall apart. It’s very fun to play that.,” Britton said. “But the other thing to me, when I was looking at the show as a whole, and we’re obviously dealing with themes of grief, is realizing in my personal life, surprisingly, my experience with grief conjures a lot of recollections of laughter and sense of humor.

“When I’ve had really hard loss in my life, like the loss of my parents, I ended up being surrounded by laughter; that was the thing that lifted me up and got me out. And I realized laughter is actually a really kind of essential part of working through the stages of grief. And so it was important to me to maintain a lightness and a levity to who Dee Dee was and is in the (series), even as she’s going through terrible heartbreak and betrayal and loss,” she said.

Dear Edward was created by Jason Katims, the Emmy-winning Friday Night Lights and Parenthood writer and executive producer whose past works are filled with the kind of smart, deeply emotional, and resonating stories that make Dear Edward so watchable, even though many moments, warning, will leave you gutted and sobbing on your couch.

Katims, who connected with the “moving, very original” stories and characters of Napolitano’s novel, doesn’t see the book and series as ultimately a story of loss and heartbreak, however; and he hopes viewers will take away something more positive and affecting.

Colin O’Brien and Taylor Schilling in "Dear Edward"

(Photo by Apple TV+)

“I see it ultimately as a story about resilience and the power of the human spirit,” Emmy winner Katims said. “And I see it as a very life-affirming show. It’s a show where some of these characters, even though they’re grieving, and they’re going through this horrible loss, they’re also looking at themselves in a new way. They’re redefining themselves. Love stories come out of this. Some people in this show redefine their lives, and they change forever because of (what they experience). We look at complex marriages and complex relationships with mothers and daughters and mothers and sons. And to me, these are the things that I get excited about writing about. Also, these shows that are really deeply about the nuance in characters and relationships, they’re also the kinds of shows I like to watch. So I hope what people take away from this is that, while it’s a show that’s not afraid to look at some hard things and doesn’t necessarily have easy answers, ultimately the show is life-affirming.”

Back to the performances, both Schilling and Katims, who, between Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, has worked with a lot of Hollywood’s talented younger performers, agree they found one of the best in newcomer Colin O’Brien, who plays Edward, the boy thrown into the unimaginable loss of his entire nuclear family.

 “Colin is a standout. He’s amazing,” Katims said. “When we started casting this show, obviously the first thing we were doing was a search for Edward. We saw well over 100 actors for the role and did lots of callbacks, lots of auditions. And Colin, you write this role, you can write anything you want to write, but you’re writing for a 12-year-old boy. You’re writing this incredibly layered stuff, and it’s complex, and it’s difficult. Then you start thinking, ‘Well, who’s going to be able to do this?’ And Colin has this quiet quality to him. He’s very soft-spoken, but he’s incredibly strong. He’s a very powerful person. When you see him on screen, there’s just so much in his face and in his eyes that comes through … he has this old soul quality to him. He just did such a beautiful job.”

O’Brien worked most closely with Schilling on the series, and she said she was most impressed with his talent and his mature professionalism.

“I’ve worked with a bunch of kids, and Colin is so diligent, and he was so particular about the way he wanted to work. And he really had such a specific process.,” Schilling said. “He asked me a lot of questions. He really wanted to collaborate on our scenes. And it was really fun. So much of work happens before you get to set … so it was really a glorious process, because he brought so much focus into the actual day of shooting, with new questions and ideas. He loves acting. He felt like any kind of great scene partner. Professionally, he didn’t feel like a child … between takes we had a lot of fun together, but inside of the work he just brought it. So it made it easier for me to just trust him also and go for it.”

With the cast and Katims having a rewarding experience working together on Dear Edward, and the characters resonating and endearing themselves to viewers, Katims, for one, said he would happily return to the story and follow Edward, Aunt Lacey, and their fellow survivors for another season, and see how they’re continuing to rebound from the tragedies they’ve all suffered.

“The thing is, grief doesn’t end just at a particular time,” Katims said. “You deal with it in different ways, in different times. And it’s impactful in ways that you couldn’t see at the beginning when you’re in the immediate shock of it all. I always think about it as, are these characters that I have more to say about? Are these characters that I want to live with more? And I definitely do. So right now, we’re excited about the launch for the first season, and I’m all about that. But it would be something that, in success, I would love to continue to explore these characters and this world.”

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