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Stephen King continues to be backseat driver for ‘Mr. Mercedes’

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A dark and mysterious figure has loomed over the first two seasons of the AT&T Audience Network’s series,”Mr. Mercedes,” and shows no sign of going away. The third season, which airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays, is again being presented under the watchful eye of horror writer extraordinaire Stephen King. 

The new season is based on King’s “Finders Keepers,” the second book in King’s trilogy of hard-boiled detective books that started with “Mr. Mercedes” in 2014. The prolific writer has had so many of his books turned into films and TV shows that his contract allows for him to be an executive producer on productions based on his work.

So far, working with King has been a breeze for Jack Bender, the hands-on executive producer and director for the “Mr. Mercedes” series. Bender got to know King when the former was a producer on the ABC mystical drama “Lost,” a favorite TV show for King. The pair then worked together when Bender was an executive producer on “Under the Dome,” a TV series based on King’s book of the same name.

In fact, it was King who sent Bender a copy of “Mr. Mercedes.”

“It was Stephen King’s new book and I couldn’t believe it. And he asked me if I wanted to do it,” Bender says. “He saw the first few cuts of the first two episodes of season one and said this is so good I want to be on it. And he has said that it’s one of his favorite adaptations of anything that’s ever been done. And he loved last season.”

That’s high praise considering King’s works have been adapted for movies such as “The Shining” and “Carrie,” plus TV shows like “Salem’s Lot.” In the case of “It,” King’s book was made into a TV series and feature films.

The task of turning King’s novels into TV script has fallen to David Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro, who wrote every script for the third season that will continue to explore the fallout from the massacre perpetrated by Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway). Hodges (Brendan Gleeson), Holly (Justine Lupe) and Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) work with the local police to track down the killer of a local author. The case ends up being far more complex than the murder of an American icon as unpublished novels by the author — worth millions — were stolen from his home. The trio learns that while Brady may be gone, his depravity lives on in his victims.

While the series uses a lot of material from King’s books, there have been changes, including making the second book the basis of the third season. King’s reaction, according to Bender, is that when he sees what has been added to his story, he’s sorry that he didn’t include such items in his original writings.

Getting King’s support is a blessing because the writer has been very vocal with his dislike of some adaptations in the past such as “The Running Man” and “Firestarter.” So far, all is well for Bender and company.

“He’s very supportive. I’m really blessed that he really appreciates what we’re doing,” Bender says. “Occasionally I call him with a question and he’s very available. But for the most part he’s just a devoted fan of the show. So, it’s an embarrassment of riches to be able to call him a friend and somebody I get to work with and maybe one of these days he won’t be as complimentary about some stuff, but so far so good.”

Even the timing has been solid as the series is based on murder of a random group of people, a scenario that has become frequent in real life. In the case of the TV series, the aftermath has been a huge part of the storylines.

Bender says, “There was one thing that I always wanted to deal with and we weren’t able to until this season. That was the repercussions of evil and that when something happens, when you think about these places, these towns where these horrible massacres happen, everybody in that town says, ‘I can’t believe it happened here. I can’t believe it happened to us.’

“That’s very much a part of our show. The ripples in the evil pond don’t just stop with the immediate characters and the family. It affects that town. It stains that town, and I think as a nation right now we’re suffering that a little bit, but we won’t get into all that. I do think that it’s great that we can deal with that this season.”


AT&T Audience Network is a pay television channel owned by DirecTV that features original and acquired series, specials and feature films.



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