Alana Boden and Kelsey Grammer in Flowers in the Attic: The Origin
Jemima Rooper and T'Shan Williams in Flowers in the Attic: The Origin
Kate Mulgrew and Jemima Rooper in Flowers in the Attic: The Origin
Paul Wesley and Harry Hamlin in Flowers in the Attic: The Origin
Max Irons and Jemima Rooper in Flowers in the Attic: The Origin
Jennie Snyder Urman
Paul Sciarrotta first read Flowers in the Attic when he was in eighth grade. And he never forgot the frightening V.C. Andrews tale of children being locked away in an attic, tormented by a grandmother who was more concerned with preserving the family's wealth than the well-being of her daughter's children.
So when the pitch came around four years ago to adapt the story into a limited series, Sciarrotta didn't hesitate. "I was all in," he says happily.
As with any good mystery, there would be lots of surprises ahead. "When we first pitched the project, we were going to do the whole Flowers in the Attic story," says Sciarrotta, who served as an executive producer and writer. But instead, the team narrowed their focus to Flowers in the Attic: The Origin, a four-episode limited series premiering July 9 on Lifetime. (The series is based on the prequel novel Garden of Shadows by Andrew Neiderman, who has ghostwritten for the V.C. Andrews franchise for the past thirty-five years.)
And Olivia, that merciless grandmother? Well, she's hardly recognizable.
"This is really Olivia's story, her journey from being a woman who was ahead of her time, full of hopes and dreams and all the things she thought her life was going to be, to what happens over the course of thirty-five years," says Sciarrotta.
In truth, viewers might be surprised to find that they admire Olivia (Jemima Rooper) and even sympathize with her plight of being married to the evil Malcolm Foxworth (Max Irons). Rounding out the cast is Kelsey Grammer (Frasier), Harry Hamlin (Mad Men), Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries) and Kate Mulgrew (Orange Is the New Black).
It was another executive producer, Jennie Snyder Urman, who brought Sciarrotta onboard, having worked with him on the comedy Jane the Virgin. "I knew Paul loved the Andrews books and was perfect for this."
When it was announced that the series would film in Romania, in the midst of winter and the Covid pandemic, it was Sciarrotta who ended up being boots on the ground. "It all came together when we didn't even have vaccinations yet," he says. And yet the eighty-day shoot went off with nary a hitch and Sciarrotta, who was busy writing and rewriting scenes as they filmed, nonetheless looks back on the shoot fondly. "Sure, it was very cold, and the building where we shot [standing in for the grand Foxworth Hall] could be spooky," he says. "But our cast and crew were spectacular. Jemima, who played Olivia, brought her toddler and her newborn baby along and, under pretty difficult circumstances, was absolutely wonderful!"
Undoubtedly there will be future endeavors featuring stories from the Andrews books, given that Lifetime's parent company A+E Networks has purchased the rights to the entire collection.
For his part, Sciarrotta is rather philosophical about the appeal of these frightening tales. "At the heart of these stories, we're all taught that families aren't perfect."
Flowers in the Attic: The Origin airs consecutively on Lifetime over four weeks, beginning July 9.
Besides Sciarrotta and Urman, the executive producers are Joanna Klein, Zoë Rocha, Gary Pearl, Dan Angel and Declan O'Dwyer. The series is an A+E Studios production in association with Sutton St. Productions and CBS Studios.