'Game of Silence' showrunner on balancing the darkness of the new series
What happens when four adults are forced to face the people responsible for ruining their childhoods? That’s the question posed by Game of Silence, which follows those traumatized victims as they, 25 years later, seek justice against the men who abused them.
Before the show’s premeire, we spoke with Game of Silence showrunner David Hudgins about what fans can expect.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What about the Turkish series drew you to it?
DAVID HUDGINS: I just really responded to it. The characters were amazing. It had a real nostalgic sort of filmic feel to it because they went back and told stories about these characters when they were younger. It was mysterious but really what I think drew me to it was the emotional thrill of it between these characters. Because you just fell in love with them and you wanted to know more about them. You put that on top of the mystery and the thriller elements that are already there, I thought it was a really unique way to do a show.
When adapting it for American television, what changes did you make?
In the Turkish version it was very concentrated to the main characters. It was good, it was intense, but I wanted to open the show up so I created some additional bad guys and I created this greater conspiracy going on in present day so our guys, when they’re making their decision whether or not to go pursue justice and revenge, it’s a much higher stakes situation because they find out as they go along through the course of season 1 that there’s a whole layer of stuff that they don’t know about at a very high level. But I kept the core idea of best friends who had a horrible thing happen to them in the past and now it’s coming back and what are they going to do about it and the kind of monkey wrench that throws into people’s lives.
I like that it’s as much about what happened in the past as what they’re going to do about it in present day.
You’re exactly right. The thing is, they all went through this trauma together but they each came out of it their own way, with their own damage and their own way of coping and dealing. I had an amazing writers’ room. We spent a lot of time researching the effects of abuse on kids and what that does to people as adults and it affects everybody differently and people cope in different ways. We learned very quickly that it’s a story about survival and how each of these characters came to terms with what happened to them. Of course they’ve all got their own secrets amongst and between them, which makes it extra juicy.
Were you at all worried about it being too dark with the central characters being kids for much of the abuse?
To me it was always a question of balance. I have four kids of my own and when I sat back and thought about the way I wanted to tell the story, I just wanted to take it very seriously. But I also felt like from a pure storytelling point of view, you had to have this horrible incident in the past and it had to be bad because otherwise, why 25 years later would they be willing to go forward and take all the risks that they take unless it was so bad. So it really came down to a question of balance. Yes, the inciting incident of what happened to them in the prison is very dark, but that’s really the only time we visit it. There are times you go back to the prison in flashbacks but it’s really to fill in story and to explain relationships. One of the things that was fantastic about the Turkish show is the flashbacks were often joyous, it’s hopeful and nostalgic. There was a real Stand By Me element to the show that I loved. So we do that in season 1.
You previously worked on Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, which are so character based. This show feels similar in that sense, but so much more is happening in terms of plot. How did you approach creating this world?
I came at it from the standpoint of character first and foremost and I feel like if you get people to fall in love with these characters then that’s half the battle. It ultimately boils down to the relationships between these people and when they’re talking about things like loyalty, friendship, and trust — those are pretty broad themes that you can throw into a story and explore. In the [writers] room a lot of times we would have to sit back and say, “What would really happen?” You could have a helicopter chase and a bomb exploding but that’s not the show, and yet it still has those sort of exciting action elements. I just tried to keep it grounded. I tried to keep it real.
Game of Silence premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.