The enemy is not the problem. For bombardier John Yossarian, serving in World War II is as much about fighting the very system that he’s caught up in as it is about fighting Germans. “It’s not that he’s scared of death, it’s that he’s scared of who decides to bestow death upon him,” says Christopher Abbott (Girls, Vox Lux), who plays Yossarian in Hulu’s upcoming Catch-22 miniseries. “He’s fully aware that death is imminent, but he doesn’t want it at the hands of this bureaucratic system.”
In writing the 1961 novel Catch-22, Joseph Heller created a look into the machinery of war by telling the story of Yossarian, his fellow fliers, and his commanding officer, the crazy Colonel Cathcart, a man who calls the shots and, in many moments, seems like Yossarian’s biggest enemy — potentially deadlier than even those trying to shoot him out of the sky. “It’s about the madness of war,” executive producer Luke Davies says of the book. “It’s also hilariously about the madness of the bureaucracy of war, which is a different matter. And it’s about the experience of powerlessness that we all have.” Those themes will carry over into the six-episode miniseries, in which Cathcart was originally going to be played by George Clooney. The ER alum, who serves as an executive producer and director on the project, ultimately decided to go for another part — he’ll play Scheisskopf — and reached out instead to Kyle Chandler for Cathcart. “My initial reaction was, ‘No, I’m not going to remake Catch-22,’” Chandler says. “But then I read it, and immediately I was intrigued. The role is not really quite like anything I’ve done before. [Cathcart’s] insane.”
It’s that insanity that surrounds Yossarian in a complex, satirical story that’s been adapted to the screen only one other time, in Mike Nichols’ 1970 film. But, as Davies puts it, “If we’re supposedly in the golden age of television, how come no one’s done an adaptation of Catch-22?” Perhaps now’s the time.
Get an exclusive first look at the series, which will be released in the spring of 2019, below (and head to PEOPLE.com for additional exclusive images):
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