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Photo: The CW

Television

‘Tom Swift’ — Keeping the positivity of the classic book in season 1

The EPs and cast of Tom Swift dish on the series before the premiere.

There are a number of classic children’s literary characters that front their own television show. The Hardy Boys are over on Hulu while The CW has Nancy Drew. In the second season of the latter, the episode entitled, “The Celestial Visitor” served as a backdoor pilot for Tom Swift, a reimagining of sorts with him being a Black, gay, millionaire inventor. Now he returns tonight as the focus of his very own series. During the press day, the executive producers and stars had plenty to share about what viewers can expect.

The original novels were published over 100 years ago and the source material doesn’t really hold up today. Executive producer, Melinda Hsu Taylor, wanted to make the program more inclusive but keep “the core concept of optimism and friendship and kind of relentless positivity…And then we populated with a black, gay billionaire and, you know, all his found family and friends.”

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Actor, Tian Richards, also revealed some insight on Tom Swift and how he’s changed since we last saw him in Nancy Drew. “[I]t’s been three years since Tom Swift was in Horseshoe Bay. So that takes place in 2019, we take place in current day. So, Tom has definitely grown up a little more. When we first meet him, he’s still trying to get the, the meteorite to, to build the, you know, spaceship for his father. At the top of our series, we meet him when he has just completed that spaceship. So again, definitely further along his journey.”

He continued, “We look a little different, I like to say…we’re giving a little more, you know, grown-man energy, definitely this time around. And it was so beautiful this time, you get to see Tom in his element. You get to see him with his family, with his friends, you get to see him in his hometown. So, you really do open up the fullness of who this man was.”

Though Tom Swift and Nancy Drew are in the same universe, don’t expect any crossovers any time soon. Executive producer, Noga Landau said, “as far as the two shows speaking to each other, if they do, it’s gonna happen eventually, and it’s gonna happen in a really interesting way. But, you know, what’s important to us is that these two shows really stand on their own. Like they’re in the same universe, the characters know each other, we’ve put a lot of really fun, little Easter eggs if you’re paying attention between Tom and Nancy.”

'Tom Swift' -- Keeping the positivity of the classic book in season 1
Photo: The CW

The series has a predominantly Black cast, but the creatives wanted to tell a universal story. Taylor explained, “we really wanted to make it a show where, no matter what kind of intersectional identity you have, you have somebody to relate to, somebody to cheer for, somebody to hope for.”

Executive producer, Cameron Johnson, added, “what we were able to do here, is gather a group of people together and tell a story about a person who has lost something and who is trying to reclaim that, and also figure out what do I take from my parents? What do I leave behind? And what is the life that I can build for myself when surrounded by the people that I love.”

A significant plot point in the first season is the relationship between Tom Swift and his father, Barton. Richards drew inspiration from his own experiences of coming out to his family. “But it is great to grow up in a household where you can be fully realized and fully self-actualized.” However, he understands everybody’s situation is different. “So, there are many people who deal with parents who, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, sometimes it’s a little more micro-aggression in-between. It’s not, we always kick you out of the house or disown you, but it’s like little micro-aggression, little comments that they make, little, you know, side jabs that you, you feel it.”

But Johnson assured everyone that Barton only needs time to adjust to who his son really is and come to terms with their different views. “Barton and Tom love each other dearly. The problem is that their vision for what being a man is, is so different that it’s a big bridge to cross… But what it’s really about is accepting that your child’s vision, the person you love’s vision of what their life should be, can be different. And your job is not to like, try to beat them into submission and doing like what your dream of, of them was. It’s to help them be the best possible version of that, of themselves.”

There are other characters on the series besides Tom Swift. Ashleigh Murray, who played Josie McCoy on Riverdale and Katy Keene, spoke about having a more mature role in Zenzi Fullerton. “Honestly, it’s so wonderful because, you know, I, I’ve always been a very mature person, even in my youth. And it’s nice to be able to finally step and walk in that same maturity. You know, it, it feels good to, to feel like a woman and to be received as a woman, and to be respected as a woman, that I can show up and I can command a space and I can command attention and I will be listened to.”

With regards to Zenzi’s links to Tom, the actress said, “You know, they are, they are longtime family friends, but they’re like cousins. They’re like, they’re like siblings, you know, they can finish each other’s sentences or know what the other person needs and what they don’t need. You know, that’s, that’s a bond that is really, really hard to break.”

One person who will be heard but not seen is LeVar Burton. He provides the voice to the Barclay, an artificial intelligence. Taylor expressed Barclay’s role in Tom Swift’s life. “We wanted somebody who was a best friend to a lonely kid, whose parents were off and out of the house, who didn’t have folks he could relate to, you know, at his level, but also of his age. So, he created this robot essentially, who would be kind of his Obi-Wan. And be encouraging and smart and protective and loving, and, you know, secretly in the ways he wished his dad were.”

Don’t miss Tom Swift when it premieres tonight on The CW.

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