Karin Slaughter’s novel ‘Pieces of Her’ becomes Netflix series with Toni Collette

"Pieces of Her," based on Karin Slaughter's novel, is a Netflix drama series starring Bella Heathcote (left) as Andy Oliver and Toni Collette as Laura Oliver. Courtesy of Mark Rogers/Netflix © 2022

Credit: MARK ROGERS/NETFLIX

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"Pieces of Her," based on Karin Slaughter's novel, is a Netflix drama series starring Bella Heathcote (left) as Andy Oliver and Toni Collette as Laura Oliver. Courtesy of Mark Rogers/Netflix © 2022

Credit: MARK ROGERS/NETFLIX

The series out March 4 was mostly shot in Australia due to the pandemic and partly in Georgia.

A decade ago, Atlanta best-selling author Karin Slaughter was in talks to have one of her books turned into a possible TV series.

“I was in the room talking to the decision-makers and everybody seemed really excited,” she said. Later, though, her agent said, “‘Nah. They passed.’ They told my agent that the story was too ‘female centric.’”

“Scandal” had not yet debuted on ABC. Netflix was just starting to stream original dramas and “Orange is the New Black” was a year away from airing. HBO’s “Big Little Lies” was five years away from fruition.

But once those shows got traction, interest in Slaughter’s books, which focus on strong, mature, resourceful women battling inner demons and terrible men, started to ratchet up in Hollywood. She finally found the right partners: Netflix, showrunner and executive producer Charlotte Stoudt (”Fosse/Verdon,” “The Morning Show”) and the female-run production company Made Up Stories, to name a few.

The result: Netflix has adapted her 2018 thriller “Pieces of Her” starring Oscar-winning Australian actress Toni Collette, 49, as Georgia speech therapist Laura Oliver, who escaped a murderous cult in her youth and has been in the witness protection program for 30 years. A jarring, very public incident endangers her anonymity and shakes the foundation of her 30-year-old daughter, Andy (Bella Heathcote).

“Suddenly, middle-aged female actresses are having this heyday on streaming,” Slaughter said in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, citing recent shows like Hulu’s “Nine Perfect Strangers.” “Streaming services figured out there are people who want to see women who aren’t idiots or grandmothers at age 40.”

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Author Karin Slaughter Courtesy of HarperCollins

Credit: Alison Cohen Rosa

Author Karin Slaughter
Courtesy of HarperCollins

Credit: Alison Cohen Rosa

Combined ShapeCaption
Author Karin Slaughter Courtesy of HarperCollins

Credit: Alison Cohen Rosa

Credit: Alison Cohen Rosa

Slaughter ― who has 21 books to her name with more than 40 million sold worldwide ― also gives credit to the successful 2014 film “Gone Girl” for featuring a damaged, complicated lead woman based on the Gillian Flynn novel of the same name. “It’s a fantastic book and hit at the right time to become a movie,” she said. (Flynn provides Slaughter a return salute on the current soft-cover version of “Pieces of Me,” dubbing her “one of the best thriller writers working today.”)

Slaughter has nothing but praise for how the TV producers adapted her book.

“It totally captures the writing in a way that doesn’t dumb it down,” Slaughter said. At the same time, “they understood how to frame a mystery. They followed the structure of my story really well. But they made changes to streamline things. For example, in my book, Andy drives to multiple states. They cut that down.”

Seeing her words transformed onto a screen was surreal, she said. “I’m watching Andy carry a blue suitcase I made blue in the book because I don’t like the color red,” she said. “She goes to a storage facility in Carrollton called Get-Em-Go, which was a placeholder name in my book that I never changed.”

While Slaughter didn’t adapt the script, she was given the opportunity to provide notes, and she was queried about her characters’ motivations.

“They made me feel included,” she said.

The series was originally going to shoot for three months in Vancouver after Georgia was ruled out in part because the producers were upset by a strict anti-abortion bill passed by the state legislature in 2019 that was later struck down by a federal judge.

Then the pandemic happened. The producers pivoted and landed in Australia instead, where key actors like Heathcote and Collette are from.

“Netflix just hustled like hell to get it done,” Slaughter said.

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Toni Collette as Laura Oliver and Omari Hardwick as Gordon Oliver in "Pieces of Her." Courtesy of Mark Rogers/Netflix © 2022

Credit: MARK ROGERS/NETFLIX

Toni Collette as Laura Oliver and Omari Hardwick as Gordon Oliver in "Pieces of Her." Courtesy of Mark Rogers/Netflix © 2022

Credit: MARK ROGERS/NETFLIX

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Toni Collette as Laura Oliver and Omari Hardwick as Gordon Oliver in "Pieces of Her." Courtesy of Mark Rogers/Netflix © 2022

Credit: MARK ROGERS/NETFLIX

Credit: MARK ROGERS/NETFLIX

Although the bulk of the series was shot in Australia, a handful of scenes were done in Georgia, including a Shell station in Brunswick and a bar and motel in Jasper.

“There’s a scene where Andy is on a bicycle,” Slaughter said. “At the beginning of the scene, she’s in Brunswick. The house she arrives at is in Australia. That is officially the longest bike ride ever!”

And the author herself makes a brief appearance in the background of a scene shot at Underground Atlanta. “I walk by Andy leaving the bookstore,” she said. “That’s my claim to fame!”

The small town in the book called Belle Isle near Savannah where Andy and Laura live in the beginning of the series is fictional. “I made that up,” she said. “I hate when I get letters where people complain that you can’t take a left on this particular road, so I just make up names a lot of the time. Anyone who knows Savannah knows what I’m doing.”

At the beginning of the book and the series, Andy is a 911 dispatcher and entirely lost. She has no love life or career she cares about, and she’s saddled with student debt for a college degree she never got. In a weird way, the revelations about her mom and family give her a sense of purpose for the first time.

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Bella Heathcote as Andy Oliver in episode 103 of "Pieces of Her." Cr. Kyle Kaplan/Netflix © 2022

Credit: KYLE KAPLAN/NETFLIX

Bella Heathcote as Andy Oliver in episode 103 of "Pieces of Her." Cr. Kyle Kaplan/Netflix © 2022

Credit: KYLE KAPLAN/NETFLIX

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Bella Heathcote as Andy Oliver in episode 103 of "Pieces of Her." Cr. Kyle Kaplan/Netflix © 2022

Credit: KYLE KAPLAN/NETFLIX

Credit: KYLE KAPLAN/NETFLIX

The series in part focuses on how Andy finds her groove while playing detective.

“It made her jump out of her complacency,” Slaughter said. “She is feeling a level of betrayal and gullibility. It’s like she had been catfished for 30 years.”

Heathcote as Andy expresses that bewilderment on her face and in her words time and time again during the series.

“Every time I think I get closer to knowing her, she slips away,” Andy says about her mom, adding later, “It’s like the flying monkeys carried off my childhood.”

Slaughter isn’t done with Andy. She is currently working on a sequel to “Pieces of Her” in which Andy becomes a U.S. Marshal. It could be the basis of another season of the show.

For now, Slaughter just hopes her fans and viewers enjoy the Netflix series.

“I have readers worldwide who want to see stuff like this,” she said. “I can’t wait to hear what they think.”


HOW TO WATCH

“Pieces of Her,” available to Netflix subscribers on March 4.