After reading Victoria Hislop’s best-seller “The Island,” many have thought that it is a novel well suited for Hollywood. It has all the prerequisites necessary for a successful film. There is a powerful love story and memorable leading characters, not to mention an ideally peculiar background: the forgotten leper colony of Spinalonga island.
At Mega Channel, initial thoughts about making a movie underwent many changes until the final decision was taken to transfer “The Island” to the small screen, with a budget of 4 million euros. At first, Mega’s programming director Petros Boutos did not like the idea. He is not a big fan of the usual Greek television adaptations of books, which he considers rather “academic” – a nicer term for boring. “The Island” could only be turned into a 26-episode series if it acquired features that could take it in a different direction.
Hence, the experienced Mirella Papaeconomou came on board for the script’s adaptation, while Hislop’s permission was sought in order to “enrich” the novel. Stories and characters that do not exist in the book were added, mostly to fill in the time of an entire TV season.
Hislop actively participated in the entire process with ideas, suggestions and observations. Young director Theo Papadoulakis, who is in his early 30s and is mostly known for his work in short films, was selected to direct the production. Papadoulakis lives permanently in Hania, Crete, where along with his two partners he runs a local production company. He convinced the people at Mega that the final result would be much better if Athens stayed out of the production. That is something unusual, which nonetheless is now feasible because Spinalonga offers the best natural setting.
That doesn’t mean that all shooting takes place on the semi-abandoned island with its Venetian castle. Only the small pier where the boat arrives from the fishing village of Plaka as well as the market street are being used for filming. More Spinalonga sets are being constructed along a narrow street in the village of Upper Elounda, while different sets added to the village’s existing buildings reflect the atmosphere of old Plaka.
Filming started in December and is scheduled to run for a year. Actress Gioulika Skafida, who plays one of the two daughters of the leading character (played by Katerina Lechou), says that this kind of isolation enables actors to focus on their roles.
As is the case with Hislop’s novel – which has sold 2 million copies worldwide – the TV series follows the life of the residents of Spinalonga and Plaka from 1939 onward, focusing on the family of the village’s female teacher, who falls ill and is “exiled” to the leper colony island.
Spinalonga remained open as a leper colony from 1903 to 1957. It was officially designated an archaeological site in 1976, but decades went by before the first maintenance interventions took place. The overall impression of abandonment is still evident despite recent restoration works. There is hope that this can change if the efforts of local institutions in Aghios Nikolaos to include Spinalonga among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are successful.
Actors Stelios Mainas, Emilios Heilakis, Evgenia Dimitropoulou and Alexandros Logothetis star in other leading roles. In total, there are 120 roles and more than 500 supporting actors will participate. The series will start airing next October on Mega. (Source: