Everything We Know About Invitation to a Bonfire TV Show

·3 min read
Photo credit: Design by Michael Stillwell
Photo credit: Design by Michael Stillwell

Tatiana Maslany is leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe far behind. Her next TV role couldn't be further from She-Hulk: She'll play Vera Orlov, based on the life of Véra Nabokov, in the AMC adaptation of Invitation to a Bonfire.

Here's everything we know so far about the series.

It's based on the book of the same name by Adrienne Celt.

Celt's 2018 novel is set at a girls boarding school in New Jersey in the 1920s, following a young Soviet refugee, Zoya, who is an outcast at the elite institution. After graduating, she stays on staff, and when Russian writer Leo Orlov arrives, everything changes. Per the description, "With the arrival of visiting writer and fellow Russian émigré Leo Orlov—whose books Zoya has privately obsessed over for years—her luck seems poised to change, but the relationship that forms between them will put Zoya, Leo, and his calculating wife, Vera, all at risk."

"Vera and I," Zoya narrates, "have become so tangled together that in order to tell you my whole story, I have to tell you hers, too." The complicated love triangle between Zoya, Vera, and Leo drives the narrative forward.

Tatiana Maslany will star in the show, and serve as an executive producer.

Photo credit: Christopher Polk - Getty Images
Photo credit: Christopher Polk - Getty Images

Maslany, best known for her Emmy-winning performance in Orphan Black and the titular superhero in the Marvel show She-Hulk, will portray Vera. She's joined by Scottish actress Freya Mavor as Zoya and Danish actor Pilou Asbaek as Leo Orlov. Ngozi Anyanwu also stars in the show, in an unspecified role.

"The entire cast so far is incredible, I am unspeakably excited," author Adrienne Celt tweeted.

"Tatiana is a singular talent who we’ve wanted to bring back to the AMC Networks family since her iconic and career-defining performance in Orphan Black," Dan McDermott, AMC AMC Studios president, said in a statement. "We’re thrilled to have her join Invitation to a Bonfire’s talented cast and watch her bring to life the wild flame that is Vera Orlov, both on-screen and behind the scenes as an executive producer."

In a previous statement, McDermott had said, "Bonfire gives us a world of love, loss, identity and complication that we know viewers will find themselves lost in." Maslany will executive produce alongside Robin Schwartz and Kyle Laursen.

Is Invitation to a Bonfire a true story?

Photo credit: Horst Tappe - Getty Images
Photo credit: Horst Tappe - Getty Images

Kind of. The story is loosely based on the marriage of Vladimir and Véra Nabokov. Vera, born Vera Slonim into a Jewish family in Saint Petersburg, left Russia during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. In the Russian émigré community in Berlin, she met Vladimir Nabokov, and the two married in 1925.

They fled to the United States with their six-year-old son Dmitri in 1940. From 1941 to 1942, Nabokov taught at Wellesley, in Massachusetts, and from 1948 until 1959, he taught at Cornell; both New England schools could've served as the inspiration for the fictional boarding school in Invitation to a Bonfire.

As Judith Thurman wrote in the New Yorker, Vera "was his first reader, his agent, his typist, his archivist, his translator, his dresser, his money manager, his mouthpiece, his muse, his teaching assistant, his driver, his bodyguard (she carried a pistol in her handbag), the mother of his child, and, after he died, the implacable guardian of his legacy." Véra, also, systematically destroyed all the letters she wrote to Vladimir over their life.

Nabokov had documented affairs throughout their marriage—including with Irina Guadanini in 1937.

Invitation to a Bonfire is set to premiere in 2023.

The first season will run for six episodes on AMC; no specific date has been set yet for the premiere. We'll update this as soon as we learn more.

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