Snowpiercer on TNT: Release date and everything we know

Snowpiercer's latest adaptation is for TV
(Image credit: TNT)

Update: Snowpiercer is being killed off after four seasons.

The upcoming Snowpiercer TV series poses an interesting question: "What if the entire world suddenly froze over, forcing the remaining members of society to live together on a huge high-speed train?" 

Technically, though, that question was first posed by the 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige (The Snowpiercer), which was then adapted by director Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 sci-fi film of the same name starring Chris Evans (Captain America, Knives Out).

Both the graphic novel and film are rife with action, violence and surprising twists, but what elevates their stories beyond well-placed plots are their themes of class differences, climate change and surviving in a dying world. 

Later this year, a third adaptation of this story will arrive in the form of a television series on TNT. Joon-ho, fresh off a Best Picture Oscar win for his film Parasite that delves into similar issues of social inequality, is credited as an executive producer, but with a brand-new cast and serialized format, what can we expect from this newest iteration? Here’s everything you should know about the Snowpiercer TV series.  

Snowpiercer on TNT release date: When can we watch?

The first episode of Snowpiercer will air on TNT on May 31, 2020, at 9 p.m. The series has experienced several delays over the past three to five years due to behind-the-scenes drama, including creative differences between the writers, directors and producers and TNT. 

This led to the decision to broadcast the show on TBS instead, but that choice has since been backtracked, keeping the show on its original network, TNT. Until Snowpiercer finally airs, it’s unclear whether these delays have helped or hurt the story in the long run.

Snowpiercer on TNT cast: Who's in?

Academy Award winner Jennifer Connelly and Tony Winner Daveed Diggs star as Snowpiercer’s two main characters, Melanie Cavill and Andre Layton, respectively. Cavill is the Voice of the Train who makes daily announcements from the comfy confines of the front of Snowpiercer, while Layton barely survives the squalid conditions among the “tailies” at the back of the train. 

Connelly has won several awards for her role in 2002’s A Beautiful Mind and has also starred in many other films, including Labyrinth, Requiem for a Dream and Noah.

Diggs, most well known for his roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the original run of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2015 Broadway musical Hamilton, has also lent his voice to the animated show Star Wars Resistance, appeared in the shows The Get Down, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Undone and Black-ish and starred in the 2018 film Blindspotting. 

Other notable cast members include Mickey Sumner (Frances Ha) as Bess Till, who’s part of the Snowpiercer security force; Annalise Basso (True Blood) as LJ Anderson, a middle-class Midwestern girl used to her daily routine; and Alison Wright (The Americans) as Lilah Anderson, LJ’s mother, who works in a nail salon on the train. Rounding out the cast are actors Benjamin Haigh, Roberto Urbina, Katie McGuinness, Susan Park, Lena Hall, Sheila Vand, Sam Otto, Iddo Goldberg and Jaylin Fletcher.

Snowpiercer on TNT crew: A complicated story

Remember that aforementioned behind-the-scenes drama? Well, there’s plenty of it, and most of it involves the crew behind the show. Writer Josh Friedman (Terminator: Dark Fate, War of the Worlds) wrote the original pilot script and was the planned showrunner, but TNT ultimately decided to hand over showrunner duties to Orphan Black co-creator Graeme Manson, who subsequently rewrote Friedman’s script.  

On May 16, 2018, Friedman subtweeted Manson:

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Director Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange, Sinister) directed Friedman’s pilot, but when asked to also direct the reshoots following Manson’s rewrites, he declined, touting Friedman’s original script in this tweet on June 29, 2018: 

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As reported by Variety, TNT then tapped director James Hawes, who worked on TNT’s The Alienist, to direct the pilot reshoots. Despite the sad, messy exit of Derrickson, it’s safe to say the pilot is still in pretty good hands with Hawes, whose TV directing credits also include hit shows Black Mirror, Penny Dreadful and Doctor Who. 

Tomorrow Studios (Hanna) and Turner’s Studio T, along with South Korean movie production/distribution company CJ Entertainment, are the co-producers of Snowpiercer, with Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements, Park Chan-wook, Matthew O’Connor, Scott Derrickson, Lee Tae-hun and Dooho Choi serving as executive producers alongside Bong Joon-ho.

Snowpiercer on TNT plot: What to expect

The first thing to know about the Snowpiercer TV show is that it’s not a direct adaptation of the graphic novel or the 2013 film, nor is it a prequel or sequel to either. Instead, it’s a reimagining that heavily borrows plots, themes and imagery from its predecessors — but because it will ideally continue airing for more than one season, it has to expand the characters and world in a major way. 

During the 2017 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour, Diggs said "the politics that are hinted at in the film are explored in much more depth [in the show], and the mechanism of the train [is explored further] — just the little things that create a world, world specificity.” So it’s safe to say we can expect brand-new storylines and characters this go-around, which will be exciting for existing and new fans alike. 

However, the general premise of the show may sound familiar to those who have read the comic or watched the movie: Snowpiercer takes place seven years after a scientific experiment to fix climate change goes wrong. The experiment has an opposite effect, freezing the world at an inhabitable -119℃. 

Thanks to the genius efforts of the mysterious inventor Wilford, the remaining human survivors now live on the titular Snowpiercer, a high-speed train that comprises 1,001 cars and circles the globe ad infinitum. The front of the train contains the wealthy elite, people who live relatively opulent lives (or, you know, as opulent as lives can be on a train), while the rear-end passengers, dubbed “tailies,” live in squalor and must fight to survive every day. 

Fed up with the conditions they’ve been forced to live in for more than six years, the tailies, led by Diggs’ Andre Layton, hatch a plan to storm the front of the train. Layton sees Snowpiercer as “a fortress to clasp” and is willing to fight for his poor brothers and sisters, while the well-off Voice of the Train, Melanie Cavill, clashes directly with him and seeks to maintain the “balance of need and speed and greed” she believes is integral to the long-term survival of humanity. We’ll have to wait and see who, if either, comes out on top, or if the two can compromise before the lives of everyone onboard are jeopardized. 

Snowpiercer on TNT trailer: We've got multiple!

There sure is! And you can check out all the high-speed action in store for you right here:

If, like an insect-based protein bar you’re forced to eat on the train you now live on, that’s not enough to whet your appetite, here are a couple more little videos.

This dreamlike teaser featuring a cover of Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka was released just a month ago and offers some new footage...

...while this animated clip that debuted at New York Comic Con gives us a quick rundown of the events leading up to the show:

Daniel Toy is a Tom's Guide contributing writer who covers television, film and all things pop culture. When he's not arguing about the best and worst series finales of all time, he's flipping through his LCBS's dollar bin or chugging through his Switch backlog. His other writing and editing credits include BuzzFeed, Marvel, Scholastic, Callisto, Breadcrumbs and Syndicated, and he strongly believes The Truth Is, indeed, Out There.