What do an intrepid young adventurer, ancient Egyptian magic, and a secret society intent on destroying the world all have in common? If the four-book action-adventure Theodosia series by Robin L. LaFevers (HarperCollins/Clarion) comes to mind, then fans are in luck. With 13 episodes and a run time of 26 minutes each, the live-action series will begin streaming on HBO Max starting March 10.

Directed by Matthias Hoene (Cockneys vs. Zombies), Alex Jacob (Hollyoaks), and Matt Bloom (Hank Zipzer); produced by Cottonwood Media’s David Michel (Totally Spies), Cécile Lauritano (Totally Spies), and Zoé Carrera Allaix (Find Me in Paris); and executive produced by Joe Williams (Hank Zipzer’s Christmas Catastrophe) and Leila Smith (Find Me in Paris), the series takes place in 1906 and follows 14-year-old Theodosia Throckmorton (Eloise Little, His Dark Materials), aka Theo, who wishes to have a normal life. But as the daughter of two Egyptologists, Alistair (Rik Young, Beowulf) and Henrietta Throckmorton (Elisa Doughty, Find Me in Paris), excavating in the Valley of the King and living in a world-famous museum filled with cursed artifacts, Theodosia isn’t exactly “normal.” Joined by her younger brother Henry (newcomer Frankie Minchella), her friend Will (Nana Agyeman-Bediako, The State) and Egyptian princess Safiya (Yasmina El-Abd, Daughters of Abdul-Rahman), Theo must battle with ancient forces to save the world, while juggling school and being a teenager.

One of the top priorities for the Theodosia team was keeping the essence of Theo when moving from the page to screen. “It was important to us that we retain the character’s charm and wit as we brought her to life on-screen, while also adapting the intriguing elements of the source material for the story’s magic and mystery in an engaging way,” Allegra Newman, v-p of original programming at HBO Max, told PW. Even though LaFevers wasn’t on the set at all times the team made sure she was still involved, sharing the script and making sure that she could trust them with her series. “It really is incredibly exciting and hard to believe, truthfully,” LaFevers said. “Theo is not a new property, and to actually make it to the filming stage is just so huge.”

Initially drawn in by the magical aspects of Egypt, Lauritano quickly identified with the series’ titular character. “Theodosia is really the girl I wanted to be as a kid because she always has a solution. She’s not scared of things [even though] sometimes she should be bit more scared.” Lauritano knew from the moment she read the book that this was something special. “It was like, ‘I’m going to produce the Indiana Jones series for kids,’ ” she said.

But the road to creating the show had a few bumps. One such bump was having to add more interactions with the main character and making the decision to raise her age from eight to 14. “The challenging thing is that the book tells a story of an eight-year-old girl who is pretty lonely,” Lauritano said. “We needed to add some ingredients. We needed her to have some friends she can interact with. But at the same time we didn’t want to change the spirit.”

LaFevers was especially interested to see how Theo’s thoughts would come across on screen. “TV is such a wildly different medium than the written word. This is especially true of a book like Theodosia, where so much of the narrative happens inside Theodosia’s own head—her thoughts, suspicions, a running commentary on the people around her,” LaFevers said. “So I was fascinated to see how they were going to translate that to the screen. From what I’ve seen, they’ve done an amazing job.”

And there were external factors that couldn’t be controlled, thanks to Covid. Some U.K. actors had to stay on location in Brussels and Paris for weeks at a time, unable to travel home from the set, and at one point production had to be halted for two weeks. But the time spent together also bolstered the relationships the actors had off screen. “Sometimes they would steal the iPhone of the producer on set and make fun videos and put them on Instagram,” Lauritano recalled. That mischievousness even extended to Theo’s trusty feline companion, a character who eagle-eyed readers might notice has a different role compared to the books. “The cat would always jump at the right place but show his tail and not his head,” Lauritano said with a laugh.

The final product is one Lauritano hopes kids will be able to draw strength from and that girls can look up to. “It’s very adventurous and the main characters have to fight against the bad people. When kids look at the series, I wish they’ll want to do the same.” That sentiment is shared throughout the Theodosia team. “Theodosia spotlights a strong, independent, female lead whose adventure story will inspire the HBO Max family audience. We are so excited to go on this journey with her,” Amy Friedman, head of kids and family programming at Warner Bros, told PW. “Taking a cue from Robin LaFevers’ amazing book series, the team at Cottonwood has again built a rich, layered, magical world we think viewers of all ages will want to enter and immerse in.”

No matter where viewers are in life, the message behind Theodosia is one Lauritano believes will resonate. “I think many adults will go back into their childhood, and children are going to identify with a character from the series or the atmosphere,” Lauritano said. “It’s the kind of project that you have on your table and you say, ‘Oh my God, it’s not just a production; it’s going to be the production.’ ”