How CBS' 'Zoo' Maintains The Book's "Spirit"

It's an exciting time for fans of James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge's bestselling novel Zoo. Earlier this month, the sequel Zoo 2 was published and the CBS series based on books about unraveling an animal mutation premieres its second season on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. But how is Zoo the TV series different from the book? To find out, I asked James Wolk, who plays Jackson Oz in the CBS drama and is a fan of the 2012 bestseller, and he says any deviations are done with Patterson's blessing. "Season 1 starts to depart from the book and Season 2 really departs from the book, just because we've gone past the story that the book tells," Wolk tells Bustle. "James Patterson is the executive producer on our show and very much a part of it. He's very supportive of the writers expanding upon his world."

Both the book and TV series seem to have the same starting point: Jackson Oz rescues Chloe Tousignant from a massive lion attack in Botswana. But after that, the book seems to focus on Jackson, while the TV series follows Jackson and a team devoted to stopping the animal attacks while trying to find a cure. The second season of the series will continue exploring that in the same vein as the novel. "In Season 2, we start to find new threats, new characters that aren't in the book," Wolk says. "It does depart from the book, but for fans of the book, it does have the same spirit and passions of it."

Here are some of the biggest similarities and differences between Zoo the book and the CBS series.

Jackson Oz

The novel paints Jackson as an ecologist who is completely obsessed with something called "HAC," which stands for Human-Animal Conflict. He even blogs about it. But in the TV series, that characterization sounds a lot more like his father, Robert. Jackson, as played by Wolk, is a zoologist who instead finds himself coming to terms with his father's research and, you know, saving the world.

"He gets thrown in the middle of this apocalyptic scenario and greatness is thrust upon him," Wolk says. "He has to be a hero, reluctantly."

Jackson's Father

In the book, Jackson talks about his father being a lieutenant in the New York City fire department. Zoo the TV series shows Jackson's father Robert Oz as being obsessed with the defiant pupil and a potential animal uprising.

Jackson's Team

Jackson, Chloe, and Abraham exist in the books, but journalist Jamie Campbell and sarcastic veterinary pathologist Dr. Mitch Morgan do not. It looks like the latter two were created for the TV show.


In the books, Abraham's surname is Bindix, but his last name is Kenyatta in the TV series. In both the novel and CBS show, Abraham is a safari guide and friend to Jackson.

The Animals

I think this goes without saying, but I'll mention it anyway — you have to use your imagination when it comes to the animals while reading the book, because it's all words. But on the TV series, Wolk says the CBS drama uses a mixture of real animals and CGI effects to create the novel's world, but not in a too vicious way. "The whole purpose of the team's mission is to cure the animals, not kill them," he says of the plot. "To find the cure for them."

Jackson & Chloe

In the book, Jackson and Chloe are both ecologists who meet when he rescues her from the aforementioned lion attack. Because that's a hell of a way to meet, they fall in love and get married. The TV version of the couple is just beginning to explore their attraction for each other and Chloe works as a French intelligence agent who is an expert at reading people.

While the TV series and book have their differences, the CBS drama has found a good balance of staying true to the book's story while adding enough original plots to keep viewers guessing.

Images: Shane Harvey (2), Cook Allender, Hilary Bronwyn Gayle, Katie Yu, Liane Hentscher/CBS