LOS ANGELES, Sept. 15 (UPI) — Ashley Zukerman is the second actor to portray Dan Brown’s book character, Robert Langdon, on the Peacock series The Lost Symbol, premiering Thursday.
Tom Hanks played Langdon in the film adaptations of The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons and Inferno, but Zukerman says the series offers a new origin story.
“That’s who he’s going to become,” Zukerman, 37, told UPI in a Zoom interview. “This show will explain how he’s going to become that person.”
The Lost Symbol was Brown’s third Langdon book after Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Inferno and Origin followed.
Landon is a symbologist at Harvard University. Because of his study of religious iconography, Langdon finds himself solving clues in historical artifacts.
“This is absolutely his first adventure,” Zukerman said. “In our story, he’s a young history professor who just gets pulled into something because his mentor is abducted.”
Fans will recognize Zukerman from shows like The Pacific, Designated Survivor, Manhattan and Succession. This summer, Zukerman starred in Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy, which he filmed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and The Lost Symbol.
Zukerman said The Lost Symbol series gives him a chance to show how Langdon got involved in solving historical clues. Langdon visits Washington, D.C., to find clues in Freemason artifacts when his mentor, Peter Solomon (Eddie Izzard), is kidnapped.
“We’re just very lucky that it hadn’t been made into a film because it’s so perfect as an origin story,” Zukerman said.
Zukerman said the story of The Lost Symbol, first published in 2009, establishes “little details about his rigidity, about his hubris, his arrogance, his inability to feel, his attachment to knowledge and to facts.”
Each episode of The Lost Symbol finds Langdon explaining history to partners in his quest. Those partners include Solomon’s daughter, Katherine (Valorie Curry).
Zukerman said each script motivates him to research the subjects Langdon is discussing. Because the clues of The Lost Symbol revolve around the Freemasons, he drew upon books like A Brief History of Secret Societies by David Barrett and Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes.
“I obviously don’t know as much as [Langdon] does,” Zukerman said. “But I do need that confidence to be able to know that much or that feeling to know more than the person you’re talking to.”
When The Lost Symbol begins, Langdon is presenting a lecture about the origin of symbols such as the swastika and Unite or Die. Langdon shows his class how the swastika began as a Sanskrit symbol before it was the Nazi emblem.
Zukerman said Langdon’s understanding of the evolution of symbols will apply to the Freemason symbols he discovers.
“This is someone who understands how meaning moves through time,” Zukerman said. “The meaning changed constantly and it was constantly adopted by different organizations.”
The clues lead Langdon to texts in ancient languages, too. One scene in which Langdon reads a Hebrew passage made Zukerman recall his own childhood.
Zukerman said he grew up hearing his parents speak Hebrew, though he never learned it until now. Zukerman’s father, Moshe, an Israeli, met his wife, Ingrid, in Israel, though Ingrid is Peruvian.
The Zukermans had their children in the United States and moved to Australia to raise them. Ashley Zukerman filmed The Lost Symbol in Toronto, doubling for the District of Columbia.
COVID-19 safety protocols required the actor to quarantine upon his arrival in Toronto. He said he spent those 14 days consulting with his mother on the Hebrew portions of The Lost Symbol.
“I enjoyed translating half a Bible page, with my mom back in Australia, into Hebrew,” Zukerman said. “I did spend two or three weeks learning the Hebrew that I’d need for those episodes.”
New episodes of The Lost Symbol premiere Thursdays on Peacock.