In a not-so-innocent world, shapeshifting can be precarious


My own physical transformation came kind of early. I reached almost 6-foot by 8th grade and then abruptly -- too abruptly, I felt -- stopped. Any mental or emotional transformations -- a small-town kid in a big-city world -- would be much more gradual.

But for many teens, especially, transformations can be overwhelming. That's why we need fantasy fiction, to push it to the extreme. Now "The Innocents" arrives Friday on Netflix; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

For teenagers,
transforming can seem creepy.

Their shape might
change a little; their height might spurt a lot. At the same time,
minds are growing and emotions are swirling.

It can be
overwhelming ... but not as much as what happens to June in
“Innocents,” the new Netflix series. One moment, she's a slender
teen; the next, she's a burly Scandinavian man.

“It's difficult
and stressful,” said Sorcha Groundsell, 20, who plays her. “It's
this medical condition that's brought on by extreme emotional
situations.”

As the story starts,
the emotions are definitely extreme. She and Harry have fallen in
love and are fleeing their abusive parents. “I don't think it's
ever presented as happy-teens-run-away-together or crazy special
effects,” Groundsell said. “It's very much exploring the
psychological consequences.”

Their world is
changing anyway, as they go from quiet Yorkshire (of pudding and
terrier fame) to London. Now June is suddenly played by Johannes
Haukur Johannesson, a beefy, Icelandic actor who was Thomas in “A.D.”
and Lem in “Game of Thrones.”

Percelle Ascott, 25,
who plays Harry, must love them both. “Johannes is a phenomenal
actor who can portray June's characteristics,” he said.

For co-creators
Simon Duric and Hania Elkington, this suggests emotions that go well
beyond teens. “Even now, at 39, I'm gonna carry on changing for the
rest of my life,” Duric said.

They decided to make
it a malady that affects females. “Women's bodies change,”
Elkington said. “They go through childbirth. The female body,
particularly, is capable of extraordinary things.”

As men and women
change, their loved ones adapt. For Harry, Ascotte says, the
adaptation is extreme: “It's a case of: Can you ever love someone
unconditionally?”

This is like real
life, Groundsell said. “It's magnified, but it is a very relatable
thing.”

Or, perhaps,
mega-magnified.

-- “The
Innocents,” eight-episode season arrives Friday (Aug. 24) on
Netflix