In the show, Nancy (Kennedy McMann) is still a clever detective who lost her mom and whose dad (Scott Wolf) is a lawyer. Only, unlike in the books, she and her father have a strained relationship. Nancy's book buddies Bess and George (Maddison Jaizani and Leah Lewis) are not her friends in the show — they're more like frenemies. And Ned Nickerson (Tunji Kasim), Nancy's affable boyfriend in the books, may be hiding a dark secret in The CW show. Oh, and he goes by Nick instead of Ned because it's 2019 not 1930.
Riverdale operated a similar way when it adapted the Archie comics on which it's based. The series kept character names and roughly the same friendships and relationships, but then made everything about the charming, happy-go-lucky comics dark as hell.
Nancy Drew's storyline is also centered on a town murder (our gang lives in the fictional Horseshoe Bay now instead of the also fictional River Heights of the books) and there's even a supernatural element, because a ghost from the town's folklore appears to be haunting Nancy.
Even though the TV show doesn't follow the plot of any of the 64 mystery books in the original series, it doesn't forget where it came from. Avid readers will catch a number of Nancy Drew book references in the trailer alone. At one point, an attic door falls open in Nancy's house, revealing a set of secrets she may not be prepared for. That moment seems to be a nod to the book #21, The Secret In The Old Attic. In another scene, Nancy studies a wall of newspaper clippings from her successful sleuthing adventures. Nearly every headline contains a book easter egg.
"Daughter of Local Attorney Discovers Client's Missing Will in Antique Clock" is a reference to the very first book, The Secret Of The Old Clock. "Wooden Lady Missing from Ship, Young Detective Investigates Historical Relic" is a nod to book #27, The Secret Of The Wooden Lady. Book #42, The Phantom Of Pine Hill gets a nod in the headline, "Girl Detective Uncovers Secrets of Pine Hill." Nancy also solved the "Hollow Oak Mystery," which is a reference to book #12, The Message In The Hollow Oak. And book #13, The Mystery Of The Ivory Charm, gets a shout out in the newspaper clipping, "Kidnapping Plot Uncovered — Ivory Charm Key Evidence."
Those are just a handful of references from the trailer, but more will likely be seen in the series itself. And these kinds of easter eggs are pretty much the only ties the series will have to the book series. Vulture reported that the producers said at 2019's San Diego Comic-Con that none of the book's storylines will be used in Nancy Drew's actual plot. Instead the series has "inverted" and "reinvented" Nancy's story for a more contemporary setting.
McMann, the actress who plays Nancy, told the Tribune News Service that she was a fan of the Nancy Drew books as a child, but she actually made the choice not to re-read them before taking on the role. Probably a good idea considering that The CW version of Nancy is much more raunchy and rule-breaking than the Nancy of the books.
"When I got the part, it had been a while since I read the books, and I intentionally did not re-read them because I was confident in the history that I had with the character," McMann said. "And I just wanted to be true and dedicate myself to the Nancy that we were creating."
That Nancy is the one for a Riverdale generation, but with the same recognizable values and traits that the original book character has, executive producer Stephanie Savage told the Tribune News Service. This Nancy is still "smart and brave and curious and want[s] to set the world right by figuring out what went wrong."
She just does so in an all new mystery that seeks to capture longtime book readers and new fans alike.