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'Turtles All The Way Down,' based on John Greene's bestseller, films in Cincinnati this week

Isabela Merced attends the L.A. premiere of "Let it Snow," at The Grove, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Richard Shotwell
Isabela Merced attends the L.A. premiere of "Let it Snow," at The Grove, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, in Los Angeles.

Isabela Merced, Judy Reyes, Cree Cicchino and Felix Mallard will star in the HBO Max film about a 17-year-old girl's mental illness and anxiety.

Turtles All The Way Down, based on the bestseller from The Fault in Our Stars author John Greene, begins filming this week in Greater Cincinnati, Film Cincinnati announced Tuesday.

Cleveland native Isabela Merced, called"one of Hollywood's busiest rising talents" by The Hollywood Reporter, stars as Aza Holmes, a 17-year-old dealing with mental illness and anxiety.

Aza tries "to be a good daughter, a good friend and a good student, all while navigating an endless barrage of invasive, obsessive thoughts that she cannot control," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Merced's credits include Instant Family, Sweet Girl, Transformers: The Last Knight, Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Nickelodeon's 100 Things To Do Before High School and an adaption of Greene's Let It Snow. Aza's mother will be played by Hollywood veteran Judy Reyes (Scrubs, Better Things, black-ish, Devious Maids, Blue Bloods, The Sopranos and NYPD Blue).

Cree Cicchino, who appeared in HBO Max's And Just Like That with Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon, will play Aza's friend Daisy.

Australian actor Felix Mallard from NBC's Emmy-winning Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist portrays Davis. He also has been seen in two Netflix series, Ginny & Georgia and Locke & Key, and with Damon Wayans Jr. in CBS' Happy Together.

Actress and filmmaker Hannah Marks will direct Turtles All The Way Down from a script written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, the Emmy-nominated executive producers for This Is Us. They also wrote Love Simon, and executive produced How I Met Your Father and The Neighbors. They will executive produce the film with Greene,Deadline says.

Turtles All the Way Down "is expected to shoot at various locations throughout Greater Cincinnati during the next two months," the film commission announced.

The movie, first optioned five years ago, is on a fast track, says The Hollywood Reporter. The rights were bought when the novel was published in 2017 by Fox 2000, which was shut down when Disney acquired 20th Century Fox. New Line/HBO Max picked up the project from Fox 2000, Deadline says.

“We are so excited to have Turtles All the Way Down film here in Cincinnati,” said Kristen Schlotman, Film Cincinnati executive director, in the media release. "With the Regina King film Shirley wrapping up production earlier this month, we’re ready to welcome the next feature to Cincinnati to take advantage of our resources of talented cast, skilled crew and prime locations.”

Turtles All the Way Down was Green’s follow-up novel to his worldwide sensation The Fault in Our Stars, which was adapted into a feature film that grossed $307 million worldwide in 2014. According to Deadline, Turtles All the Way Down debuted as an instant No. 1 bestseller, and was featured on numerous "best of the year" lists including NPR, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME, Entertainment Weekly, BuzzFeed
and Publishers Weekly.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.