Donning a pair of tights and a tattered copy of King Lear might not sound like the most clear-headed response to a swine flu pandemic decimating the population, but hey, after a year like 2020, are we really the ones to judge? It’s impossible not to feel a kinship with the characters of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, a book repeatedly deemed prescient for its depiction of a pandemic-ravaged earth in which a troupe of actors attempt to discover—and create—a sense of meaning in the wake of endless death. Now that the acclaimed 2014 novel is headed for an HBO Max adaptation, we’ll finally see the Shakespearean thespians explore the post-apocalypse on the screen. But what most fascinating about this particular project is how it was forced to adapt during our world’s own (very real) lockdown.
Station Eleven follows a troupe of actors criss-crossing the Great Lakes region after the “Georgia Flu” wipes out most of society. Jumping between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic, the story follows the charismatic crew, known as the Traveling Symphony, as they return to a small town in search of their friends, only to find them missing, replaced by a cultish uprising and their “prophet.” (Not prescient at all, eh?) Meanwhile, we learn of life before Year Zero—and the connections that remain 20 years after the outbreak.
Ahead of the series’ release, here are all your questions about the Station Eleven adaptation, answered.
When will Station Eleven debut?
The 10-episode series was originally expected to be released sometime in spring 2020. The actual pandemic, of course, twisted that fate, and since early last year, there have been little to no updates as to when the show will finally make its debut.
Who are the show’s creators?
Showrunner Patrick Somerville, creator of the Netflix dark comedy Maniac, scooped up Hiro Murai to direct and executive produce the series, according to IndieWire. Murai’s prior credits include Atlanta and episodes of Barry, Snowfall, and Legion. He also directed Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” music video, which, you might remember, garnered a fair bit of attention when it dropped in May 2018.
Paramount TV will helm the production, with Scott Steindorff, Scott Delman, Dylan Russell, and Nate Matteson serving as additional executive producers, Variety reports.
Who’s in the cast?
Vancouver native Mackenzie Davis will play Kirsten Raymonde. A former child actor and current member of the Traveling Symphony, Kirsten serves as the novel’s primary protagonist. Davis is known for her recurring role as Cameron Howe on the AMC drama Halt and Catch Fire, as well as for appearances in Black Mirror and Terminator: Dark Fate. Matilda Lawler will play Young Kirsten.
For the role of Javeen Chaudhary, a former paparazzo who takes a spin at becoming an entertainment journalist before finally landing on a career as an EMT, the showrunners have tapped Himesh Patel. He played the starring role in 2019’s Beatles-inspired comedy Yesterday.
Deadline reports Gael García Bernal, of Mozart in the Jungle and Coco, will portray famous film actor Arthur Leander, who has a heart attack onstage while performing King Lear. His life intertwines with Kirsten’s, as she witnesses his death the night the pandemic begins.
Anna Karenina and Black Sails actor David Wilmot will play Clark Thompson, Arthur’s best friend, who later builds a museum in an abandoned airport after the devastation of the Georgia Flu.
The list of series regulars, per Deadline, is rounded out by Nabhaan Rizwan (1917) as Frank Chaudhary, a war correspondent in the pre-Flu days; Philippine Velge (Summer of 85), playing Alexandra, a young member of the Traveling Symphony; Daniel Zovatto (Penny Dreadful: City of Angels), starring as the mysterious Prophet; and Lori Petty (Orange is the New Black), cast as the Traveling Symphony’s Conductor.
Other recurring cast including Andy McQueen, David Cross, Enrico Colantoni, Julian Obradors, Deborah Cox, Prince Amponsah (The Handmaid’s Tale), Milton Barnes (The Flash), Luca Villacis (Knuckleball), Dylan Taylor (Fahrenheit 451), Maxwell McCabe-Lokos (Chaos Walking), Kate Moyer (The Handmaid’s Tale), Ajahnis Charley (Untitled Black Sketch Project), and Joe Pingue (Godless).
Where is the show filming?
According to Backstage and Block Club Chicago, in early 2020 the production filmed in spots across the Windy City, including the Uptown/Sheridan Park area as well as Hyde Park and South Shore.
In 2021, the series moved to Canada in the midst of restrictive COVID-19 protocols and is scheduled to finish filming in July, per The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees website, which keeps track of film schedules in Canada.
Is the author involved?
Mandel is not involved in any decisions surrounding the show’s casting or development, but she told ELLE.com in February 2020 that she had several early conversations with Somerville, whom she’s known for years. She says she feels totally confident leaving her story in his hands.
Although the series will premiere in a different sociocultural and political moment than the novel, which debuted six years ago, Mandel feels the story will resonate with audiences. “When I was researching and writing [the book],” she wrote in an email, “what I found myself thinking about all the time is how fragile civilization is, and how we should never take it for granted. It just doesn’t take much for things to fall apart.”
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