‘Manhattan’ creator Sam Shaw on race against time to build atom bomb

“It’s all taking place in the shadow of this enormously terrifying and pressure-filled race against the Nazis to develop this incredible weapon,” says creator Sam Shaw about his new series “Manhattan.” The show about the people who built the atomic bomb in the 1940s just completed its first season on WGN.

Watch Shaw’s awards-related Q&A with Gold Derby below.

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The production was shot in the original location of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Shaw says, “New Mexico was a character in the story of the development of the atomic bomb. It was so fundamental to the experience, this surreal ‘Twilight Zone’ experience for these physics geniuses who were plucked up from their lives and moved their families to this proto-suburb surrounded by barb-wired fences on top of a dead volcano to build this secret weapon that was either going to save humanity or destroy it.”

The star of the show is Tony winner John Benjamin Hickey as the mysterious and secretive genius Frank Winter. The ensemble also includes Daniel Stern, Olivia Williams, Mark Moses, and Richard Schiff. Nine-time Emmy winner Thomas Schlamme (“The West Wing”) is one of the executive producers and directed the first two episodes.

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But how did it make its way to WGN, a network mostly known for movie repeats and Chicago baseball games? Shaw compares it to the recent rise of other networks like AMC that took a chance on new ideas like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”

He says, “The truth is there’s been a series of really brilliant shows that have trailblazed new ground on networks that haven’t really been known for original programming. That started with HBO and then FX with ‘The Shield’ and ‘Nip/Tuck.’ And then more recently Sundance. It’s sort of the wild west.

Before “Manhattan,” Shaw’s most recent work was on the Showtime series “Masters of Sex.” He wrote the critically-acclaimed episode “Catherine” for its first season and was nominated at the Writer’s Guild Awards last year.

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