WGN America's "Manhattan" looks like the perfect made-for-Emmys TV show: it's new, critically hailed (78 at Metacritic with rave reviews from New York Times and Entertainment Weekly), gorgeously crafted (production design, costumes) and it's focused on telling the secret story behind the most earth-rattling development of the past century: the atom bomb.
"In telling the story of the birth of the atomic bomb, all roads seem to converge in the New Mexico desert," said series creator Sam Shaw, who was drawn to this tale by "its complicated moral questions and the cost of secrecy" paid by the people involved. Listen to the full podcast recording of the Q&A panel discussion below.
Producer/director Thomas Schlamme (Emmy winner for "The West Wing") reminded the audience that the desert camp at Los Alamos where the scientists toiled was so secret that even U.S. Vice President Harry Truman didn't know the bomb was being built. Creating the scene for modern TV audiences was one of Schlamme's biggest challenges because "it was a world you couldn't get out of, so it had an element of the prisoner of war camp."
John Benjamin Hickey portrays Frank Winter, one of camp's top scientists, who is exhilarated by the huge importance of his work, but also haunted by its deadly shadow. "All of the scientists recognize the toll that this work is taking on them – their families, their psyches, their souls," he said. But "Manhattan" is not a TV program about math and science, he added: "It concentrates on the heart of the people."
Also participating in the Q&A panel were actors Olivia Williams (Liza Winter), Rachel Brosnaham (Abby Isaacs) and Ashley Zukerman (Charlie Isaacs) plus production designer Ruth Ammon and costume designer Alonzo V. Wilson. Discussion followed a screening of the program's season finale episode and it was jauntily handled by Anthony Breznican (Entertainment Weekly).
Voters can soon view a video of the chat at the Emmy website. Meantime, Listen to this audio recording of the full chat here:
Below: Flip through photos of the "Manhattan" event. Photos above: Full panel on stage at the Lindwood Dunn Theater and red-carpet arrival of (l. to r.) Thomas Schlamme, John Benjamin Hickey and Sam Shaw. Credit: Andrew Rog/ WGN America.