“It deals with trauma and pain and the end of the world,” declares Himesh Patel about “Station Eleven,” the HBO Max limited series set in the aftermath of a fictional catastrophic pandemic that wipes out most of civilization. “But it’s ultimately a story about love and reconciliation, community, art and celebrating the best things about humanity,” he says. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Station Eleven” was created by Patrick Somerville, based on the 2014 sci-fi/fantasy novel of the same name by Emily St. John Mandel. Twenty years after a flu pandemic wipes out most of the world, a group of survivors who make their living as traveling performers encounter a violent cult led by a man whose past is unknowingly linked to a member of the troupe.
The series has been met with rave reviews from critics, buoyed by strong word of mouth as audiences inevitably draw parallels to their shared experiences of living under the weight of the (albeit less extreme) COVID-19 pandemic in real life. The HBO Max hit has been lauded for its strong ensemble cast led by Patel, Mackenzie Davis, Matilda Lawler, Lori Petty, Nabhaan Rizwan, David Wilmot, Daniel Zovatto and Gael Garcia Bernal against a haunting backdrop of a post-apocalyptic dystopia where humanity has been whittled down to a few survivors scattered across the Earth.
Patel stars as Jeevan Chaudhary, who while at a play witnesses the beginnings of a deadly flu pandemic. He accompanies abandoned child actor Kirsten (Matilda Lawler) home, but the two soon realize that the world is collapsing around them, leading them to stock up on supplies and seek refuge by barricading themselves with Jeevan’s brother Frank (Nabhaan Rizwan) in his nearby apartment.
The pilot episode entitled “Wheel of Fire” was shot in early 2020 before the onset of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic that shut down production on subsequent episodes. Patel reveals his feelings about resuming production a year later, having lived through a real-life pandemic while looking back at how eerily prescient the series was about what the world might look like at the dawning of a global catastrophic event spawned by an unknown virus.
“When I first watched a cut of the episode, which was just before we resumed shooting a year later, I cried because it was just we had no idea what we were making when we made it. There’s a scene where a scene opens on a kid wearing a mask, and we shot that in January 2020, so we had no idea,” he shares. “We shot that not knowing two months later, that would be a reality for so many people. It still is hard to reconcile that, for me, because the chances of something like that happening, it’s just infinitesimal,” he says. “What I had to take solace in was that I knew that the story we were telling was not that. It wasn’t mining the pain of living through a pandemic. From episode two onward, it’s about how we rebuild, how we find community again when everything’s lost.”
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