Danielle Deadwyler’s 2022 was quite remarkable. The actress received some of the year’s best reviews for her performance in “Till,” which garnered her recognition from the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Critics Choice Awards among other citations. But it’s arguable her best performance came in another project: The HBO Max limited series “Station Eleven.”
Based on the book by Emily St. John Mandel, “Station Eleven” is an apocalyptic story about how the survivors of a catastrophic flu pandemic that kills off 99 percent of the world’s population rebuild in the aftermath. Deadwyler’s character, Miranda, is a key figure in the mythos: she’s the author of the graphic novel “Station Eleven,” which in the story plays a huge role in humanity’s future. (Unfortunately, Miranda is one of the billions of people who don’t make it out of the early days of the pandemic alive.) Written by Patrick Somerville, “Station Eleven” moves through numerous time frames, allowing even characters like Miranda an opportunity to shine – and the result is that Deadwyler’s best work on screen is saved for the series finale, “Unbroken Circle.”
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As director Jeremy Podeswa tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview as part of our Meet the Experts: Directors panel, Deadwyler’s showstopping finale scene – where she helps save some lifelong friends with a simple phone call in the waning hours of her life – still leaves him feeling great emotions.
“I’m still crying when I watch her perform those words,” Podeswa says. “She was unbelievable. Danielle just does what she does, which is just performing in the most honest, beautiful, real way, and just letting it flow and letting her emotions rise to the surface. And when she just did it, I don’t think it was a dry eye in the house. I mean, honestly, like the entire crew was weeping. It was just unbelievable.”
Podeswa is one of the most acclaimed television directors of this era. He’s received four Directors Guild Award nominations, including one this year for “Station Eleven,” and has worked on shows such as “Game of Thrones,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Six Feet Under,” and many others. But Deadwyler’s performance, he says, “was definitely one of the most magical things ever. And I’ve had some of those in my life. I’ve been blessed with those. But this is one of them where you just forget you’re making the show, you forget everything, and you’re just in it, and you’re just watching this actor play this part. And she became that person and what she was going through so moving. I’m gonna cry just talking about it.”
The finale of “Station Eleven” includes numerous emotional payoffs – as Podeswa says, he’s had strangers tell him they spent the last 30 minutes of the episode in tears.
“It’s really about kind of sustaining that emotional swell through the entire back half of the episode,” he says. “I’ve never done anything like that before… I think calibrating all of that was really the challenge of the whole thing. Some of it is in the editing, but a lot of it is in the performances and writing and the way you shoot it. I’m so so pleased with the show… I didn’t even believe you could sustain a level of emotion for that long and make it work for an audience. But I think it works.”
All episodes of “Station Eleven” are streaming on HBO Max.
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