“There’s something about this show,” declares executive producer Jessica Rhoades about “Station Eleven,” the HBO Max limited series set in the aftermath of a fictional catastrophic pandemic that wipes out most of civilization. “I know people cried a lot towards the end of our show, but there were a lot of happy tears too and there was a lot of catharsis,” she says with. 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 Himesh 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.
The series opens on the austere staging of “King Lear” in Chicago, starring renowned actor Arthur Leander (Gael Garcia Bernal), who suddenly suffers a heart attack while on stage. Audience member Jeevan Chaudhary (Patel) runs up to help revive him, but soon discovers that they are all witnessing the beginnings of a deadly flu pandemic. He decides to accompany 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” (written by Somerville and directed by Hiro Murai) was shot in early 2020 before the onset of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic that shut down production on subsequent episodes. Rhoades reveals her 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 dawn of a global catastrophic event spawned by an unknown virus.
“I think the show allows people to grieve and explore the trauma that they’ve been through,” Rhoades opines on the unexpected parallels between the world depicted on the show and our own lived-in experience over the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and that art ultimately sustains us as human beings even in the face of trauma and loss. “We were able to remind the audience that it is okay to need other people, that community and art is valuable, that it’s okay to really want to go to that live music show, even though you’re not sure if it’s safe, because art matters and feeling music and a group of people is what makes us feel good,” Rhoades says. “For me, so much of what making this show in a pandemic was about was how much community has to rebuild, how much you need other people and how much performance and creation and artists actually are the thing that help you get through it.”
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