“It is about what really matters to us when everything’s gone and that is art and love,” declares Matilda Lawler about the young teenager she portrays on “Station Eleven,” the HBO Max limited series set in the aftermath of a fictional catastrophic pandemic that wipes out most of civilization. For our recent webchat the wise-beyond-her-years 13 year-old actress adds, “I love that it was such a hopeful story.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Station Eleven” was created by Patrick Somerville, based on the 2014 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. While it confronts the harsh realities of what happens to humanity after a catastrophic deadly virus, the series paints an aspirational and ultimately hopeful picture of humanity triumphing over profound loss and destruction. The series has garnered 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 series boasts an impressive ensemble cast, with Lawler co-starring with Mackenzie Davis, who portrays the older version of her character Kirsten, alongside Himesh Patel, Lori Petty, Danielle Deadwyler, Nabhaan Rizwan, David Wilmot, Daniel Zovatto and Gael Garcia Bernal against a haunting backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has been whittled down to a few survivors scattered across the Earth. The 10-episode series travels back and forth in time – from the outset of the pandemic to many years later in the aftermath – as it follows the Traveling Symphony, a ragtag group of artists and actors who traverse the Great Lakes region performing for locals every year.
Lawler plays a much younger version of Kirsten, an abandoned child actor who is sheltered at the outset of the pandemic by Jeevan (Patel), who while at a play witnesses the beginnings of the deadly virus. As the series shifts back and forth between two timelines, we learn more about Kirsten’s journey from the innocent and scared child witnessing the world falling apart around her, to the more stoic adult version of Kirsten. Lawler says she most responded to “Station Eleven” being at its core about hope, love, art and humanity; the ultimate life-affirming balm of a show that came around at just the right time when perhaps the world needed it most. “I love that it was the type of project that I hadn’t really heard of before,” Lawler says. “I’m so into dystopian post-apocalyptic stories; I tend to gravitate towards those, so just to see something so different is always really attractive to me and I just loved the kind of relationships that were played with a lot in the story. I feel like that is one of the really major elements of ‘Station Eleven’ is the different relationships that we got to explore. I really love getting into that and I love my character, too, so that was a major selling point.”
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