Graeme Manson Interview: ‘Snowpiercer’ showrunner
“The real challenge is to put these characters within the pressure cooker confines and claustrophobic space of this train,” explains showrunner Graeme Manson about “Snowpiercer,” his audacious new TV revival of the acclaimed Bong Joon Ho sci-fi epic of the same name, both based on the French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Manson above.
Manson jumped at the chance to bring this story to TV because of the opportunity it afforded him to go deeper. “The big difference with serialized television is how deep you can go with the character’s stories. In season one we’re just getting started, we’re just getting to know these characters,” he declares.
“Each person on the train has a traumatic event that saw them lose everyone in their lives and the world as we know it completely and they boarded this train and made that decision and were lucky enough, or perhaps unlucky enough, to get on this train. They all have a story,” he says. “The beauty of this series is that we can keep going back and open up a character who we haven’t seen yet and find out who they were before they got on this train.”
“Snowpiercer” stars Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind”) and Tony winner Daveed Diggs (“Hamilton”) alongside thousands of passengers of a 1,001 car train that traverses the globe carrying the remnants of humanity in a post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland.
Connelly plays Melanie Cavill, the head of hospitality and one of the train’s leaders, who initially appears to be a villain. However, we soon learn that there is much more to her than initially meets the eye. Similarly, Diggs plays Andre Layton, a revolutionary trapped at the tail of the train with the rest of the underclass. They are from diametrically opposed worlds, forced to co-exist as Layton is tasked with solving a crime on the perpetually speeding train. And that is exactly how Manson wants the show’s characters to be – nuanced, multifaceted and complicated.
“Jennifer so deliciously plays the villain for the first half of the season but as we slowly get to know her and understand her and the moral dilemmas she has to face for all of our survival, we begin to understand that,” he explains. “Likewise with Layton, when he fights his way up and he manages to be someone in a position of power, he understands the weight of those decisions and that the moral zone of leadership can be grey at times.”
Like its predecessors, the series has a lot to say about power, class politics, poverty and privilege. It was a big part of what attracted Manson to the project. “It has a deep story about class divide at its core. It’s about imbalance in privilege and incarceration and immigration. These things just ring really true right now,” he says. “It’s the underprivileged that pay the heaviest cost for these disasters and it always has been.”
However, Manson was also adamant that while the show clearly has a message, it also fundamentally needs to be entertaining and engaging as an action adventure. “You can tell a broad and entertaining story but it can also be high concept. I’ve always loved that about sci-fi, from the earliest reading of H.G. Wells‘ ‘Time Machine’ and things like that when I was a kid,” he reveals. “Those flights of imagination that made you look at your own times, I find an endless source of creativity and inspiration.”