Hiro Murai and Nate Matteson interview: ‘Station Eleven’
“It’s a strange thing to have had this opportunity, but I’m so grateful to have been able to pack my own experiences over the last couple of years inside of the making of the show,” declares producer Nate Matteson about “Station Eleven,” set in the aftermath of a flu pandemic that wipes out most of civilization. Both Matteson and producing partner Hiro Murai, who also directed the pilot (for which he was recently nominated for a DGA Award) and third episode in the series, appear genuinely moved by the experience of bringing this series to life when the world was collectively living through a real-life pandemic.
“We were isolated for so long and we were all trying to figure out how to emotionally cope with the idea of a pandemic and our need for community,” explains Murai. “It weirdly became a great place for us to figure out and negotiate our feelings about how we feel, how we process all these things,” he recalls about production resuming in early 2021 after shutting down during the onset of the pandemic, adding for our recent webchat, “I think a lot of that ended up in the final product of the show, which I’m very proud of. I think that a lot of it has to do with people connecting to it and processing their own experience with a pandemic, through the show.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
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“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. 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 COVID-19 pandemic in real life.
The series boasts impressive production design, an ambitious original score by composer Dan Romer, and a nuanced emotional intelligence from head writer Somerville and his group of directors led by Murai. The cast members in particular have received their fair share of praise as well, led by Mackenzie Davis, Himesh Patel, Matilda Lawler, Lori Petty, Nabhaan Rizwan, David Wilmot, Danielle Deadwyler, 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 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.
“When Pat first approached me about the project, I specifically told him that I wasn’t crazy about the post-apocalypse genre, because it’s so dour and aesthetically monochromatic,” Murai shares about his initial hesitation about signing on to the series. “It just felt like a very exhausting prospect to pour yourself into; that nihilism that’s prevalent in that genre. What I realized through talking to him is that he’s turning the whole thing on its head, by making it some sort of absurdist story about rebirth and hope, rather than despair. That felt like a fresh way to talk about it, in a way that I hadn’t really seen before,” he explains. “The thing we really wanted to hammer home was the idea that maybe the experience of living through modern times is in some ways more harrowing and more oppressive than living in this aftermath world where nature sort of reclaimed the space and become more pastoral,” he says.