Imagine having a job so secret, so confidential, not even the Vice President of the United States knows about it. You can’t tell anyone, because it’s a matter of life or death.
That’s what WGN America’s new TV drama series “Manhattan” is all about. FOX43’s Jaime Garland traveled to New Mexico, where the new show, produced in part by Tribune Studios, FOX43’s parent company, is being filmed. She has a look at what the series is all about:
It’s a race against time. Los Alamos, New Mexico, 1943, where scientists and nuclear physicists are brainstorming, calculating and competing to end World War II.
The making of the bomb is historically known as “The Manhattan Project” and now it’s coming back to life in the TV show. The new series will air on WGN America.
The show is the brainchild of writer Sam Shaw, who sat down six years ago and began to write a script about what he wanted to watch on television, it goes beyond just science.
“It was a such a kind of petri dish of really complicated interpersonal dynamics and drama and secrecy and betrayal, it was really fascinating,” Shaw says.
The drama, lies and rumors come to life with an all-star cast and director Tommy Schlamme, of The West Wing. One thing that sets him apart from others in the business, is his insistence that everyone read the script.
Schlamme says, “That great piece of writing is not just seen by the producer, director and actors, that’s seen by people building stuff, the production design, the art department in the production design, the cinematographer, everybody, everybody read this script, I made sure everybody could sort of see what we were working on.”
More than 200 people, including 11 main actors, step back in time on the set every day.
On the show, just as in history, an area known as “The Hill” is where the scientists worked and lived with their families. It was known as the “Harvard of the Desert” because there were so many PhD’s there, but no one outside of there knew it ever existed.
Actress Katja Herbers says, “Where everything is a secret and what happens to a marriage, what happens to these people who don’t know each other but all of a sudden are spending 24-hours a day with each other; it’s not like you can go home on leave every few months, you’re here for years.”
“The interactions of the relationships, for the moral dilemmas, for the lies that we tell each other, for the secrets we keep from our wives, the stuff that I love in television. Who’s the bad guy? Is that guy somebody secret? That’s what intrigues me in television,” says actor Daniel Stern.
John Benjamin Hickey, who has a lead role in the series says, “The entire country is united to kill Adolf Hitler, to beat Hitler, to stop the Germans, to stop you know to save democracy, to save the american way of life.”
“And everyone thinks they know this story, everyone thinks they know The Manhattan Project and WWII and this really subverts those expectations you know, everything you’re taught in your history class, you know these were just normal people living their lives, these young kids having a good time on the hill,” says actor Christopher Denham.
Actress Alexia Fast, who plays a teenager on the show says, “I think our personal relationships are something that the audience is going to be able to relate to because there are so many kinds of characters, we’ve got scientists, I play a young teenager on the show, I think anybody watching the show will be able to relate to the someone.”
“I love that we get to see, how do humans behave in such a situation, I think that’s fascinating,” says Katja Herbers.
The cast, crew and creators hope you are fascinated too. “Manhattan” premieres Sunday, July 27th on WGN America at 9 p.m.
Next Thursday, Jaime Garland will give us a behind the scenes look at the set and talk to the actors about what it’s like to step back in time to fulfill their roles.
That’s next Thursday on FOX43 News at Ten.