The creators and star of the HBO Max series Station Eleven became worried about releasing a show about a pandemic during the second year of the Covid pandemic. However, creator Patrick Somerville, director Hiro Murai and star Himesh Patel focused on the limited series’ hopeful message.
“We just tried to stay true to our initial conceit, which was to make this pandemic show about intimacy and people, and not be about despair,” Murai said at Deadline’s Contenders Television: The Nominees award-season event.
Based on the Emily St. John Mandel novel, Station Eleven depicts both a present-day pandemic and 20 years in the future when society rebuilds. In the future, people have returned to nature and continue acting to share stories.
“It didn’t need to be about the pandemic to get what was beautiful about [the book] into the show,” Somerville said. “It was a way to talk about what the world was like already.”
Patel plays Jeevan Chaudhary, a single man who accompanies a girl (Matilda Lawler) traveling alone on what happens to be the first night of the outbreak. He’d filmed scenes depicting the pandemic before production and post-production shut down in 2020. Waiting to resume production, Patel kept in touch with Murai and Somerville during lockdown.
“Obviously, we all had to contend with how strange it was, what we shot before and how it became more meaningful than we could have imagined,” Patel said. “To have had that creative dialogue and had that be open through what was a very turbulent time for everyone around the world but to have that relationship continue throughout all that was actually really important to me. It just helped me get through what we were all going through, to know we were going to go back and continue telling this story.”
Patel got sick during the pre-pandemic production. He filmed nights in Chicago during the winter.
“Everyone else could wear layers upon layers,” Patel said. “I had a fairly warm coat, but that was it.”
Murai recalled the intensity of the scene that contributed to Patel’s illness.
“You were also having a panic attack in that scene,” Murai said. “So it was like, ‘Can you just breathe harder?’ So you’re just sucking in so much cold air.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.