Snowpiercer plowed it’s way through the Jacob Javits Center earlier this month when stars from the post-apocalyptic series hit the stage at New York Comic Con to discuss their take on the frozen tundra that has taken over the world.
“Set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, Snowpiercer centers on the remnants of humanity, who inhabit a gigantic, perpetually-moving train that circles the globe. Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out in this riveting television adaptation.” – Source: Collider
Fan Fest News media consultant Brian J. Cano had the opportunity to participate in four roundtable interviews with the stars from TNT’s Snowpiercer. Check out what actors Jennifer Connelly (Melanie Cavill), Daveed Diggs (Layton Well), Alison Wright (Ruth Wardle) and Mickey Sumner (Bess Till) had to say in part one of our two-part coverage.
Interview 1: Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs
Media: So, Jennifer, you’ve done so many different types of movies and some of your best-known projects are in the sci-fi genre. Can you talk a little bit about how you think the role of women has sort of evolved in terms of sci-fi and that genre and what you think is really different about this movie, this series, compared to say a lot of other series when it comes to the roles of women?
Jennifer: Well, to be completely honest with you, I don’t think I would be able to answer that fairly because I’m not enough of an expert to analyze that, the role of women and how it’s changed in sci-fi and all this. I’m going to have to take a pass on that one. I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer. We were talking earlier about the fact that it’s not a black and white world that we live in, there’s a lot of gray areas and I really appreciate films that explore that terrain. I think that this show really does explore the complexities in life and as a whole and within my character. I think my character is quite rich and complicated. I was really attracted to her as a character because she is really powerful and it’s a kind of deep and complex view of a human being. So I found that really interesting.
Media: You have this class of people that are in survival mode. We’ve seen a lot of sci-fi post-apocalyptic type movies where the audiences can sometimes be turned off or actually intrigued depending on how the relationships develop between men and women. Can you talk about how it works in your Snowpiercer world?
Daveed: I think that there are sex and monogamy and coupling… men and women, men and men and women and women [that] find each other. Snowpiercer is it, this is all that’s left. We’re watching people and the power dynamics between the sexes. Everyone is dealing with and thinking about the same things that we are all dealing with and thinking about. I think gender certainly plays into that and sexuality plays into that in the same ways that men and women and power dynamics are grappled with today. I think Jennifer said the show is trying very hard to not present any kind of normal, right?… to not set anything up as the normative way of being because there’s no more normal, right? We’re post-apocalypse. Sometimes the characters on the train that find themselves having a more traditionalist approach to living are the ones having the hardest time adapting, which feels probably accurate to me.
Media: When you become a name on this level, when you become critically acclaimed, do you feel there’s more pressure to deliver as an actress every time? Do you find yourself re-watching tapes of yourself to see what made the magic happen every time?
Jennifer: No, I don’t do that for sure. Definitely not. I love my job. I love what I do. I don’t take anything for granted, I don’t take a single day at work, a single scene, I don’t take anything for granted. I feel like it’s a privilege to be there. I just want to do the best that I can do. I mean obviously it’s a formative occupation, so hopefully, there’s an audience for the performance, but it’s important to me to just do the best that I can do.
Media: Do you feel you sort of go through the same rituals as you did when you first started as an actress?
Jennifer: The way I work has evolved over the years but I don’t think you can look backward. I don’t think about it that way, I don’t think like, oh, this is what I did in this movie and so I’m going to try and replicate. You’re always moving and changing, I feel like I’m just here now. I make the choices I make now. I do the best I can do now. I’m not looking back to try and copy something I did or someone else did or anything. I’m just trying to kind of inhabit this character, take what’s in front of me and serve it the best that I can.
Media (Brian): I’m always interested in the actor’s process. Is there something in Snowpiercer where over the course of your career you go, “Wow, I’ve never had to do that.” Is there some instance or a line or a scene that really pushed you or challenged you as an actor?
Jennifer: Well, for me, I’ve never done a whole series of a show, a whole season of a show before. Just the amount of time spent with one character is really a different experience for me and I really enjoyed it. I felt like you’re able to explore so much more [by] just having that much time. So that was really great.
Media (Brian): How about you, Daveed?
Daveed: It also requires a kind of stamina that’s different. It’s different when the story is continuous, a different kind of stamina than doing two years on Broadway where you’re telling the same story every night. Those, when you’re doing them, you [are able to] find the places to rest. This show changes every day. I haven’t done as much TV or film as Jennifer, so every day it felt like I was learning some wild shit. A big part of it for me was how you would adapt to that, how you manage to really figure out a scene and give a scene everything that it deserves and requires of you when you’re never going to do it again. Do you know what I’m saying? You do a play and if I don’t do very well tonight, I don’t care, I’m going to do it again tomorrow. You get a number of chances to try and figure this puzzle out. TV and film feels like a bunch of rehearsals with no performance to me, which is kind of fun for me when you think about that because I love rehearsing. It’s all put together by somebody else. For me, I’m painting with as many colors as I am capable of and trusting my collaborators to build the actual performance, It was fascinating working with Jennifer, you’re probably the hardest working actor I’ve ever worked with. The way that she prepares is pretty inspirational.
Media: My daughters and I loved Wonder. You worked on it. Blindspotting is also fantastic. Do you find yourself picking things up along the way in each of those roles and is there anything from those roles that you brought into Snowpiercer?
Daveed: Oh that’s interesting. I mean, every role is different so you sort of have to meet it where it is. Every time I do something I’m better and have more tools to choose from, I have more colors to paint with. Hopefully for season two Layton will continue to be more… I think the goal is always to try and create somebody that feels like a person you would know, meaning they’re not a villain and they’re not a hero. They are a human being existing in the situations they are existing in. I think in order to do that you have to be able to have someone who can just react to whatever is happening and understand how they would react to that. I learn more every time I do it… about how to broaden a character and give them more and more colors.
Media: Do you think that eating bugs is the future of food?
Daveed: I have a good friend of mine who got very into sort of bug farming and eating and cooks a lot with cricket flour. And so it is a very sustainable way to get protein, and I think that is in the wheelhouse of things we should be examining. That’s probably one of them. If we’re going to continue to deplete our resources like this, we should probably start looking at eating more bugs.
Interview 2: Alison Wright and Mickey Sumner
Media (Brian): Is there anything in your personal life or professional life that has prepared you specifically for the roles you’re playing?
Mickey: Yeah, I play a cop from Detroit and I’m a British person who grew up on a farm, so I did a lot of research into female cops and befriended two female cops in the NYPD who were very generous [in sharing] their experience and technical stuff… I still talk to them. They still make sure that I’m staying on track. Yeah. Then I work with a dialect coach for my accent. But yeah, I don’t think I can pull from, you know, I play a bit of a badass in this TV show and I’d like to pretend that I’m a badass in real life, but I’m actually not.
Media: Are you a method actor?
Mickey: No, I don’t think that. I have a little boy at home so I can’t come home and be tough and [then] drop it when they say “cut”.
Media: You’re more of the enforcer, you’re toward the front of the train, correct?
Mickey: That’s right.
Media: Are you worked with separately? How do you prepare yourself because you have this class system, so how do they keep you from feeling too familiar with each other?
Alison: How it works is there are different departments on the train. I’m in the hospitality department with Jennifer who’s the voice of the train. We’re responsible for keeping order and keeping everything running smoothly. Till is sort of the police of the train. Then you have another faction of police that are more like the stormtroopers. So everyone is in different groups that are sort of all helping to run the train. My character has the run of the train. She has to be in the tail sometimes but she spends a lot of time in first-class looking after whatever they might need, how they might need their beef cooked. You know? I mean there’s, there’s a vast luxury on the train and those luxury needs need to be taken care of too because they’ve paid for the whole thing.
Media: The characters that are yielding the most power are women and for a sci-fi series, that’s kind of unusual. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that. How the dynamics work, you know, among the different classes and the fact that we know in this society, it’s not necessarily true that women are running the show?
Alison: Right, there’s still a man running the whole show and that’s Mr. Wilford. That’s the sort of demi-god that is running the whole thing.
Media: But in terms of like the numbers, percentage numbers, it seems like the cast that’s being presented to you…
Alison: I agree with you. I agree. I think that’s something that comes from Josh Friedman’s original script. I think he was very much interested in exploring, having it be a matriarchy on the train. I think that’s what it comes from. I agree that is something you don’t necessarily see [as] an option on a lot of shows, but like I said, Mr. Wilford is still the boss, you’re just not seeing him with us at this moment but he’s very much in charge and who we answer to all the time. It’s still women doing his bidding sort of.
Media: So you both play authority figures, enforcers, how does it feel taking on that kind of role in the show where the class society is pretty depressingly hurtful on the lower class?
Mickey: I find it a risk, a bit of a burden in my personal body having to inflict this sort of cruelty. I mean, you know, I think my character is conflicted, but the way you meet me, I’m definitely a part of the brutal force on this train. I struggle with that, but I’m also interested in playing characters that aren’t like me in any way. It’s always interesting to push yourself and see other perspectives and access different parts of yourself.
Media: How do you feel you’ve changed as an actor from the time you first started?
Mickey: I’ve never worked on a show where I was in ten episodes, so we work every day, we work fourteen-hour days and I think you become better at your job when you’re just in it all the time. You’re surrounded by geniuses like Allison Wright.
Alison: Don’t talk about me there.
Mickey: I mean you learn from your colleagues and this is an amazing cast and we’ve had pretty amazing directors. Yeah, I hope that I got better at my job because of this show.
Alison: Can I go back to your question for my character? Ruth believes that this is a balance. This train is a balance. There are not unlimited resources to support ten million people. They’ve got three thousand souls on the train and we’ve got enough to keep those people alive. We don’t have enough to keep [supporting] all of these extra people that force their way onto the train, they’re weighing the train down and holding us, making us potentially to go slower. We don’t have the resources to support them, that wasn’t the deal. You have to be able to run the train, it has to work, it has to be able to function and she’s trying to make it function the way that it was supposed to and the way everyone had planned that it would function. To do that you have to keep law and order in place, [that] is her point of view.
Media: Can you talk a little bit, since you’re prepping for a season two… A little bit about, I know this is not a spoiler question, but what’s the most important thing that you’re excited to see in terms of how your characters have evolved from season one to season two?
Alison: So tricky to know what to be able to say about that. I would really like to be able to see the first season and then decide how I’m going to evolve for season two. We’re not necessarily seeing that there’s going to be a big-time jump between where season one ends and season two begins either. So it’s tricky to address that.
Mickey: Maybe just more screen time in general.
Media: What was it about the script that made you want to invest in the series?
Alison: Yeah, the original pilot script that I read was one of the best pilot scripts that I’ve ever read.
Mickey: I auditioned in 2017 you know, and it was a completely different script, different creative team, but you know, I think that the essence of this story and it’s the importance of the world we’re living in today is vital. This is the kind of TV that I want to watch and be a part of and it has a message and it has a warning and it is truly, it’s what we’re dealing with now. [The] set happens to be set in the future, but I don’t think it’s futuristic, I think it’s now. I want to be part of that.
Alison: Yeah, it’s technically in the future, but it really plays as if it were to be tomorrow, you know, for our purposes.
Media: You know now it’s a story set in the future, but what I noticed is some people see it and take it to heart. What’s the balance between, you don’t want it to be preachy, but how does it get that across…
Mickey: I think it’s [the] entertainment you know, and I think the best entertainment does that in a non-preachy way that you are being entertained at the same time [that] you’re being asked to maybe see something you haven’t seen before, see someone else’s perspective and it takes time to do that. It takes time to change people’s minds.
Media: Do you think it’s done in a way you feel that people are going to stay along for the ride.
Mickey: I hope so.
Look out for Snowpiercer speeding your way Springtime 2020 on TNT!