By RODNEY HO/ email@example.com, originally filed Tuesday, April 19, 2016
I am on vacation April 13-26 but I did my best to keep this blog populated while I was gone, at least a little bit. If you have any news or would like to read other entertainment news, please go to Jennifer Brett (firstname.lastname@example.org) and her AJC Buzz blog and Melissa Ruggieri (email@example.com) at AJC Music Scene.
Last year, Julie Plec – who created “The Vampire Diaries” and spinoff “The Originals” – had seen a Belgium series about a virus outbreak and was writing an Americanized version when the Ebola outbreak happened.
The timing was perfect because it gave her a chance to see something similar occur in real time and use that as fodder for what would become “Containment,” a new CW series set in Atlanta debuting at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Her scenario: a very sick Middle Eastern man enters a fictional Midtown Atlanta hospital and contaminates a doctor. He is released but then the doctor gets very sick very quickly. She’s isolated but he’s at large, possibly spreading the virus.
The authorities – which includes Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control – decide to quarantine a one-mile radius around the hospital, hoping to “contain” the threat. Thousands of people are caught inside the containment zone. While the Powers That Be try to keep everyone calm, suspicion and distrust proliferate and chaos quickly becomes the norm inside the zone.
Plec thought about setting “Containment” in Chicago, her hometown. But she said she has already been living part-time in Atlanta for seven years shooting her other two shows. “I fell in love with this city,” she said. “It was a wonderful moment of logistics and geographic interest and convenience.”
She noted that her other two shows are set in different places. She said this will give her a chance to actually shoot Atlanta City Hall as Atlanta City Hall and the Gold Dome as the Gold Dome. “It was a blast!” she said.
Much of the pilot was shot in actual Midtown locations such as the A&T complex off West Peachtree Street and Hardy Ivy Park, though for logistical reasons, she had to move much of the regular series production elsewhere.
Unlike the fantastical nature of shows like “The Walking Dead,” which also used downtown Atlanta in its first season and part of the fifth, Plec tried to make “Containment” as real as possible. “Something like this could happen tomorrow,” she said.
She made a policeman Lex Carnahan, played by David Gyasi (“Interstellar”), the hero and moral compass of the show. He is, as Plec said, “the golden child of the department” who authorities choose to be the public voice of the crisis.
“He represents hope,” said Gyasi, who I met at Midtown Cafe Intermezzo last fall while they were shooting the 13 episodes. “He is someone who cares about the city. He isn’t disillusioned.”
Unfortunately, his commitment-phobic girlfriend of many years Jana (Christina Moses) is caught inside the zone, creating a chance she could get contaminated. And that may cause him to do things he might not otherwise do. “It’s heartbreaking,” Gyasi said.
Other characters include a younger separated teen couple, the pregnant girl inside the zone, the boy outside. There’s also a teacher with 14 11-year-old kids, including her son, trapped inside.
Naturally, there’s a conspiracy going with suspicious authority figures dotted throughout and a meddling reporter trying to figure out the truth, which is out there.
Plec said with civility fraying, she is able to place characters in situations where they have a choice: “be a coward and flee, be a hero who is put at risk or somewhere in between.”
She acknowledged making Patient Zero of Middle Eastern roots makes him a possible bio-terrorist Bogeyman – or red herring.
“So many questions are asked in the show about why we are so quick to judgment,” she said, “or lead us to some sort of stereotype of a villain.”
The feel of the show is not that of most of the CW’s line up, which is packed with superheroes and supernatural beings.
“This is a big experiment,” Plec said. “But the beauty of the show is this: it goes back to what I always say about writing for myself. I like to write about love and loss, family and friendship, loyalty and grief. Any package where I can put that in makes me happy. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ is about mortality and immortality. This is really in a lot of ways a similar story, about survival and being your best self, about experiencing love and the deepest levels of fear and grief attached to being part of this world. It’s the same set of themes, packaged in a different way.”
“Containment,” 9 p.m. Tuesdays, the CW