The timing was perfect for Julie Plec as she was starting to put together a television series for American TV based on the Belgian series “Cordon” about a community divided by a deadly epidemic. Just as she was finishing the first draft of the script, the Ebola outbreak happened.
Her fictional idea for the new CW Network series “Containment” went from fantasy to a reflection of fact.
“It’s fascinating because you are seeing what you are trying to portray as what could happen in a very real world situation, and then you turn on the news, and it’s happening in the real world,” Plec says. “You feel this obligation to not aggrandize it and not exploit it, because, then, suddenly, you will feel more like kind of icky, ripped from the headlines, which, of course, is never the intention.”
The series looks at what happens when a deadly virus hits Atlanta and part of the city is quarantined. Those on the inside have to try to stay alive while those on the outside try to deal with what’s happening to loved ones trapped inside the city.
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Hanna Mangan Lawrence, George Young, Kristen Gutoskie, Chris Wood, David Gyasi, Christina Moses, Claudia Black and Trevor St. John star.
Plec, whose other series include “The Tomorrow People,” “The Originals” and “The Vampire Diaries,” has been behind shows that deal in fantasy. But, even in those programs the stories tend to be grounded in simple but honest, deep themes of love, family and friendship. That’s what she’s brought to “Containment.”
“It’s a horror genre where the monster is an illness, is a virus. To be able to drop that into an environment that’s extremely chaotic and terrifying, it’s just a different way of exploring a genre,” Plec says. “Being able to tell stories about ordinary people going through all of these deep and complex emotions in the context of something so vivid, it’s the pleasure of getting to do what I love to do and knowing people might actually watch it, too, as opposed to just writing, like, a nice family drama.”
“Containment” is a 13-episode mini-event that will look at the mystery behind the outbreak, the origins of the outbreak, the background of Patient Zero, the involvement of the Middle East in any capacity, and how quickly Americans jump to conclusions.
Because the series is based on a situation that could actually occur, every effort was made to keep the basic elements grounded in reality. Each script was read and checked by a member of the Centers for Disease Control.
Plec met with the Georgia Department of Public Health that offered a lot of information as to the hierarchy of government response. The CDC doesn’t get involved until after the local and state agencies have responded.
“They come in later to take jurisdiction. There’s a lot of ways to ruffle feathers and get people very upset if you make assumptions. It’s a whole world of politics and hierarchy, but it’s fascinating,” Plec says. “We made sure that, when we talked to people, we would say, ‘Would this happen this way?’
“And either they’d say, ‘Absolutely, that’s how it would happen,’ or they’d say, ‘Not specifically, but we accept it.’ So we were pretty diligent about that.”
Several of the actors met with members of the CDC to get a better understanding of what such an outbreak would mean.
Claudia Black, best known for her work in “Farscape,” plays a doctor at the heart of stopping the breakout. She spent time with an epidemiologist researching the role. Black was also able to get insight from her mother, who is a scientist.
She used this to create the character she describes as being in a situation where chaos is reigning.
“… One that we’ve had to really think about and ground in the science of it so that we know how a person would behave and how they need to behave in order to save the largest amount of lives possible,” Black says.
- 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, CW (KFRE, Channel 59.1)