Himesh Patel On His Emmy Nod For ‘Station Eleven,’ The Series That Almost Didn’t Happen [Interview]

Dec 29, 2022

Himesh Patel wanted to scream when he found out he was Emmy nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie category for “Station Eleven.” Because he was on a train, however, he kept quiet. No need to cause any panic, but the recognition of a role that spans twenty years meant a great deal to him.
READ MORE: ‘Station Eleven’ TV Review: HBO Max’s post-apocalyptic drama is essential discomfort viewing
Based on Emily St. John Mandel’s novel and adapted by Patrick Somerville, the HBO Max series begins with a flu-like pandemic sweeping the world causing so many deaths that civilization as we currently know it comes to a grinding halt. Patel plays Jeevan Chaudhary, a Chicago resident who winds up looking after a young girl, Kirsten Raymonde (initially Matilda Lawler, then Mackenzie Davis), after she gets separated from her family. Patel and Lawler’s scenes mostly constitute episode one and three of the series. And it turns out the fact they were the only episodes completed before the COVID pandemic hit likely made sure the program resumed production. It was a decision that had been made to allow celebrated director Hiro Murai (“Atlanta”) to helm those particular episodes.
“We basically fit them into a gap in his schedule, I believe. And that’s why we managed to get them done in those months,” Patel says. “And the strange thing is that I think I heard Patrick talking about this recently, originally the plan was to shoot it later, and then this window opened up in Hiro’s schedule and we went, ‘Let’s get it done now.’ And it’s so strange that happened because if we hadn’t done that, we might not have a show because I’m not sure that once an actual pandemic came about that they would’ve been so keen to make a show that really hinges around a pandemic.”
During our conversation late last week, Patel reflected on his long journey with “Eleven,” a key scene with Davis, his upcoming film “Providence” and much more.
Please note: There are major spoilers about “Station Eleven” in the context of this interview.
The Playlist: What was your reaction to your Emmy nomination?
Himesh Patel: I’m so thrilled and surprised, well pleasantly surprised, and when I found out it completely slipped my mind that it was nominations day. And if I’m honest with you, I was hoping that the show would be nominated, and sadly it wasn’t, but I’m glad it got a lot of other nominations. But I wasn’t expecting anything for myself. And so as I said, I had sort of forgotten, and then I was running for a train and then I hadn’t looked at my phone and I had a bunch of notifications. And so then I was on a train and I couldn’t really react the way I wanted to, and kind of wanted to scream. But being a Brown man on a train, I thought maybe screaming maybe might not be the best of ideas. So, I had to sort of keep my reaction quite muted sadly, but I was feeling it all. Yeah. It was a wonderful moment.
I’m going to take a guess that you have never worked on a project as long as you have or that you did as “Station Eleven.”
Yeah. in terms of like, from beginning to end, by the time we get to the Emmy’s in September, it would’ve been almost exactly three years since I auditioned for it. So, it’s been a very long journey. It’s lovely to sort of have this as a sort of cherry on the cake in a way. It’s not the reason that you do anything, but it’s also a lovely thing to have that recognition.
When the role came your way do you remember what got you excited about it?
Patrick Somerville, I was aware of his work. I really enjoyed “Maniac” and Hiro Murai who I’m so proud to have worked with and I think he’s one of the most influential directors of his generation. So, to have spent that time working on that pilot episode with him was a joy. I was excited that they were involved and that I was going to get a chance to audition for them. And I read the pilot, the pilot was just brilliant on the page. I was excited to bring this character to life. That’s always something that I look for when I’m reading something, is, “Am I excited to do this?” And I was. And then I read the book in preparation for my audition and it sort of excited me, even more, knowing what the scope of the story could be. So yeah, all the pieces were sort of in place.
You get the role, you guys are in Chicago, you’re shooting for a couple of months, and then the pandemic hits. How much had you shot before your shutdown happened?
So we’d shot two whole episodes. We’d shot episode one, and we shot episode three. Those were the two episodes that Hiro Murai directed. And we basically fit them into a gap in his schedule, I believe. And that’s why we managed to get them done in those months. And the strange thing is that I think I heard Patrick talking about this recently, originally the plan was to shoot it later, and then this window opened up in Hiro’s schedule and we went, “Let’s get it done now.” And it’s so strange that happened because if we hadn’t done that, we might not have a show because I’m not sure that once an actual pandemic came about that they would’ve been so keen to make a show that really hinges around a pandemic. And also then it was strange watching episodes one and three, seeing early cuts of those episodes as I got to do, and realizing just how sort of unknowingly prescient they wound up being. I found them all the more moving for those moments because I was just fully aware that we had no idea when we made those episodes. Just the meaning that they would take on.
Were you ever concerned that you wouldn’t be able to go back and finish the series? Or did everyone sort of feel like, “At some point we’ll finish it down the road”?
I suppose different people had different levels of sort of optimism, depending on how much they were aware of it. But I was sort of just at home waiting to hear news and I guess there were a lot of conversations going on that I wasn’t aware of. I wasn’t taking anything for granted, I was just sort of waiting to see what was going to happen. And in a way, I was preparing myself for what could be bad news and that would be completely understandable because as I said, it’s the subject matter. I was a bit nervous that it might be deemed sort of in poor taste. But I think it’s great that Patrick was always confident, the story that we were telling, which is not one of grief and sort of the grim reality of what something like that is. It touches on that, of course, it does, but at its heart, it’s really a story about hope and rebuilding and community and art as a form of connection. And that is what the show is. And so I’m really glad that the powers that be recognized that as well and allowed us to finish telling our story.
I have not read the book, but from what I have know bout it, I think the ending might be different or part of Jeevan’s story was different in terms of him finding Kirsten in it. Was that an aspect of the project that you knew about early on?
I think in terms of the way that it all wound up, it was sort of a work in progress once the lockdown happened because I think basically they went, “O.K., we’ve got a bit of time now. Let’s really work on it.” But I knew from that pilot episode that we were moving in a bit of a different direction in terms of making the relationship between Jeevan and Kirsten the sort of the heart of everything. In the book, it’s sort of the beginning and it’s what sets Kirsten on the course that she winds up on. But ultimately it becomes like a sort of half memory really, rather than the core of her sort of motivation. So I knew that Jeevan, as a character, would have a more sort of pivotal role to play, at least in terms of her story. What I didn’t know was the extent to which he would be featured along the way. I didn’t know whether it would just be the pilot and then flashes along the way, or whether I would get to what we ended up landing on, which was another two episodes basically that were really centered on Jeevan and his family in one way or another. And I’m so thankful that I got to do that. And who knows whether that would’ve been to that extent, had we not had the lockdown to develop those ideas. So, to have expanded the character in that way, and then done it in a way that I’m really proud of is a really great achievement, I think.
I know it’s “acting” and it’s what your job is, but in the final episode, Kirsten and Jeevan meet for the first time after decades apart. And you’re working with Mackenzie on screen for the first time and it has to be this emotional sort of moment. Were you nervous about pulling that off?
No, no. We wanted to make sure that we got it right. In the same way that when I was shooting episode one and I was working with Matilda Lawler who played the young Kirsten and we were aware that we needed to make sure that we hit all the beats as truthfully as possible to make that the heart of the show. Ultimately without that, we wouldn’t have had the emotional journey. I was aware, and I know Mackenzie was aware, that this moment needed to work. It had to be as truthful as possible and as emotional as possible, but ultimately it has to be truthful. That’s the main thing, if you’re crying, you’re crying, if you’re not crying, if you’re not saying anything, whatever it is, as long as it feels truthful. And thankfully Patrick was on board with that and Jeremy Podeswa who directed that [episode]. And so we talked about it and I think we both knew that we wanted it to be like a stunned silence, really. There’s only so much you can say at the moment like that. It’s an unfathomable moment. You’ve lost someone and somehow against all the odds, 20 years later, here they are in front of you. I’ve played it and I maybe don’t even know exactly how that would feel, but I could approximate that you’d be in stunned silence. There are no words really that can properly express that emotion. And so, that was really the crux of it.
The final, final scene of the series is the two characters sort of saying goodbye, but sort of saying that hopefully, they’ll see each other the next year. Did you take it as a given that they would be there the next year to see each other? Or is it more of an optimistic hope they’ll see each other again?
It’s a sort of a question that, it’s about the viewer and whether they’re an optimist or a pessimist because ultimately it could be either of those things. I choose to think it’s true and that he’s not going to break a promise again. He’s not going to do that this time. And that it’s a wonderful way to sort of touch base and keep connected in a way that they can’t really keep connected in any other way in this new world. And then there’s the other side of it, which is that by hook or by crook, there could be a reason why they don’t get to see each other again. But I think they would continue to see each other every year and maybe even one of his kids would join the traveling symphony. There are so many wonderful possibilities there really.
I didn’t know if this thought had ever gone through your mind or if it was ever part of the discussions, but when Jeevan is found by the pregnant women, he wakes up to discover that his foot has been amputated. Did you ever think their only doctor, Terry, did that on purpose so he couldn’t leave and would be forced to help her?
Good question.
Am I the only one who thought that like, or did you take it as “Nope, he really was in trouble and she just did what she had to do to help him”?
I always thought it was that, the latter.
So it was just me, O.K. [Laughs.]
Yeah. I think that would be true if she had really gone off the other end and become a lunatic. Because that’s a lunatic move really, to do something like that. And then she would’ve, she displays a real emotional intelligence later on and real empathy. And as we know, the twist at the end is that she’s the Saint who they’ve named the village after 20 years later. And you’d think that for that to happen, she has to be a person who winds up being celebrated by her community. So, I think it was an unfortunate kindness that she had to perform on him.
You all worked on this for so a long time because of the pandemic. Did the reaction from fans and critics mean more to you than other projects you worked?
Hugely. I mean, on the one hand of being that, yeah that labor of love that we all worked on for such a long time and through huge adversity we put it together and made it through and made it happen and did the best work we all could. And also just a character that I loved playing and I grew so much as an actor to playing this role and it will always mean so much to me. And so to see that recognized on a critical level and now with the honor of being nominated for an Emmy, it’s a really wonderful, wonderful feeling. So yeah, it is definitely extra special.
And lastly, I know that you recently shot a movie titled “Providence.”
Yeah, it’s like a dark comedy sort of thriller. Yeah.
Can you say anything about it? About who you play?
I don’t want to say too much because I don’t know what I should say, but I had a great time shooting it. It was nice. I was working with Lily James again, but it was nice to work with her on something completely different to what we did before. And I got to work with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Tim Blake Nelson and Uzo Aduba and a bunch of other great actors. And I had a great time doing it. And the kind of world and the kind of genre in which I hadn’t played before. So it was really another great learning curve. So I’m really looking forward to seeing it put together. And I imagine it’ll come out sometime next year.
“Station Eleven” is available on HBO Max.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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