NEW YORK, Jan. 25 (UPI) — Hamilton Tony winner Daveed Diggs said his television sci-fi thriller, Snowpiercer, shows a trainbound society that constantly reinvents itself.
Inspired by a 1982 graphic novel and 2013 film of the same name, the series is about survivors of a cataclysmic weather event who become the class-divided passengers of a perpetually moving, 1,000-car train that has been circumnavigating a frozen Earth for more than seven years.
“The people have to constantly reassess how they govern themselves based on necessity, based on actual survival,” Diggs said of Snowpiercer’s residents in a recent virtual panel discussion for New York Comic Con.
“The things it brings to light are: What is this idea of democracy? How does that function in crisis? How much stock do you want to put in your leaders?”
Diggs thinks viewers frustrated and isolated during the coronavirus pandemic — and stressed out by political division — might benefit from seeing how people work out complicated issues “in a real human way.”
“You begin to feel like everything is out of your control and that things are just going to happen to you and I think that one of the things that Snowpiercer brings to light is what is dangerous about a society that just allows things to happen to them,” Diggs said.
“The ramifications that you see on the train, when people aren’t active participants in their own governing, are really dire.”
In Season 1, Layton (Diggs), a former cop, led the poor and abused to rebel, eventually gaining control of the train.
The citizens were integrated, resources redistributed and a new government was starting to be hammered out.
“Layton’s discovery over the course of the first season was about how every decision for the person in charge of this train is essentially a life-or-death decision for the remainder of the universe, so they think. It’s a lot to deal with and the choices he has to make are so difficult,” Diggs said.
Season 1 also revealed that Mr. Wilford — the oft-quoted, never-seen governor of the train — actually was not on it. Melanie (Connelly), the head of hospitality, was pretending to be a liaison between the passengers and Wilford, but in reality, was making all the decisions herself since she was Snowpiercer’s true architect.
Melanie used Wilford as a symbol of hope and authority, but at the end of the first season, the real man shows up with a better, smaller train and a massive grudge against the woman who stole Snowpiercer from him.
Melanie desperately tries to outrun him, but he catches up.
The season closed with Wilford’s associate — Melanie’s presumed dead daughter, Alexandra (Blanchard) — boarding Snowpiercer and announcing Wilford’s demands ahead of his arrival.
Season 2 sees Layton working with Melanie because — as the builder — she is the only person who can “hold this thing together,” Diggs noted, referring to both the physical train and the society onboard it.
Melanie, a brilliant engineer who grew up on a farm, has been doing whatever it takes to preserve humanity, Connelly said.
“She isn’t an anarchist and she hasn’t broken down the system,” she added.
“She’s used the system that was in place. She maintains the status quo and she tries to keep everything going exactly as it has been going — this kind of capitalist society — and then Layton appears and he is kind of on the other side of things.”
Melanie undergoes a huge transformation in Season 2, as she recognizes her way isn’t working because there is too much human suffering and other “collateral damage.”
“She abdicates and she turns it over to Layton to see if another kind of democracy can work — a more egalitarian vision of society,” Connelly said.
The Melanie viewers see for most of Season 1 was a facade, she acknowledged.
“Melanie was portraying a character. It was a device she was using to help things move forward — the character of Melanie as hospitality [chief], and I think that she just dropped that facade and returned to herself and she is on a mission,” Connelly said.
The ideals Melanie set aside are reawakened this season. For example, Wilford and Melanie will debate the merits of order versus science, “which also feels really timely,” Connelly said.
The A Beautiful Mind Oscar winner was excited to read scripts for episodes of Snowpiercer that tasked her braving sub-zero temperatures in an effort to separate the train from Wilford’s Big Alice.
“I love a good action sequence, so that was a lot of fun,” Connelly said.
Game of Thrones alum Sean Bean relished joining the cast as the dreaded Wilford.
Bean said Wilford is a man who is not afraid to display his cruelty because he thinks his actions are for the greater good of the new social order.
“The character was just so attractive to me because he was so rich, textured, fun to be with, very smart, had a lot of anger and bitterness toward Melanie — felt very betrayed,” Bean said.
“He’s quite charming, but he’s not a very nice man, if you have to live with him or be in his presence. He’s a bit of a psychopath. … The lengths that he goes to to get what he wants are quite incredible.”
Girl Meets World actress Rowan Blanchard said her character, Alexandra, behaves very businesslike in her first scenes because she wanted to be taken seriously.
“It fascinated me that she has always been like an adult her whole life, but there is still this need — because there was so much stuff that wasn’t nurtured around her in her youth — for her mom and this calling for her mom, even though she has a lot of resentment for her, as well,” Blanchard said.
Big Alice, which is loaded with supplies and has only about 40 cars, felt like “an alternate dimension” compared with Snowpiercer, Diggs said.
“The way [the passengers and crew] dress is slightly different,” he said. “It’s kind of like you go to a new school and there’s all the cool kids and you’re like, ‘Oh man, I’ll never be cool like them.'”
Season 2 starts Monday on TNT.
Season 1 of Snowpiercer is now on HBO Max. The show has already been renewed for a third season.