Himesh Patel delves into the irony of Station Eleven

Train rides have proven to be a mixed bag for Himesh Patel.

In the Emmy-nominated HBO Max limited series Station Eleven, Patel’s character Jeevan Chaudhary is on a train bound for Chicago when his doctor calls to inform him of a deadly virus sweeping through the city. It’s a sobering conversation – made even more surreal by real events – that changes the course of Jeevan’s life forever. Heeding her warning to prepare for the worst, he becomes one of the few survivors left to forge humanity’s future.

Coincidentally, on the morning of the Emmy nominations, Patel was on a train to visit his parents in London when his phone lit up with messages. Good news awaited this time. He had been nominated to star in a limited series, the only actor in the cast to be recognized.

“I couldn’t react the way I did at home because I was on the train,” he recalls with a smile. “It’s still really sinking, but over the course of that hour-and-a-half train ride, it’s been sinking very slowly.”

Created by Patrick Somerville and based on the book by Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven surprised many with seven Emmy nominations, including for screenplay, direction and soundtrack.

Patel spoke to Somerville shortly after the news and ended up recalling how long it took them to get to that celebratory moment after starting production in early 2020, before COVID turned their fictional story into reality and them switched off for almost a year.

“By September and we’re at the Emmys, it will be three years since I first flew to Los Angeles to audition,” says Patel. “Then in order for it to take on this meaning that we never thought it would, I still try to convince myself that everything is coincidental.”

Patel got his first glimpse of this relevance in October 2020 when he watched a rough cut of the pilot. As Jeevan’s sister wades through a traumatized hospital emergency room, the masks and fear fueled by the fictional virus had become a more damning image than he remembered.

“I saw that scene and I was very emotional because it was just so impressive,” he says. “It was the first time I saw what a crazy coincidence it all was.”

The series largely skips the messy aftermath of its own pandemic, jumping two decades into the future to examine what humanity has made of its second chance. Told through the journeys of a roving troupe of actors, the show questions its own philosophy that choosing art and connection over violence and division can and will be the salvation of humanity.

Despite this soulful center, everyone involved with Station Eleven braced itself for the show to be written off when it premiered in December, just as another resurgent wave of COVID-19 was forcing people back into their homes. Fortunately, her nerves proved unfounded.

“We understood if people didn’t want to get close to a show like this,” says Patel. “But we knew the core of what the show was, and for people to recognize that really means a lot. Ultimately, this story is telling us that no matter what, as long as we’re around, as long as there’s a handful of us, we’ll find a way to survive. But survival isn’t just about staying alive. It’s about thriving, connecting, performing, enriching each other’s souls – and that all of this is possible.”

https://variety.com/2022/awards/news/himesh-patel-station-eleven-covid-1235331032/ Himesh Patel delves into the irony of Station Eleven

Charles Jones

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