WGN America will debut its second original scripted series, “Manhattan,” on July 27. In preparation for the 1940s period drama, which surrounds the scientists tasked with developing the atomic bomb in New Mexico — and their in-the-dark families — Zap2it caught up with the cast for a Q&A about their new show.
Up next is Alexia Fast, who plays Callie Winter, the mischievous teenage daughter of John Benjamin Hickey’s nuclear physicist and Olivia Williams’ brilliant botanist.
Zap2it: Which is more challenging: ’40s fashion or nuclear physics?
Fast: Seductive ’40s fashion is a daily luxury for the actors on the “Manhattan” set, but I think nuclear physics is a more valuable commodity. Fashion trends come and go, but the discovery of the atomic bomb changed humanity forever. When faced with life or death decisions, the materialistic aspect of clothing just doesn’t matter anymore.
What did you actually know about The Manhattan Project before you auditioned for the role?
Like many young people who are born in an age where the concept of “making it” revolves around the possession of fame and fortune, I was pretty ignorant to The Manhattan Project. Playing a teenager who lives in a time of life and death high stakes, ambiguous morality and secrets has taught me a lot about what actually matters in life.
If you could hang out with a real Manhattan Project scientist, who would you pick?
I think Oppenheimer would be my pick because he was known for being an eccentric “Outlier,” even among the other brilliant scientists who were often a bit strange or “different” themselves. People call me weird all the time, and now I just respond by saying, “Oppenheimer was weird too and he was a GENUIS!”
What are your favorite and least favorite things about working on a period piece?
I love how handsome the men look dressed in ’40s attire, but I have to say — sometimes, I feel a little constricted by how form-fitting my character’s clothes are. You would think women’s clothing in the ’40s was conservative, but the silhouette is actually quite seductive. Sometimes I just want to roll around in the dirt and say “to hell with it all!”
What’s one thing about this time in history — or The Manhattan Project, specifically — that you didn’t know before you started working on the show?
It’s hard for me to pick just ONE thing that I learned, because when I started on this show I was very much in the dark about this time in history and how influential The Manhattan Project was in putting an end to World War II. When the first atomic bomb was dropped, it changed everything. It makes me think that if such a complex thing can be invented in the ’40s, then just imagine what we could invent now. Interplanetary travel sounds fun to me… Can someone dream that up ASAP?