The world was changed forever after the United States dropped atomic bombs known as Little Boy and Fat Man on Japan in 1945. Behind the tale of the bombs, there's the story of the people who created them and the effect their environment and work had on their lives. WGN America's Manhattan
shares their emotional journey.
Before the show's premiere, I had the opportunity to visit the set and talk with the executive producers and stars about the new series. With the first step on set, I felt like I was taken back in time to the 1940s to a secret and secure community.
While the series is a fictional account and almost all the characters are fictionalized, it was important to Creator Sam Shaw that Manhattan project an authentic view of the time and events.
"It's not a show about the technical aspects of building the bomb or the history of the war. It's really about the men and women living in this really, really weird pressure cooker that was Los Alamos during the 1940s," said Shaw. "We've tried to capture the emotional truth of what life was like for those people and think about the history as kind of a scaffold or backdrop for storytelling."
A crucial aspect of creating this historical environment was replicating Los Alamos. Director Thomas Schlamme elaborated, "It was a community you couldn't leave so it was a little bit of a Prisoners of War camp. There was a fence around it. So that was important to make sure that people understood that."
Manhattan primarily follows two couples, Frank and Liza Winter (John Benjamin Hickey and Olivia Williams) and Charlie and Abby Isaacs (Ashley Zukerman and Rachel Brosnahan). The Winters have been at Los Alamos a while when the young Isaacs arrive.
Living in Los Alamos creates troubles in both marriages with the scientist husbands being forced to keep what they are doing a secret from their wives.
"The great conflict in being here is that they can't share what they used to share. [Frank] cannot share with [Liza] what he's been doing at the office all day and that used to be their dinner conversation every night -- an exchange of intellectual ideals,' said Hickey.
"They are cut off from each other and from the rest of the world, so the strength of their marriage is put to a great test as this series unfolds and we'll see how strong they stay. Stay tuned."
Meanwhile, the Isaacs transition from happy newlyweds to something much different. Zukerman explains, "The first time you see us is before you find out what Charlie's making and you see a couple who's excited about life and find the world wondrous as a young couple does."
"And excited about this new adventure. In a way, it feels like an adventure. We're moving to the middle of the desert ... Very quickly, there's a huge rift based on Charlie's inability to share what it is that he's working on. It creates a rift between them."
While the story is framed around the creation of the atomic bomb, there are greater ramifications to be explored. The residents of Los Alamos continue to be affected after the dropping of the bombs on Japan and if the show continues it will explore the personal toll the work and secrets has on the scientists and their families.
"You're connected to the people, you're not connected to the history. ... What's gonna happen to these people when they see what happened at Hiroshima? What's gonna happen to these wives when they find out what their husbands really were doing? In some ways, this is a much bigger series than hopefully just getting to 1945 and the end of the World War II," explained Schlamme.
Manhattan airs Sundays at 10pm ET on WGN America.
(Image courtesy of WGN America)