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Exclusive Interview: ‘Once Upon a Time’s Amy Manson and ‘The Letter for the King’s Ben Chaplin on Their Roles in ‘The Nevers’

April 8, 2021Ben MK

As the saying goes, a hero is only as good as his/her villain. And in the case of HBO's new series, The Nevers, the ragtag group of supernaturally gifted women known as "the touched" certainly have their hands full with the vicious and deranged Maladie (Amy Manson). An outcast from society whose terriying powers and unbalanced mental state make her a force to be reckoned with, Maladie doesn't just have to contend with her super-powered sisters, however. She'll also have to deal with hardnosed Scotland Yard inspector Frank Mundi (Ben Chaplin), a former boxer who will stop at nothing in his quest to bring Maladie to justice.

I sat down virtually with stars Amy Manson and Ben Chaplin to chat about their roles in The Nevers, and to find out what makes this hybrid of Victorian drama and sci-fi/fantasy storytelling so relevant to our world today. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

The Nevers is a period piece with a sci-fi/fantasy twist, but it also deals with such themes as discrimination, intolerance and sexism. What is it about the concept of the show that really excited you?

Chaplin: For me, I've just never been involved in anything remotely closely to this. I suppose I've done some things set in the Victorian period, but it was just getting my teeth into something that I hadn't done before. That's always the best part of the job, personally. And then, like you said, it does deal with serious, universal issues that will probably never leave us, but does it in a crazy, supernatural, fun way.

Manson: The themes are so relevant now. And just understanding all these women coexisting together — and the trials and tribulations of each one of them — was a joy to read. It was just intriguing to understand how certain ones ended up in the positions they did.

Maladie is very much an antagonist, at least early on in this first season. What was it like to play her and how did you prepare for your role?

Manson: I read a lot of books about how women behaved in asylums and why they were put there in the first place. And in Victorian England, there was a lot to be said of women being put there from pressures from their partners. So I ventured into researching that and thought that maybe she was put there [either] to pave way for a younger model [or] maybe because she was addicted to laudanum or something in that respect. So that was the start of my venture into Maladie's brain. There's just so many factions of that that come out at different times, but understanding that internal rhythm was definitely key to Maladie.

[She]'s an anomaly, isn't she? Her ability allows her to have a voice in a time when women didn't have voices — when they were this subordinate class. But she is the way she is because of what she's gone through. This is something that I really hope we explore further down the line, because the question is what was inflicted upon her by hate. What were the levels of this abuse and by how many people? And why is she on this pilgrimage to just annihilate all the upper echelons of society? But Maladie is always a step ahead. And maybe there's a Robin Hood or an anti-hero element in [her future].

What was the most enjoyable aspect of making the series for each of you?

Chaplin: It's a big cast, so if you really do get bored with anybody it's a swift revolving door. [laughs] There's loads of people, but we all get along really well. So that is definitely the most enjoyable thing for me. And I always enjoy trying to be tougher than I am. That's always fun, when some stunt man who could knock me out with his little finger goes on a flying somersault cuz I've just punched him.

Manson: I would say the getting into hair and makeup. Cuz as soon as Maladie's finished it just changes me as a person. So it was good to have that collaboration with people at the top of their game. And the stunts were fun. I wanted to get on a wire or something and do some acrobatics and things. Maybe my power will evolve into flying or something like that.

Last but not least, what lessons can viewers take away from The Nevers, and what do you think makes the show so relevant for viewers in our current world situation?

Chaplin: We're DNA-programmed to fear that which is not familiar to us. You can't fight that initial instinct, but once you're exposed to it, maybe [it] isn't so frightening. But I think the themes of an underclass or an "other" section of society, and the wealth divide are [still relevant today]. It's not exactly the same as Victorian times, but I think all those problems still exist. Probably now more so than a couple of decades ago.

The Nevers premieres April 11th, exclusively on HBO Max and Crave Canada.

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