featured Interview

Exclusive Interview: Stars Ella Smith, Eleanor Tomlinson and Elizabeth Berrington on Being Super-Powered and Empowered in ‘The Nevers’

April 9, 2021Ben MK

From The Handmaid's Tale to Glow, television viewers have been blessed with their fair share of shows centering on female empowerment as of late. But in the new HBO series The Nevers, the theme is explored in a completely different light — from the perspective of a group of late-19th-century British women called "the touched," whose uncanny abilities make them the target of hatred and discrimination from the nation's male-dominated ruling class. Featuring a talented ensemble cast and a storyline that blends period drama with sci-fi and fantasy elements, the result makes for an intriguing six-episode debut. Make no mistake, however, this is more than simply a CW superhero show by way of Jane Austen.

I sat down virtually with The Nevers stars Ella Smith, Eleanor Tomlinson and Elizabeth Berrington to chat about their roles and the importance of the series' message. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

First of all, can you talk a bit about your characters in The Nevers and their powers?

Tomlinson: I play Mary Brighton, and her power is her voice. She unites those that are touched, those that can hear it, so that's pretty magical. And she starts off initially as a very shy character but then really finds her confidence within that world and within her own ability.

Berrington: My character is called Lucy Best, and her power is in her hands. She has this ability that she can, with determination, destroy buildings [and] crumble things with her touch. It's a blessing and it's a curse as well. That's what interesting in the story — they're touched, but in many ways troubled with what they can do.

Smith: I play Desirée Blodgett, and she's a really fun, full-bodied character who has some ability to make people tell her their deepest, darkest secrets. And that is a really fun turn to play.

The show is about strong women in the Victorian era. What about that really resonated with you?

Berrington: It's just an extraordinary time at the end of that era in so many ways, with female emancipation and female labor and females moving out of the home workspace into the modern world as they did. But it wasn't popular to hear that women were inventors or writers or explorers [even though] the stories are there. What is really powerful about the story is the wonderful sisterhood. With all of the women who were making the show and all of the women crew as well, there's sisterhood, there's camaraderie and there's great empathy in the storytelling. And that's what's really powerful for an audience watching it, [and] for female viewers in particular.

Smith: Brutal times call for brutal activism, and that's what you've got in The Nevers — women coming together despite everything around them. It's pretty inspiring to watch. You've got this really modern take on old times in this show — you've got the sci-fi element and you've got the Victorian era. And it's surprising how they unlock each other, in terms of genres, and how when you tell stories that encapsulate both of these things, it lends [even more of] a platform to the humanity of the stories.

What about the show has surprised you the most, and did you have a favorite scene to film in season one?

Tomlinson: The script is permanently surprising. It's just so fantastical and magical. There's something new and exciting in every episode.

Berrington: I love Maladie, I love that performance. It's unusual to be really taken aback and to watch something on-screen that's genuinely unexpected. I don't know what [Amy Manson] is going to do next as that character. So that is the most brilliant writing and the most brilliant character portrayal. That makes thrilling television for me. There's many moments, but I had a lovely moment with the sports car that they've made, which is so improbable cuz it could never have existed at that time. It was about 8 o' clock one frosty January morning and we were in that speeding past these beautiful horses and carriages up to this country house. I just felt like a very lucky person to be at work that morning. It was lovely.

Smith: It was just surprising to get on-set and see such a vast production. [There were] so many people at the top of their game, from stunts to costumes to make-up to the whole crew. It was such a pleasure to play in that world, but [my favorite was] a moment where the two factions that have been on different sides come together in a powerful way. When we filmed that, that was when I knew we were involved in something really special, more than just the adventure and the sci-fi and the excitement. And then the poor for good [scene] was something that really struck me when I was filming that. I didn't realize till I was in that moment how moving it could be.

Last but not least, what do you want viewers to take away from the show?

Berrington: I would say sisterhood and community and people coming together — men and women — and demanding the truth. Isn't that the message that this extraordinary year has taught us or should be teaching us? Across all of our news and media, we really need the truth. I want fact and not fiction. And these characters are searching for a universal truth.

Smith: These women are behaving in extraordinary ways, and it's being branded as misbehavior. And I think that that is really key to what's happening sometimes in our modern world. Sometimes to call something out or to honor your own work can be categorized and slandered in some other way, [which] really is about gaslighting, and I think this show tackles that pretty well and in way that's quite inspiring.

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

You May Also Like