Jennifer Connelly: 'Snowpiercer' reflects questions we are asking now

Jennifer Connelly's "Snowpiercer" series is set to debut Sunday on TNT. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI
Jennifer Connelly's "Snowpiercer" series is set to debut Sunday on TNT. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, May 17 (UPI) -- The stars of Snowpiercer say a cautionary tale about environmental disaster and social inequity, like the one driving their new TNT train thriller, never has been more relevant.

The television series adaptation of Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette's 1982 graphic novel, which previously was made into the cult-classic, 2013 film by Bong Joon Ho, will premiere Sunday.


The dystopian drama follows the survivors of a cataclysmic weather event who are rigidly separated into classes on a 1,001-car, high-speed train that endlessly circles a frozen world.

Labyrinth icon and A Beautiful Mind Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly said Snowpiercer explores many of the concerns people now have in real life.

"Climate issues are something that are very much on my mind," Connelly told UPI at New York Comic Con.

"Also, the political environment, the questions that are being raised in the show, reflect questions we are asking ourselves now in terms of how we run a just society, how democracy works, where it doesn't work, themes of social justice and injustice. A lot of those things in the current milieu are reflected in the show," she said.


Daveed Diggs, a Tony winner for his performance in Broadway's Hamilton, noted that scientists have warned since the 1940s about what could happen if the Earth is continuously abused.

"We've just been ignoring it systematically for that long," Diggs said.

"Snowpiercer is a logical extension of what happens when you continue to ignore science and you are forced to make a rash decision about how to save your planet," he said. "It's a good time for the show because we, as a culture, are talking about the things that the show brings up."

Connelly doesn't agree with those who say the show's premise is bleak.

"They are all survivors!" she said. "They are all moving forward, and it's all about, 'How do we make it through and come out the other side?' And, 'What will that society look like?' 'And what do we learn and how can we be the best versions of ourselves?' So, I think there absolutely is hope."

Connelly plays Melanie, Snowpiercer's head of hospitality and the woman making the train's daily announcements on behalf of its reclusive creator, Mr. Wilford.

Who Melanie really is and serves is debated among the passengers.

"I personally believe that she is fighting for what she thinks is right," Connelly said. "The way in which she goes about that is challenged, and I think it's really interesting how she responds to that challenge."


Diggs plays Layton, a former homicide detective who stowed away on the train seven years ago and is, at the opening of the show, enlisted to solve a murder in the first-class section of the train. He serves as the show's central hero and moral compass.

"For the kind of nerd I happen to be -- my two favorite shows are Poirot and Columbo -- getting to play a detective for a little bit was a real hook for me," Diggs laughed.

"It immediately sets up these questions of 'Who is in power? And who is in control?' In this situation, how can you manipulate things? And, so, having something as visceral and necessary to solve as a murder in this confined situation ... [creates] an urgency and provides a good reason to get Layton around the train."

Best-known for her roles in The Red Road and the Heaven TV movies, Annalise Basso plays LJ, a young passenger who lives with her wealthy, controlling parents in the first-class section of Snowpiercer. Her murky loyalties and fascination with danger cause her to cross paths frequently with Melanie and Layton.

Basso told UPI in a phone interview it was fun and challenging to play a character with such dimension.


"I watched Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine and Helena Bonham Carter in the Harry Potter series because they are amazing actresses, but also they embodied psychosis in a really believable way," she said.

"I also spent some time studying the behavior of wild animals held in captivity because LJ and everybody else who is living on the train are living their lives inside a cage. LJ has developed a few issues as a result of that."

The actress described LJ as a nihilist who has chosen not to care about anyone or anything.

"She is drowning in this vortex of rage and loneliness and helplessness," Basso said. "She honestly just wants it all to go away, even if that means taking everyone on Snowpiercer down with her. She just is miserable."

Audiences watching the show at home while sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic might recognize Snowpiercer's claustrophobic ambiance on some level.

"I hope they can just escape into this other world while still being able to relate to characters and what is going on right now," Basso said about the series, which defies conventional labels since it is part sci-fi thriller, part murder mystery and part family drama.


"It's a show about human relationships and how all these different people from different classes survive, and how everyone's definition of survival is different, and how they are all surviving together on this train and it is really unifying," she added. "Hopefully, not a lot of people relate to LJ, though."

Filming on Season 2 of Snowpiercer was nearly finished when it was shut down due to the pandemic. No return date has been set yet.

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