Paapa Essiedu: Normal dude helps secret organization save world in 'Lazarus Project'

Anjli Mohindra (L) and Paapa Essiedu star in "The Lazarus Project," premiering Sunday. Photo courtesy of TNT
1 of 3 | Anjli Mohindra (L) and Paapa Essiedu star in "The Lazarus Project," premiering Sunday. Photo courtesy of TNT

NEW YORK, June 4 (UPI) -- I May Destroy You and Gangs of London actor Paapa Essiedu says George, the hero he plays in the new British sci-fi drama The Lazarus Project, is a "normal dude" placed in an extraordinary situation.

"It was so intriguing. From the moment I read it on the page, I was just like, 'This is such a bold, ambitious, exciting imaginative exploration of a question we've all asked ourselves -- what would we do if we put in the extreme position of having to choose between the person that we love and the greater good?'" Essiedu told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.


The show's title refers to a secret organization able to turn back time whenever the world is up against the threat of extinction.

George is a computer app designer recruited to join the group after he unexpectedly becomes one of the only people on the planet who can feel when time is being reset.


But when someone close to him is endangered, he challenges the organization to save the person even though it goes against its rules not to meddle in situations that aren't globally catastrophic.

"George is a normal dude. He's an everyday kind of guy you meet at the coffee shop in the morning," Essiedu said.

"He's a guy who does his job. He loves his girlfriend. He loves his life and then he gets put in this extraordinary situation."

The character and his circumstances are wholly relatable.

"You pit the ordinary against the extraordinary and you see the drama and the chaos that arises from that," Essiedu said.

"I don't know what I would do if I was put in that same position, but I was excited to explore George's struggle to figure out whether what he was doing was the right thing or not."

Even though he is not trained in law-enforcement, the military, science disciplines or international intelligence gathering, George has a lot to offer The Lazarus Project team.

"He's put in an organization where so-and-so is with the Navy Seals, someone else has done MI6, someone else has worked with the Danish Special Forces and his history is in app design," Essiedu said.


"His skills might not be as on point or obvious initially as you might hope, but he is a quick learner and a hard worker. He's someone, who once he puts his mind to something, he gets it done. That's why we see him progress so quickly through the ranks of the organization until he eventually becomes indispensable."

While most of the world's population has no idea time has been reset or that they are reliving a day they've already experienced, those who work for The Lazarus Project retain the knowledge they accrue in between do-overs.

"Everybody else, when the reset happens, their memories get wiped, so they just carry on as if nothing has happened," Essiedu said.

"The thing about Lazarus agents is they carry their trauma, they carry the thrill, they carry the memory of the pain of all the things they've experienced in each reset, in each checkpoint, so you can't help but be affected by that."

Whether the show inspires viewers to ask "what if?" more frequently, consider the different outcomes of a scenario more carefully or trust fate will take them where they need to go is up to the individual, according to Essiedu.

"They say 'ignorance is bliss' and what you don't know can't hurt you, but knowledge is power and as a society of people that live in conjunction with each other, we've got to figure out the consequences of our actions, both on an individual basis and on a greater scale," Essiedu said.


"It's crucial for us to continue questioning our existence -- asking what if? and how can we be better? -- but I definitely do not have the answers."

Archie (Anjli Mohindra) is the member of the team who first contacts George and explains to him what is going on.

"That's the person, I suppose, that he first trusts in the organization, but whether that is something that continues in exactly the same way over the course of the series, you've got to watch it and find out," Essiedu said.

One of the things Essiedu loved best about doing the show is that it mixes genres, with moments of comedy, romance and action woven through the drama.

"As an actor, you want that meal that has all those different ingredients and food groups and different palate types," he said.

"That's what I feel this show serves up," he added. "It's got everything, metaphorically."

Premiering Sunday on TNT, the show co-stars Tom Burke, Caroline Quentin, Rudi Dharmalingam and Charly Clive co-star.


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