Chiwetel Ejiofor and Naomie Harris head show's cast
It has familiar elements from earlier incarnations, but the series version of “The Man Who Fell to Earth” uses those largely to go its own way.
Following the Walter Tevis novel and the David Bowie-starring 1976 movie, Showtime’s take on the story of an alien who comes to our planet debuts Sunday, April 24. Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave,” “Love Actually”) stars as the extraterrestrial, named Faraday, whose presence on Earth could dictate the future of mankind — something that already started to be charted by Thomas Jerome Newton, the Bowie character now portrayed by another “Love Actually” alum, Bill Nighy. Naomie Harris (“Moonlight,” “Skyfall”) also has a prominent role as a scientist who monitors the situation closely. Jimmi Simpson, Rob Delaney, Sonya Cassidy, Kate Mulgrew and Clarke Peters are among other cast regulars.
“Because of the nature of the part, you have to rely on your own experiences quite a lot,” Ejiofor reasons of playing Faraday. “You have to rely on the ways that you’ve interacted with people, the ways that you felt like an outsider, the ways that you’ve tried to belong, all of these kind of very personalized sort of dynamics in the ways that you’ve grown up and the way you’ve lived. And inevitably, that kind of throws out all of this contemplation about your own journey, your own personality.
“We have seen aliens portrayed before and so many times so incredibly well,” adds Ejiofor, “that you just feel like the only thing that you can really do … you can’t borrow any of that. The only thing you can really do is internalize it to try to understand it for yourself. You kind of learn a lot. You investigate a lot, I think.”
Executive producer Alex Kurtzman, heavily immersed in current incarnations of the “Star Trek” franchise as well, says the “Man Who Fell to Earth” series takes “tremendous inspiration from both (director) Nicolas Roeg’s film and also Walter Tevis’ novel, but I think we also felt that it was important for us to find a way to both interpret and reinterpret the themes. Everybody feels it every day all over the world, and the idea of getting to try and explore and understand what’s happening was really the task of the show, what it means to be a human being.”
For all her work in recent years, actress Harris notes she finds particularly appeal in “this marriage between entertainment and something that’s edifying. That’s why I fell in love with ‘The Man That Who Fell to Earth,’ because I just think that it has an incredibly powerful and relevant message for us to really examine what we are doing to our beautiful planet.”