Season 2 on EPIX again updates classic H.G. Wells story
With all of today’s challenges, an alien invasion is the last thing anyone needs, but the latest “War of the Worlds” continues nevertheless.
The internationally financed and produced EPIX series updating the legendary H.G. Wells story returns for its second season Sunday, June 6. Set principally in England and France, the saga continues as fugitive Emily (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones, also of “Normal People”) makes shocking discoveries about the lethal visitors. Veteran actor Gabriel Byrne (“The Usual Suspects”) also continues his role as Bill Ward, who tries to vanquish the enemies after losing some of those closest to him.
Byrne allows that the “War of the Worlds” theme of a global crisis has special relevance during the coronavirus pandemic, though he adds that “hadn’t happened when we shot Season 1, and people were speculating on what the nature of the aliens was. Of course, they understood that at some level, it was metaphorical. Some thought it stood for corporate power or the environment.”
Resuming production during the pandemic was “a risk, for sure,” notes Byrne. “We were the first major production to go back, I suppose, and we were being watched by a lot of production companies to see how it went. We were really lucky to a great extent because we were in a very controlled studio environment. We were tested every single morning … the extras, the costumers, everybody.”
As Season 2 opens, Bill is “carrying the grief of the death of his son and the death of his (former) wife,” Byrne explains. “Part of his motivation to solve this crisis is to pay tribute to their memory. When you have something to play like grief, you don’t have to emphasize it very much. It’s an internal journey, and the audience knows.”
During the first “War of the Worlds” season, Byrne enjoyed working closely with “Downton Abbey’s” Elizabeth McGovern, who played Bill’s ex-spouse Helen. The character met her fate in a confrontation with an alien, and Byrne recalls, “We both knew our time was limited. I did miss her company the second season, I have to say. We’re good friends anyway.”
With other series experience including “In Treatment” and “Vikings,” the Irish-born Byrne reports his own familiarity with “War of the Worlds” dates back to reading the Wells novel long ago.
“As with a lot of books you read in your teens, I didn’t really ‘get’ it, but the story was fascinating. Then, someone gave me a present of the famous Orson Welles radio broadcast and I thought, ‘What an imaginative vision.’ He broke the boundary between fiction and reality, but this version is up-to-the-moment, and I think people will find Season 2 really gripping and exciting.”