Meet the new boss on Manhattan, a man who is far from frightened of the monster they’re creating.
The WGN America series is a fictionalized version of the race to build an atomic bomb during World War II, and the second season of the show will introduce a new unstable element to the mix – CSI: Crime Scene Investigation star William Petersen as the military overseer Col. Emmett Darrow.
The first season, which is streaming in its entirety on Hulu, was about the culture clash between the worlds of science and the military, with John Benjamin Hickey’s conflicted physicist Frank Winter leading the team that would ultimately come up with a mechanism that could work – unleashing the most fearsome weapon the world has ever seen.
When the show returns on Oct. 13, he’ll meet a man who has no qualms about pushing that button.
“Col. Emmett Darrow is a very mysterious figure who arrives at Los Alamos with an almost evangelical mission about what’s going on there,” says Manhattan creator Sam Shaw. “A lot of the military figures in the first year of storytelling are attached to an old vision of what wars are and how they’re prosecuted, and what it is to be a soldier, and what it is to be a civilian. This guy is, in his way, a real visionary.”
The character was inspired by a number of real life elements: Erroll Morris’s 2003 documentary The Fog of War, as well as U.S. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, who was a advocate during the Cold War for America using nuclear weapons to achieve its ends in combat.
In Manhattan, the character of Col. Darrow “understands that the future of warfare and America’s future relationship with the world is being invented in this place,” Shaw says. “He’s initially terse and withholding, but he has a complicated personal motive for what he brings to his work. This is a guy who unlike anybody in the world of our show, believes unequivocally that this device is going to be a force for good in the world.”
But what does that mean? “For Darrow it’s almost manifest destiny,” Shaw says. “A future in which America is able to export its values around the world. He has a clear-eyed vision for how this bomb will rearrange power dynamics around the globe. In a way, he’s the first Cold Warrior in our show.”
Nothing like starting the next war while the current one is still raging.
Shaw describes Darrow as “a creature of faith.”
“He really believes America has the ability to exercise a powerful moral force around the world and civilize the godless parts. That’s a scary thought to me, but what’s interesting about writing this character, and what Billy Petersen has brought to brilliant life, is that he’s not the villain. He’s the hero of his own story.”
But … is he a villain to Winter and the rest of the scientists who aren’t so sure about how this weapon should be used? (Not to mention the civilian wives of the scientists. The shot above with Olivia Williams’ Liza Winter looks none-too-comfortable.)
“Well … he’s an authoritarian,” Shaw acknowledges. “And someone like Frank, who has a healthy distaste for authority, has a tough time with Darrow.”
• Check out EW’s Manhattan Season 1 binge-watch guide
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