Caroline Quentin takes charge of the timeline in Sky Max's new drama The Lazarus Project as Elizabeth 'Wes' Wesley: a leading figure in a secret organisation known as The Lazarus Project, which has the power to reset time to avoid humanity becoming extinct.
At the beginning of the series, the group recruits new member George (Paapa Essiedu), a software developer who, due to a rare genetic mutation, has the ability to remember previous versions of the timeline. While he's initially excited by his new mission, he soon realises that playing with time has serious consequences when he's struck by a personal tragedy — and the rules of The Lazarus Project don't allow him to go back and change it.
Here Caroline reveals why the scripts kept her up all night, why her character is so secretive — and how she managed to make sense of filming multiple timelines at once...
Caroline Quentin on Elizabeth 'Wes' Wesley
"Wes is the boss of the group — she's the highest rank of the organisation that we meet on screen. It's very clear that there are masses of rungs above her, but she has the power to press the button to turn the clock back. But we don't really learn much about her privately — I think the less you know about her, the less vulnerable she is."
The series portrays various global extinction events, including a pandemic. Did it feel very topical when you were filming it?
"I can't remember when we actually finished filming, it's quite a while ago now, but for me it's just become increasingly prophetic and therefore quite unnerving. It's made me think that Joe [Barton], who wrote it, is in touch with people that we don't know he knows, because he seems to have predicted absolutely everything hideous that has come upon us since! Having spoken to him the other night, he seems quite surprised himself at how accurate those predictions were."
What sets The Lazarus Project apart from other sci-fi thrillers?
"I've never read a script as good as this. I got sent all of them, and I read them in one sitting, which was stupid — I was exhausted! I started late, and I just read into the night. I've never done anything as well-written, as funny, as moving, as contemporary, as relevant, as charming. They are the most exceptional pieces of work, individually and as a series."
The timeline within the show jumps around a lot. Did you get confused filming different versions of the same events?
"Every day! It was a glorious experience, really, to walk up to your fellow cast members in the morning and go, 'where are we today? What year is it? What's just happened? Is he dead? Has that gone off?'. You feel a bit bad if you do that on an ordinary job, because you might be shooting slightly out of sequence, but on this, you felt no shame in asking those questions because actually people did know. Our directors knew, and our design team had to be really on it, because we're allowed to kind of find our way in the morning, but you can't have the wrong sequence of footage coming up on your computer! So fortuitously, we were surrounded by people who are much cleverer and better prepared than we were."
This show poses some big moral questions about the ethics of messing with the timeline. Did you discuss those on set?
"We had a brief but intensely deep conversation about the choices one makes, and about morality and ethics. I think what's really interesting for me is how an audience is going to feel about those things, because I wonder if they will feel very strongly sometimes that we do not, as a group of people, have any right to interfere. I really can't wait for an audience to join us on that journey, and hear what they think. This show is fast and funny and furious and exciting — some of those stunt sequences are worthy of a Bond film, they really are — but the nub of the story is always about who has the right to make that call, and if you have the right, do you make that call? I just can't wait for an audience to join us in that."
- The Lazarus Project launches in the UK on Sky Max and Sky Showcase on Thursday, June 16 at 9 pm and will be available as a box set through NOW and Sky Box Sets
Steven Perkins is a Staff Writer for TV & Satellite Week, TV Times, What's On TV and whattowatch.com (opens in new tab), who has been writing about TV professionally since 2008. He was previously the TV Editor for Inside Soap before taking up his current role in 2020. He loves everything from gritty dramas to docusoaps about airports and thinks about the Eurovision Song Contest all year round.
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