Jameela Jamil, James Hawes, and Steven Ogg Discuss Climate Crisis and Class Division in 'Snowpiercer'
TNT’s new show Snowpiercer is a timely look at class divisions, climate issues, and how humanity finds ways to creep through even in the darkest dystopias. Snowpiercer stars Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) as Andre Layton, the world’s last homicide detective, Steven Ogg as Pike, a hardened character with his own ideals and Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) as Melanie Cavill, a powerful women and the head of hospitality, who orders Layton to investigate a brutal murder that is stoking further class divisions. Snowpiercer builds off the themes of Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette’s original French graphic novel and Bong Joon-Ho’s 2013 film adaptation to fill out a world where a brutal ice age has begun and society now resides on a massive 1001 car train called Snowpiercer. Classes are grouped into strata from First Class, the business owners at the front of the train, all the way down to the oppressed Tailies. The battle between the desperate Tailies and the wealthy First Class is fueled by mounting tensions on the extravagant train as it makes its journey.
Recently, Ogg and Executive Producer & Show Director James Hawes were joined by actress and activist Jameela Jamil for a conversation about Snowpiercer. Steven Ogg is a Canadian actor who has appeared on The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul and Westworld. He plays Pike, the character who leads the people of the Tail in revolt. Hawes, who helmed the first episode of Snowpiercer, is a British director known for his work directing episodes of shows like The Alienist, Black Mirror and Penny Dreadful. Jameela Jamil hosts TBS’ The Misery Index and emcees HBO Max’s voguing competition show Legendary. Jamil hosted a conversation about Snowpiercer, making a show set in 2021, and how the world of Snowpiercer feels only slightly exaggerated from reality right now.
Jamil spoke to Hawes and Ogg about how the show fits neatly into our current cultural climate: “We have climate change in this, we have class inequality, we have just general structures of inequality and also something that I thought was very interesting about the show is the fact that you have a woman at the helm of all of this (Jennifer Connelly’s Melanie Cavill). She is the guiding voice, this sort of matriarch. What was that decision? Because that traditionally is something that we do not ever see in particular in these sort of chaos, Armageddon type scenarios. We don't see a woman brought to lead people out of it.”
Hawes responded “She is the deputy God, at least in this moment.” adding “And look, there is another link to the pandemic if you look at the countries that have coped best with this, whether it's New Zealand, Finland, Germany to some extent with Angela Merkel, with every one of them, it's a female leader who has made the right calls.”
Snowpiercer uses the foundation of the movie and the original French graphic novel Le Transperceneige to create a landscape where climate change has turned Earth into a frozen wasteland. All that remains is the Snowpiercer, an always moving train that travels the planet carrying the remaining members of human civilization, who are organized by position and class status. The show takes place in the near distant future of 2021, when social injustice has risen to an all-time high and the planet is uninhabitable. On the Snowpiercer train, what’s left of humankind deals with the physical and psychological after-effects of the new ice age. An ambitious blend of science-fiction, detective shows, and social allegory, Snowpiercer’s class divides aren’t so far off from the original British murder mysteries.
Ogg, talking about the most oppressed part of the train, the Tail where his character resides says, “This is a group of people that fought to survive to get on Noah's Ark. The world is ending. Why can't we survive? They get on, they fight before the door is closed, and the train takes off, but they make sure that the train and security makes sure that these people that fought to get on are treated like prisoners. They're kept at the back. They're fed bug bars. They sleep six in a bunk. It is confined. It's claustrophobic.”
The train, Hawes says, is the storytelling instrument that makes the broader themes of Snowpiercer self-evident. “Authority is absolutely key. There is the sense that the front of the train has to rule with order because they're terrified of what is about to happen. So order and discipline is huge. So we meet figures of authority. We see people in uniform. We understand that people can be punished. And we meet that pretty fiercely and ferociously. We're on this sort of futuristic cutting edge train, but the weapons and the justice are medieval. It feels brutal and visceral. There's something about where those two things meet that tells you so much about the best and the worst of humanity I think.”
This conversation was shot and produced remotely on May 22, 2020