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Chris Hemsworth says the discovery that he had the APOE4 gene, which is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, during the filming of Limitless was intense, but he didn’t want it to become some “hokey grab at empathy” for entertainment within the show.
Speaking to Vanity Fair about his new National Geographic original series, Limitless with Chris Hemsworth, the actor opened up about exploring this revelation with the show’s team, his family and audiences.
According to the Marvel star, the experience made him face his own mortality. “There was an intensity to navigating it,” he said. “Most of us, we like to avoid speaking about death in the hope that we’ll somehow avoid it. We all have this belief that we’ll figure it out. Then to all of a sudden be told some big indicators are actually pointing to this as the route which is going to happen, the reality of it sinks in.”
The actor, who teamed on the series with creator and producer Darren Aronofsky, said he discovered he had two copies of the gene — something that can increase your odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease eight- to twelvefold according to the Mayo Clinic — after doing bloodwork as part of the show’s fifth episode.
“They took all my bloodwork and did a bunch of tests and the plan was to on-camera tell me all the results and then talk about how you can improve this and that. And Peter Attia, who is the longevity doctor in that episode, and overseeing a lot of the show, called Darren and said, ‘I don’t want to tell him this on camera. We need to have an off-side conversation and see if he even wants this to be in the show,” Hemsworth recalls.
The Furiosa star said he got the news by way of a brief phone call, but that it was still “pretty shocking.” He was with his parents at the time, who had as many questions as the actor. “I hung up the phone and my parents were there, at the time. They were like, ‘What was that about?'” he recalled. “And I told them, and then they had a bunch of questions. I had a bunch of questions, but no one answered them.”
Hemsworth admitted that he wished he “had more intense follow-up” after getting the news, as it left him wondering whether to be worried or concerned. Despite not really knowing what to think, the actor says the production proceeded carefully, offering the Limitless host “a version of the episode where we didn’t talk about it.” Hemsworth declined.
“I thought, ‘No, look, if this is a motivator for people to take better care of themselves and also understand that there are steps you can take — then fantastic,'” he told the magazine. “My concern was I just didn’t want to manipulate it and overdramatize it, and make it into some sort of hokey grab at empathy or whatever for entertainment.”
While Hemsworth spoke with his parents about the revelation, he says he has yet to speak to his children about it. It’s a move he doesn’t see as necessary quite yet.
“I don’t think they could have grasped the concept or have the understanding, so no,” he explained. “It’s not like I’ve been handed my resignation and this is what it is — and it’s up in a few months. It’s not quite that situation, thankfully. One day I’m sure I’ll bring it up. They probably want to test themselves and [find out,] ‘Are you in the category that’s going to be sensitive to this or not?'”
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