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'Chernobyl': 6 Facts To Know About HBO's Ground-Breaking Drama Series

'Chernobyl': 6 Facts To Know About HBO's Ground-Breaking Drama Series
March 20, 2020 - 23:07 / Lucas Anderson

HBO's Chernobyl miniseries was a highlight of 2019 television. The acclaimed show won many awards and received high praise for its accurate depiction of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Whether you've seen it or still intend to watch it, we have six great facts for you about Chernobyl.

Chernobyl stars Jared Harris (Mad Men), Stellan Skarsgård, and Emily Watson as a team sent to investigate and prevent the destructive aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. In five one-hour episodes, the series depicts the disaster as well as the investigation and court case that followed it.

Chernobyl received 19 Emmy nominations and won Best Limited Series at the 2019 Emmys and Golden Globe Awards.

Here are six facts you need to know about HBO's Chernobyl.

6) Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson were a couple in Breaking the Waves

Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård and English actress Emily Watson portray two of the lead roles in Chernobyl. Did you know that this duo actually starred as a married couple in the tense 1996 drama Breaking the Waves?

Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgård in Breaking the Waves (1996) dir. Lars von Trier.

The Lars von Trier film explores themes around marriage, guilt, and sexuality after Skarsgård's character is paralyzed in an accident. The pair reunite in Chernobyl 23 years later.

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5) Chernobyl's cast entirely features European actors

Although HBO's Chernobyl was an American production about a Russian historical event, it features an all-European cast who speak English. It was first planned to have non-Russian actors perform Russian and related European accents.

Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson in HBO's 'Chernobyl' (2019).

But creator Craig Mazin decided to avoid the difficulties with coaches. Instead, they went with an all-European cast who each spoke with their natural accent. Most of the cast is British, but some, such as Skarsgård, are Swedish and others are Icelandic.

4) HBO's Chernobyl: Historical accuracy

Chernobyl earned praise for its historical accuracy. The series was based on Svetlana Alexievitch's book Voices from Chernobyl, which compiled a history from locals who survived the 1986 disaster in Pripyat, Ukraine.

The Soviet Union's suppression and denial of aspects of the history is a frequent theme throughout the series. However, one main criticism was that Chernobyl depicts the plant owners in an overly evil manner. Russian critics also complained about stereotyped representations of alcoholism and the KGB.

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3) Real-life figures and Emily Watson's character

Nearly all of Chernobyl's characters are based on real-life people who were involved with the Chernobyl accident. At the end of the series, the credits inform viewers of the fate of those featured in the show's story. 

David Dencik as "Mikhail Gorbachev" in HBO's 'Chernobyl' (2019).

Chernobyl's final credits also reveal that Emily Watson's character, "Ulana Khomyuk," was created as a composite character to represent all the  scientists who worked alongside Jared Harris's "Valery Legasov."

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2) The shooting location: Chernobyl?

In the miniseries, exterior and interior shots at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant were filmed at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania. The decommissioned Ignalina Plant shares many similarities - including a visual resemblance - with the former Chernobyl Plant, which allowed it to accurately stand in for Chernobyl in the HBO series.

1) Chernobyl's creator wanted Daniel Day-Lewis

Jared Harris received acclaim for his starring role as chemist Valery Legasov in Chernobyl. But the show's creator, Craig Mazin, reportedly wrote the role with Daniel Day-Lewis in mind. The legendary English actor, however, had retired after his final role in Phantom Thread just one month before Chernobyl was announced.

Daniel Day Lewis