‘The Nevers’: Denis O’Hare and Zackary Momoh on Playing Very Different Doctors for the HBO Series
Zackary Momoh also talks about how much he knew of Horatio’s storyline going in.
The HBO sci-fi/adventure series The Nevers is set in 1890s Victorian London after a supernatural event has mysteriously given certain people, most of whom happen to be women, various unusual abilities. At the core is the friendship between Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), a resourceful widow who never shies away from a fight, and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), a brilliant inventor whose creations are often far ahead of their time, as the two women attempt to find and protect the gifted from those who wish to annihilate them.
During a virtual junket for the new show, Collider got the opportunity to chat with The Nevers’ pair of doctors, Zackary Momoh (who plays orphanage doctor Horatio Cousens, a man touched with healing powers) and Denis O’Hare (who plays deranged doctor Edmund Hague, a man searching for the source of the powers), and what most attracted them to this project, the similarities and differences between their characters, how little they knew in the beginning about who their characters would become, and the dynamic between Hague and Lavinia (Olivia Williams)
Collider: Your characters seem as though they’re on very different ends of the spectrum, when it comes to their occupation. How would you say these characters are most different from each other, and do you feel like they have similarities with each other?
DENIS O’HARE: I think facial hair is out biggest difference and out biggest similarity. That’s my answer.
ZACKARY MOMOH: Yeah. I think similarity is our fascination of the human body, and our difference is how far we would go to wet that appetite.
O’HARE: I think Horatio is more of a doctor, actually caring or people, and Dr. Hague is more of a clinician and a scientist. He’s somebody who’s not looking to heal people. That’s not his job. His job is to figure out how they work and how they tick. If they die in the process, oh, well, dang.
Do you think he’s always had that mindset or has something brought him to that point?
O’HARE: That’s a tricky question. Dr. Hague is a complicated character and his natural inclination is one of curiosity and joy, and I’n not sure that he has a great ability of empathy. I’m not sure he has the ability to recognize pain in other people, for instance. I think he is interested in other people, only as far as they are interesting to him and I think he has got a lot of blind spots. As a character, he’s also massively conflicted.
This is a show that has so many story threads and characters and things to explore, and it’s such a blend of different genres. When this came your way, what was it that most appealed to you, personally?
MOMOH: The fact that HBO were producing this. That was first and foremost. That’s been one of my goals, to do something with HBO, just because of the quality of storytelling they choose and execution. How they execute stories, they stand head and shoulders above.
O’HARE: I totally agree. There’s something about HBO that is a guarantor of a certain level of commitment and quality. Also, I love things that are not one thing, and this one is certainly not one genre. You can’t really fit it in. It’s original, and it’s an honor to be part of anything like this. I was like, “Hell, yeah!”
It feels like any one of these characters, or all of these characters, could have their own spinoff because their lives are so interesting. How much were you actually told, from the beginning, about who your character would be?
MOMOH: I was told that he’s a doctor and he’s wrom the West Indies. In the beginning, that’s what I was told. And then, as we got into it, I got a little bit more. I would always check in and be like, “So, what happens in Episode 7, 8 and 9?,” which we can’t talk about now. There’s still so much more to find out, that’s the thing. Even now, as we’ve filmed part 1A, there’s so much that we still don’t know.
O’HARE: We had a table read and we read three or four episodes, so we all got the opportunity to be in the same room and meet each other and hear each other, and then heard those episodes, which was really, really helpful. Things change, rewrites come in and fast and furious, and you’re always getting updates. The conversations that you have about where things are going are not guarantees that it’s going to hold, so we’re all just rolling with it.
Have you each had a moment where you’ve gone, “Oh, okay, so that’s who this guy is?,” or have you not even had that moment yet?
MOMOH: I would say yes and no. We’re still in the middle of it. That’s the thing. This is just the first half. You get an answer to one questions, but that really brings up more questions, throughout the series, which is fun to perform in and to watch as an audience. The aha moment that had was realizing that he has a bigger purpose than just to be a doctor, even if he doesn’t know what that is. You’ll see that in Episode 5.
O’HARE: There’s also something that happens in Episode 5, for me, that is a real turn. A new piece of evidence comes in that’s really important. I already knew who he was, but getting that gave it nuance. I went, “Ah, okay, great.”
Denis, what do you like about the dynamic with Lavinia?
O’HARE: She’s a pretty opaque character, too, meaning it’s hard to know exactly what her end game is. What’s great about it is that their end games are not the same and they are not being honest with each other, on any level. That being said, there’s a genuine something between them. Hague is just insane enough that he thinks the woman in the wheelchair is hot. Olivia Williams is hot, don’t get me wrong. Lavinia Bidlow is a little bit tight and pulled in, sitting in that wheelchair, and yet for Hague it’s like, “Yes I want that!”
Zachary, so much happens in the scene in the carriage between Horatio and Maladie. What was that like to shoot? How fun is it to play opposite a character that is so unnerving.
MOMOH: She knew that I would try to help her. Maladie is just a bonkers character and Amy [Manson], who plays it, I rate her so highly because what she has to do as Maladie is so far removed from what is normal. So she has to go to a lot of places, so to watch that and to react to that was a pleasure. It was a fun day at work.
We also see your character get promised this carriage, only yo learn that it’s really all a trick to get him inside the carriage. Is he someone who keeps trying to get himself to a better station in life, but keeps find himself disappointed?
MOMOH: I think he’s in a place where his dream is to be the Queen’s doctor and to be at that echelon of life where he can impart medical laws and papers on how to treat the rest of the country. So, in terms of the impact that he can have, he does have those ambitions to be at a higher station. At the moment, where he is because of the orphanage and because of Lavinia, he’s struggling between what is deemed as lower working class and the mid to upper. That’s though Lavinia Bidlow and her funding. Ultimately, he knows his place is on the street working with the people. He dresses in fine suits, but he’s rarely even seen or accepted as one of them.
Denis, would you say that your character has a very clear motive, or are his motivations fluid, depending on his situation?
O’HARE: I have a secret that I can’t reveal, so the motivation is very mixed and very, very complicated. Hague, himself is someone who is struggling and working towards something. That’s all I can say.
Do you see him as crazy? Do you see him as evil? How do you view him?
O’HARE: As an actor, I feel my job is never to judge my characters. It’s simply to make sure that I give their point of view without obstruction. He is definitely not crazy and he is definitely not evil. He has a point of view and he has a task and he has a series of things that excite him. He doesn’t necessarily have a lot of human empathy and he’s not able to actually stand back and see his actions.In that way, e’s emblematic of a lot of people. There are a lot of people, especially who have power, who don’t even consider their effect on other people. They simply do what they need to do.
The Nevers airs on Sunday nights on HBO.
Original article at Collider.
This article has been reproduced for archive purposes.