Brand new sci-fi series The Lazarus Project follows George who wakes up one day and finds himself reliving a day from months ago. He thinks he’s lost his mind. All of his recent milestones have been undone, including his success at work and his marriage to the love of his life Sarah (Charly Clive). Worst of all, he seems to be the only one who has noticed what’s happened.
That is, until he meets Archie (Anjili Mohindra), who recruits George (Paapa Essiedu, above) for the Lazarus Project – a secret organisation that has harnessed the ability to turn back time every time the world is at threat of extinction. Like George, those who work at Lazarus are the few people on earth with the ability to remember the events that are undone when time goes back.
Alongside colleagues Archie, standoffish Shiv (Rudi Dharmalingam), and their steely leader Wes (Caroline Quentin), George works to prevent global catastrophe – including trying to track down the formidable Rebrov (Tom Burke), a wanted criminal intent on detonating a nuclear warhead and destroying the world…
We sat down with the stars of the series Charly Clive, Rudi Dharmalingam and Anjili Mohindra to find out more about the time-loop show…
What can audiences expect from The Lazarus Project?
Anjli Mohindra: It asks questions about humanity and our choices and our responsibility and pushes the debate of altruism versus egoism. Our director Marco [Kreuzpaintner] put it really brilliantly when he said: ‘It really questions those themes in a time where we value society more than the individual’.
What did you think when you first read Joe Barton’s script?
Charly Clive: We all are really big Joe Barton fans. It’s sort of a Joe Barton fan club within the cast! So when I first read the script, I actually read my audition sides, I didn’t have a full script. So my idea of the show was quite a romantic show about this couple figuring things out and then when I read the first script, I was like ‘oh, this is a crazy show about time travel and espionage’ [haha]!
So I think that the fact that I could, from a few scenes, think ‘oh, this is a really human piece about people getting on with their lives and trying to make their late 20s, early 30s work best for them’. That is a testament to Joe’s writing that it’s actually an enormous piece about so many different things and so many different, really human, sometimes quite tragic, dramatic stories within the framework of this larger-than-life time travel concept is amazing. Reading it is slightly mind-blowing. But I did think it’s going to make a great TV show!
The Lazarus Project isn’t the typical 24-hour time loop premise, what can you tell us about the rules of the series?
Rudi Dharmalingam: So essentially, the Lazarus Project are a very select group of individuals who have been cherry-picked due to their extraordinary skill set and abilities. They’ve been charged with the sole mission of saving the planet from destruction and catastrophe. In order to do that, we tap into the genre of science fiction, which I’m a big fan of.
Basically the Lazarus Project have a capability which means that they can re-set time by manipulating what we call a singularity, which is a single point in time and space where the fabric of time can be manipulated. Which involves black holes and quantum mechanics and string theory and all kinds of other things which are completely over our heads. So we were perpetually in a state of confusion!
So when a catastrophe is about to happen, we have the ability to re-set time and we go back up to one year, and the checkpoint day is the 1 July every year. So if the world is about to end on the 3 July, then we can reset time but we can only go back two days. So we go back to 1 July. Alternatively, if the world is about to end on the 13 June, then we go back to the 1 July the previous year. So they’re the rules of the game.
It’s full of action. It’s full of heart and drama and love and humanity. Our planet is so incredibly precious to us and at the moment we’re facing this terrible threat of climate change, amongst other things, and your ability to play God I think is a big moral dilemma. Is it worth playing God for the sake of the survival of the planet?
The show deals with some deep themes like death and grief. What is it about genre that makes it a good platform to explore such subjects?
Rudi Dharmalingam: Well, I think if I can just expand on that, I think there’s something quite Greek about the show as well. In The Iliad, Agamemnon had this moral dilemma as to whether he should be sacrificing someone close to him in order to save millions of people’s lives. What we find in The Lazarus Project, is the same scenario whereby we have this seemingly ordinary guy – albeit he’s not a king like Agamemnon – but he’s still faced with the same dilemma: Do I sacrifice someone that I hold dear to me, for the sake of the survival of the planet and for the sake of millions of people’s lives? It’s ‘what would you do in that situation?’ So I think there’s something quite classically Greek about the show.
Anjli Mohindra: With sci-fi, I think you can also ask bigger questions because you can explore things metaphorically. So we think we’re just asking about a time machine but actually we’re asking about responsibility and humanity and morality. With other shows where you meet other life from different planets, you’re asking questions about prejudice and integration and equality. So I think that’s what the love for science fiction is for me and I think a lot of the people that write it, that you can explore things in a Trojan Horse kind of way where we think we’re watching one thing, but there’s something else going on at the same time.
There’s a lot of humour in The Lazarus Project as well. How would you describe the vibe of the show?
Anjli Mohindra: I think it’s quite a refreshing sci-fi piece, in that it’s still quite cheeky and wry, and there’s plenty of humour but at the same time it is very grounded. You’ve got performances from incredible actors like Vinette Robinson and Tom Burke and Paapa Essiedu, who are very great at doing drama and playing grittier characters. I think that’s what’s so good about this piece, it’s just layered with so much variety.
There have been quite a lot of time-loop shows and TV series, what makes The Lazarus Project stand out against those?
Charly Clive: Something I really love about the show is it’s set in England largely. There’s something really nice about how British people deal with extreme things and that speaks to the humour slightly as well. I think that is why the show has a good sense of humour – Joe writes with a tone of total realism and people are cracking jokes defensively or being slightly awkward with their conversation. I don’t think you get [that] with a lot of really slick American sci-fi stuff, which I’m also a fan of, but I think that this is asking the huge question of, what happens if time travel is a possibility and using it for good and potentially using it for bad? That’s an enormous question and when it’s posed by people who you can really relate to, I think that is such an interesting ‘in’ to a story like this. I feel like even if you are somebody that might be put off by sci-fi, or put off by the idea of this enormous concept of time travel, these are really grounded and hopefully very relatable characters. I think that is what stands it apart.
What can you tell us about the secret organisation running The Lazarus Project?
Rudi Dharmalingam: So we are a top secret organisation, but we’re a top secret organisation comprised of individuals with a very extraordinary skill set. So basically, the majority of the people within the organisation have been given the ability to sense the time jumps and that has been manufactured through medicine essentially. That’s not dissimilar to the way we live our lives now, I think. I mean, you could argue that we’ve been playing God with vaccines and antibiotics and any form of modern medicine. So I think we’ve probably been playing God for a very long time. But we’ve been cherry picked because of our extraordinary skill set.
But some of us, i.e. [my character] have been born with the ability to sense the time jumps. So basically, I’m a mutant! I play a mutant. Which was never the plan. I wanted to do Chekhov and Ibsen and Shakespeare, and now I’m an action superhero, which is really bizarre [haha!].
What do you want for audiences to take away from the series?
Rudi Dharmalingam: I think it’s first and foremost, what would you do? What would you do if you were in that situation? If you were faced with that moral dilemma of saving someone that you hold most dear to you, or letting nature take its course. It’s a really tough one. It’s really difficult.
Charly Clive: I hope that people have lots of theories about what is going to happen at the end and then they absolutely cannot predict what does happen. I hope that when the credits roll, they’re like, ‘Whaaat?’ I think that would be nice. I feel like that’s essentially how a lot of us felt about reading the scripts!
Anjli Mohindra: Yeah, that little mind-blown emoji. That’s what I hope the nation is full of!
The Lazarus Project is out now on Sky and Now TV 🤯