Atlanta’s Danielle Deadwyler stars in a pandemic TV series — while living through a real one

Danielle Deadwyler plays Miranda Carroll on HBO's Station Eleven. (Warrick Page/HBO Max)

A recent New York Times critic’s pick headline recently glowed, “In ‘Station Eleven,’ the world ends beautifully.” According to critics, the new HBO series affirms, uplifting, and well-deserving its 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Atlanta actor and artist Danielle Deadwyler is sharing in the acclaim, already renowned among locals for her multidisciplinary gifts. She stars in “Station Eleven” as the brooding artist and logistics expert Miranda Carroll, but her real-life multimedia visual and performance art has long inspired Atlanta. Deadwyler joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about the experience of making “Station Eleven” over the last two years.

Interview highlights:

On the broader themes of “Station Eleven:”

“I think the show is about art. It is about creation. It’s a creation story of how legacy moves through us, how community develops. That’s it, at its core,” said Deadwyler.

“We follow the life of a woman in Miranda Carroll, and how she comes to know herself, how she comes to appreciate what it is that she has experienced on a subconscious level, a visceral level, and what it means to navigate relationships in a pre-pandemic world for her, as a super-survivalist under a remembered traumatic history, and how she passes on survivalist practices to a world that is post-pandemic.”

What’s it like making a show about a pandemic during a pandemic?

“The most stressful thing you can ever experience,” laughed Deadwyler. “We were shooting episodes one and three in January 2020…. I’m witnessing all of this happening. I’m watching and hearing about the doctor who initially died in the Philippines. I’m waiting for the first people who contracted it in Wuhan to come back to the U.S. and thinking about how all of this is impacting us, and knowing that the conversation is proliferating, but it’s not being wholly regarded by the majority in the way that it would be, quite yet.”

“It was an impending thing. Even before I flew to Chicago, this rumbling of this ‘peculiar flu’ was happening, but I hadn’t given it that much attention quite yet. And you’re finding out more about the story, more about the environment, more about who your character – in my case, Miranda – is along the way. I knew more later on than I did, necessarily, in the first three days. So, I don’t know. I think it’s a spiritual moment to come apart in that way, and I think that we have been coming apart in that way, and some people want to go back to pre-rupture, but you can’t go back to pre-rupture. You have to accept the flow of the hurricane, the flow of the change that is imminent, and we’re still in the midst of the chaos today.”

Miranda the fictional artist, Danielle, the real-life artist:

“It’s so funny. I wasn’t thinking about what I do because I intentionally call myself an artist. I identify as an artist. I participate in artistic communities; I’m having those dialogues. Miranda isn’t an identifiable artist. She is doing what she does to navigate the world that she is around. She is doing what she does to become more self-aware,” Deadwyler said. “But she’s not doing it in an effort to be commercial; She’s not doing it in an effort to reap capitalistic benefit. Miranda is doing it to find a whole self.”

“Though we don’t necessarily have a discussion about race in the limited series, we are looking at a politicized body. I am a Black woman, and that is significant to the experience of my body,” said Deadwyler. “We get to delve into how she’s just literally moving about the world. That’s important… how she is different and unique, and yet smart and withdrawn and guarded, and intentional about how she makes – I think that surely is informing the care that I have… when I’m thinking about Black women in this world.”

More on the many works of artist and actor Danielle Deadwyler is available at “Station Eleven,” can be streamed via subscription on HBO Max.