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Unpredictable and original: Stars Zackary Momoh and Denis O'Hare on 'The Nevers'
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Television

Unpredictable and original: Stars Zackary Momoh and Denis O’Hare on ‘The Nevers’

Hero and villain: An interview with ‘The Nevers’ stars Zackary Momoh and Denis O’Hare.

The Nevers is a new show from HBO that mixes so much of what has made television great in the last decade. Blending great special effects, superpowers, period piece melodrama, and great acting. It’s a show that has a lot of ingenuity, originality, but also familiarity. The first episode airs this Sunday at 9 pm eastern, and it’s a great start to a show that’s got plenty of mystery and plenty of great actors.

The show is set in London in the late 1890s where normal folks live amongst people with powers also known as the “touched.” Most see the “touched” as outsiders, some see them as a meal ticket, and so many of the younger “touched” live in an orphanage. Embroiled in all of this are heroes and villains who are seeking to get an advantage in an otherwise rough city.

I was lucky enough to interview two actors from The Nevers, Zackary Momoh (A United Kingdom, Seven Seconds) and Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story, Dallas Buyers Club) who play both a hero and a villain. Momoh plays a good guy named Horatio Cousens who can heal with his hands. O’Hare is a villain named Edmund Hague who is a psychopathic surgeon who messes with bodies for the “greater good” but enjoys it way too much.

The Nevers Episode 1

Zackary Momoh in The Nevers. Photograph by Keith Bernstein/HBO

The interview ranged from what superpowers each actor would like to have, to developing characters from scratch. O’Hare discussed the beauty of acting in a show starting from scratch. “Every character I think, has got a backstory that would surprise you, a future that is unknowable, and even a present that is indecipherable,” O’Hare said.  “I’m just enjoying playing a character who is, you know, on the bright side of happy, and on the, you know, on the high side of crazy.”

It’s a show that is embroiled in many mysteries, even when the first episode gives away a big one at the end. “This something that is going to give you, is going to fulfill you in many ways, but still leave you hungry for more?” Momoh said. “But genuinely, Dennis is going to attest to this. Every time we get sent an episode we’re all gonna enjoy every single episode because there’s going to be fresh for us as well because there’s a lot that we don’t know.”

“I think it’s really cool that you are given upfront, that the sort of like myth, the origin story,” O’Hare said, “It’s a measure of confidence of the storytelling, that we’re not going to hide that. This is what happened. I love that.”

And with that, read below as we dive into their draw to this series, what superpower they’d like, and do they read comics?

AIPT: What attracted you to the work of The Nevers? Was it the genre, the character specifically that you’re playing? Or the story?

Unpredictable and original: Stars Zackary Momoh and Denis O'Hare on 'The Nevers'

Zackary Momoh: What genre would that be? [Laughs]

AIPT: Fantasy, superhero!

Zackary Momoh: Sci-fi, drama, thriller. I think it was a bit of the unpredictability of it, and that I can’t really place it anywhere. And it was definitely outside of the box. Which was really intriguing to me.

Unpredictable and original: Stars Zackary Momoh and Denis O'Hare on 'The Nevers'

Denis O’Hare: Plus its great credentials, you know what I mean? It’s a great creative team. The actors are great and HBO is certainly, you know, you’re going to be taken care of. It’s going to look great, feel great, sound great. Be great. Be, you know, rolled out great. It’s super original. And to be part of something this super original is really exciting.

AIPT: Definitely crazy. Zachary, your character seems deeply wise to me, especially in the first three episodes, but also you’re a doctor, and I wanted to know, like, where did you start in finding the voice of this character? Because it does seem like there’s a lot to him, even though he may not have a lot to say in a scene necessarily, or he’s here in there, but not a main character, it seems like there’s a lot to that character.

Momoh: Yeah, I think we will see it later on in the season, I think his experience has lent him a lot of wisdom in terms of learning from his own mistakes and also learning from the environment around him and how he carves his own space. And the show in itself, we’re talking about the Touch it fits, quite frankly, well with what Horatio has been through as a black man trying to come up in, in a white man’s world.

And being so bothered and having to still try and make his own stamp to working in the orphanage, you know, and helping in the orphanage. It felt like a good fit and place for him to be and also he has a journey with Amalia to figure out what the hell is actually going on. This bigger mission and this bigger plan. Yeah.

But all in all, Horatio knows being touched, there’s some sort of bigger purpose. He doesn’t know what it is, but there is something big happening. And he’s somehow part of it. So there’s no avoidance to it, and he somehow has to go through and who he goes through with, he has to make sure that he’s very mindful of what part he plays, you know, being mindful of anything not taking anything for granted.

AIPT: And make him sound so humble, too. Are you humble?

Momoh: Humble brag. Yeah I am.

The Nevers

Photograph by Keith Bernstein/HBO

AIPT: My website, aiptcomics.com, predominantly focuses on comic books and comic coverage. I’m curious do either of you read comic books?

O’Hare: I certainly have in the past and I have a nine-year-old and I tried to get him interested. You know, I also read some French graphic novels for him. I was in Belgium recently and you’re surrounded by, by the comic industry, in Belgium, in Brussels but yeah, growing up, you know, I have my little private collection. And I also like, Wizard of ID, which is more of a cartoon. And Charlie Brown, which is really, milk toast

Momoh: No, but my best mate is a huge comic book fan. So anything to do with any sort of superhero or anything like that, I drop him in line and he can give me the backstory. He’s got editions after editions after editions.

AIPT: You know, it may not be long before you both are in a comic book because there are more publishers today doing TV comics. There was a Raised by Wolves comic from HBO.

O’Hare: Oh wow. Good, I’m all for it. Get the beard right!

AIPT: What power would you like if you were Touched?

O’Hare: I think the old-fashioned see-through walls turn is always a good one. And it was in the 50s very popular. The X ray vision. But you know, and not the sort of like, you know, not the pervy part of it. But just the knowing what’s happening, what people were saying, what was happening in there. My mother was someone who used to sit on park benches and every single person who walked by she would go, “Where are they going do you think? What are they thinking? Where do you think she’s from?”

The Nevers Episode 5

Denis O’Hare in The Nevers.
Photograph by HBO / Keith Bernstein

AIPT: I feel like Dennis is a people watcher.

O’Hare: I am. I totally am.

Momoh: I just had a flashback of myself as a child. Does anyone remember the movie Pagemaster? With Macaulay Culkin. I remember, he turns into a cartoon. I remember locking myself in the toilet. I had no windows and turning the lights off. And going to myself “I wish I was a cartoon, I wish I was a cartoon.” I think I would love my power to just somehow turn things into animation.

O’Hare: That’s great.

Momoh: And then the possibilities you could do anything, fly, you could do whatever, because it’s animation.

O’Hare: Did you guys see Spider-Man goes into the multiverse. The multiverse? Oh my god, I did love that. So good.

AIPT: Dennis, I love how weird and almost wacky your villainous character is? How do you find the right gear to say, I don’t know, play with flesh?

O’Hare: You know, it’s in the writing. It really is. Everything comes from the writing. And you let that be your leader? You know, I don’t know, the minute I saw those flaps. I was like, I knew what I was going to do. There was no question they were going to speak. You know, I mean, it’s just this is, this is what you do. And I have one of those minds that when I walk into a room and see things, I kind of go, ooh, I want to play with that.

You know, even, even like, you know, when they showed me that the table can go up and down on the chair go up or down. I was like, Oh, yes, I want to pump the chair up and down. You know, so you’re led by your environment, but you’re also led by the writing. You also hope that a good director will say, “No, no, stop it. No.”

AIPT: The show definitely has that Lost feel because you want to talk to other people about it.

Momoh: Yeah, I also feel like I know, recently, Watchmen, you know, this certain thing about Watchmen that I watched and I was like, “Okay, I’m in here. I don’t know what’s going on. But I’m here.” You know, whereas I feel like this show gives you this same thing again. And also every single person is on their A-game in the show.

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