‘Containment’ Julie Plec Interview: Outbreaks, the CDC, and Exploring New Worlds

Juie Plec and the Containment Cast
Julie Plec surrounded by the ‘Containment’ cast at WonderCon (Photo by Richard Chavez / Showbiz Junkies)
There’s not a vampire or a witch to be found in Julie Plec’s new The CW series Containment premiering on April 19, 2016 at 9pm ET/PT. Instead, the threat in the new show from The Vampire Diaries and The Originals series creator/executive producer is a highly contagious disease that shuts down the city of Atlanta and forces the citizens into quarantine. During the 2016 WonderCon in Los Angeles, Plec answered our questions about the new series and why the subject matter appealed to her.

Julie Plec Interview:

Do you ever worry about spreading yourself too thin?

Julie Plec: “Yes, every day, and yet somehow the more I take on I manage to find myself less stressed out and less worried than I ever did on any given day of season one of The Vampire Diaries. There’s pros and cons to taking on a lot of different projects, obviously. The pros is you get to diversify your creativity and your relationships, and also you get to exercise that ambitious side of us that exists everywhere. You want to be doing things all the time. The cons is that you don’t get to dive in 1000% on any one. But let me tell you, diving in 1000% is painful. It’s a beautiful pain, but it’s painful. And so I sleep better and I cry less the more projects I take on. So, it’s got a good side and a bad side.”

So you’ll just take on another dozen and be perfectly happy?

Julie Plec: [Laughing] “Then I’ll just die. My body will just give out. Even though my heart will be in it, my body’s going to be like, ‘No, sorry, we’re done!'”

What made you think the original foreign series would be good for American television?

Julie Plec: “You know, it’s funny because I realize I never asked myself that particular question: would this be good for American television? Because, for, me as an American watching the Belgian show I just thought it was so spectacular and so I thought if I have the opportunity to tell this story, too, then I’m in. It never occurred to me that there might be somebody, a fan of American television, who might find it too dark or too bleak or anything like that because to me it’s so powerful and emotional and weirdly romantic and suspenseful – and all those things that I love when I watch TV, so I have pretty good confidence that it will translate. It’s obviously extremely universally troubling. It could happen. It has happened in its own way across the globe and it could happen to us any day, especially in a city where the CDC takes up its roots. So there’s a little bit of gross and wicked ‘what if’ fun to be had with it as well.”

Your projects have never been light, fluffy, happy things, so do you just love this dark world?

Julie Plec: “Well you know what I love to do is I love to explore a dark world with really light themes. Or, dark themes in a lighter circumstance. I like love. I like finding stories about love and the more you can make the world surrounding that relationship really troubling and really tumultuous, the more inherit conflicts there are to separate love. That’s the root of the storytelling I love the most is fighting for the one that means the most to you. It actually provides a lot of really great story.”

Who is the ‘it’ couple people will be rooting for?

Julie Plec: “Well hopefully people will make their own choice although I will say having watched the Belgian series that I was very, very smitten with Jake and Katie. There’s a lot of things we’re doing the same; there’s a lot of things we’re doing differently and so we’ll see. But, you can see in the pilot that there’s a little sense of, ‘Who are you handsome, interesting cop that’s going to sleep 10 feet away from me for the next god knows how many days?'”

Is there something you’re really excited to explore in this world of this show that you haven’t gotten to explore before?

Julie Plec: “There are a lot of things, both on the practical level and the creative level. Practically, I loved being able to be in the city that was itself. I love being able to show the Georgia Department of Public Health, the capitol building, in the way that it must have been thrilling making a political show set in D.C. To be able to photograph that world and write to that world and actually shoot in that world is really great.

I loved not having to come up with a mystical consequence or a mystical solution. Or have, ‘We’re in trouble so what can we have the witch do to save the day?’ I loved the idea that there really was no solution and that people just had to rely on their own basic human response, their instincts to get through the day. There’s something very pure and simple about all that that I really enjoyed. It’s like writing – there’s an episode where a man refuses to leave a building that’s meant to be demolished and Lex (played by David Gyasi) has to go in and talk to him about that. We think it has almost nothing to do with the quarantine itself but it was just a man who was dissatisfied in the city. There’s pages and pages of these two talking and it’s the most beautiful thing. It’s so real and it’s about real problems. Not to marginalize what I do in The Vampire Diaries because we do dabble in real life relationships stuff really well, but just to write two people talking was a real thrill.”

When you’re dealing with an outbreak like this, do you worry about still giving that sense of hope for the viewers who are watching?

Julie Plec: “Yes. As a fan of apocalyptic programming whether I Am Legend or the book The Stand, the things like Contagion, 28 Days Later, all those things that I loved as a fan, I have found that when there isn’t some glimmer of hope to latch onto, that I walk away feeling so distressed and not in a good way. Like, emotionally unsettled and unsatisfied. So everything I do I try to make sure that you do get a sense of, ‘Hey, we’ll make it through this.’ Or, ‘If we don’t make it through this, we’re together.’ That love will conquer all in whatever way that means. And so the stakes, the risk is huge, but it is not just the ticking clock that winds down to the catastrophe because that would just be depressing.”

Do you have someone from the CDC always on set?

Julie Plec: “Yeah, we had someone from the CDC read the scripts. We will send them every episode when it’s done. They go through it. They will breakdown anything they feel is unrealistic or if we’re getting the language wrong. They’ll sort of tell us what to make sure to look out for. We have a medical technician who will come to set when we’re doing anything with doctors, medicine, etc. who makes sure we’re handling that right and we preserve the integrity of the science and that kind of thing. The good news is we feel pretty well researched, so anything that we did wrong we either did it wrong on purpose because it made more sense that way or a whole group of people really screwed up.”

Watch the full interview with Julie Plec on Contagion: