Sunday 17 November 2019
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August Prew of Pure Genius, Interview by Anne Brodie

Pure Genius, Friday October 28th, Global and CBS, 10/9c


English actor August Prew has a considerable body of work onstage, on television and film in his native land. But he jumped the puddle and has worked nonstop since arriving on our shores most recently completing the first season of Global’s Pure Genius. It’s a medical drama about pioneering tech billionaire and his dream of creating an advanced hospital with cutting edge technology, the best doctors and an open, bureaucracy-free community.  Prew plays James Bell whose dream is coming to life at Bunker Hill where the rarest and most difficult cases will be treated, free of charge.  And just two weeks before I spoke with Prew in Toronto, the strangest thing happened.

Pure Genius is radical television for mainstream prime time. Bell’s ideas for health care are cutting edge and humane.  Maybe your screenwriters should be writing medical policy?

You could not have said that at a better time. Marc Zuckerberg announced Biohub a couple of weeks ago. (Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated $600M to a $3B initiative to create cutting edge tech/medicine initiative with UC Berkeley). It will bring the best of the best minds in technology and medicine together.  So it’s in the zeitgeist!

On Pure Genius, Bunker Hill is the most revolutionary hospital. It takes cases no other hospital can do. It is life imitating life, its perfect.  Our show is a very personal thing for writer Jason Katims. His dad became ill and they were frustrated with health care system and though there must be a better way to do things.

Doctors weren’t talking to doctors or sharing information and cuts are being made. It’s so backwards and they don’t work the way they should.  That was the inspiration and now that Zuckerberg has created Biohub, it’s timely. Jason writes these amazing human stories; this could be you, your sister or brother or child.

The ideas being presented are revolutionary, a leap ahead towards real health care. The workers are idealistic young people looking for new ways of doing things. But there are problems! 

The computer brings a kind of wish fulfillment to the doctors who want the best for their patients. And that is where the best conflict in the show comes from. You can do things with the technology and human intelligence, but should you?

Is it ethical just because you can do something? Medicine is sometimes not the ethical thing to do, the thing that could be done.  It’s a grey area we start to explore. James’ stakes are high and desperate people can do desperate things.  It’s not always the right thing to do.

We are on a journey with James so we can explore the idea of someone coming to terms with their future.

James is a remarkable, a true pioneer. What did you respond to in him?

James is a fantastic character.  He is ten steps ahead of everyone else but he is lonely and misunderstood.  Ironically people are trying to keep up with him and he’s trying to keep up with everyone else. A level of normal life is not there and also, being a billionaire means you’re in a small group.

Pure Genius focuses on our positive nature, our potential. It’s refreshing given our times.

I hope it opens doors to things. I can’t believe Trump is polling even at his numbers, with his litany of offenses.  It’s depressing and there is a pattern in the world. Take Brexit. I didn’t know anyone who was for Brexit, it’s shocking and shows you how fragile the system we live in and world is.

We touch on that in Pure Genius. The system is broken if you take your eye off the ball. We have to find new ways of doing things and stay on top of political issues and the effects they have in a human behaviour.

TV has a lot to answer for in terms of terrorism and violence. It can be very violent and that is reflected in society and everybody is culpable. I’m proud to be part of that show that will buck the trend and be a force for good.

Things look so good on the show. Will the other shoe drop? 

There are several shoes that will drop. There is a lot in our inbox and it’s going to be a roller coaster. We have the authorities of the world disapproving of new methods and technology.

Now a silly question.  Do you find working with an American accent distracting?

I don’t! I love accents. They are a way in when I read the script the first thing I thought of was James’ accent. I had a different accent for Prison Break. It’s always fascinating. I never want to play myself, I want to transform and accents are an important part of that transformation.

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