Resurrection: Interview: Omar Epps

FRANCES FISHER, OMAR EPPSWhat happens when someone you’ve mourned and buried mysteriously appears at your doorstep as if a single day has not passed by? In Resurrection, the lives of the people of Arcadia, Missouri are forever changed when their deceased loved-ones miraculously return home. They are forced to confront the emotional depth of their relationships and what it means to be given a second chance. With the critically acclaimed show about to air on Watch in the UK, we catch up with actor Omar Epps to find out more…

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In Resurrection, the US town of Arcadia sees loved-ones return home from the dead. Does this mean the show is a supernatural series?

Resurrection is about what happens when ordinary people are faced with extraordinary circumstances. It’s not a zombie show. It’s not supernatural. It’s a phenomenon that’s happening that people are trying to wrap their minds around. It’s a really interesting way into the notion of the big, ‘What if?’

What attracted you to the show?

When I read the script, the words literally leaped off the page. I read everything out there during the pilot season, but this script really stood out. It soared above the rest. I connected to it because the underlining theme is so universal. It doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter what your background is; you can any colour or from any culture, but we all have to deal with life and death. That’s the connective tissue in humanity. We all think about it every single day. That’s what drew me into the story.

LANDON GIMENEZ, OMAR EPPSDo you personally believe in resurrection after death?

Do I believe in resurrection? I believe that anything is possible.

How has working on the show changed your philosophy on life and death?

For me, it hasn’t necessarily changed my philosophy. We have so many questions in our lives. As you progress through life, the more answers you get, the more questions you have. Things grow and change. Your beliefs change and sometimes that depends on what you’re experiencing in life. Personally, it’s made me dig deeper. It’s made me want to discover more. At the same time, it’s made me realise that you’ve got to live and find out about life as it happens. Nothing is set in stone in this world.

Resurrection is based on a novel called The Return by Jason Mott. What do you think of the book?

I thought the book was a phenomenal story that asks really big questions. To me, the scope of the book was really enjoyable because the phenomenon was happening everywhere in the world, not just in one town. Mentally, you’ve got to open up to those possibilities – but we’re dealing with the first phenomenon in our show. For now, it’s all happening in a little town called Arcadia.

Are there plans to open up the story to other locations in future series? Could the phenomenon go global?

[Resurrection’s executive producer] Aaron Zelman and I have talked about where the story can go and it’s very exciting, but we’re keeping it in this small town for now. It’s interesting to see the phenomenon happening there. How do you contain it? Do you contain it? Do you let the world know about it? It’s fascinating.

OMAR EPPS, LANDON GIMENEZ, KURTWOOD SMITHHow much did you know about your character when you first signed up for the show?

When I first read the pilot, I was very intrigued. I sat down with Aaron Zelman and Charles McDougall, who directed the pilot, and we discussed the breadth of where the show could go. We discussed all of the show’s possibilities and I discovered that we were creatively in-sync, which was exciting. However, I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen every week. As the script for each episode started to land, I didn’t know what was coming up; I would just jump into the journey and the moment.

What are the biggest challenges of playing a role like this?

As an actor, you ground your character in reality and past experiences, or someone else’s experiences, but how do you ground a character in impossibility, by something that’s never happened? On this show, I found myself just starting from where the character was at, and finding each step as it came along.

Is it frustrating to not know where your character is heading?

No, it’s exciting. It’s exciting to open up the script and not know what’s going to happen. It keeps us fresh as a cast. With every script we read, we call each other and say, “Man, did you read page 27? That was crazy, right?” It keeps us invigorated.

Resurrection and your previous prime-time drama, House, are very different shows. Do fans approach you differently now that you’ve moved on from a medical drama to a series that deals with resurrection?

That’s a great question. The reaction is completely different. People loved House and they would always come up to say hello, but I get a much more personal response from the people who love Resurrection. Some of the responses have blown me away. People have come up to me and it’s been really emotional because dealing with life and death is such a personal thing.

OMAR EPPS, FRANCES FISHER, KURTWOOD SMITH, DEVIN KELLEYWhat do the fans say to you?

They say things like, “You know that moment when your character said that? It reminded me of a conversation I had with my mum before she passed.” It’s huge. I’m talking about grown men and adult women here. It’s been so interesting to me because it’s something that I didn’t really factor in. I thought the story would translate and I knew that if we did it right, people would dig it – but I didn’t know it would be such a personal thing to people.

Was it a tough progression to move on from House to Resurrection?

It wasn’t hard. It was a very natural progression. All good things come to an end, and I feel really great about the new show. When I started on Resurrection, I was really looking forward to riding a new wave.

If you made a ‘resurrection’ list of people you’d like to meet, or meet again, who would you include?

On a personal level, it would just be my great-grandmother. She passed away when I was 16 years old, so it would be so cool to show her what I’ve made of my life. I’m a father now, as well as a husband. I’ve made something of myself. It would be great to share this with her.

Which public figures would you add to your list?

On the public side, I could talk all day about people I’d like to meet. I’d start with Bob Marley. I’d love to meet Bob Marley, as well as Martin Luther King and maybe Frank Sinatra. And then Sammy Davis Jr and Dean Martin. That would be one hell of a night! That would be like The Hangover 7 for real. I would love to hang out with those guys.

What impact has the show’s theme of life and death had on you?

I’d never really thought about it until I read the script for Resurrection. I remember thinking, ‘Wow. It doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter what you believe; none of that matters. The only thing that matters is that we’re alive right now and we all know that one day – at least physically – we’re not going to be here.’ I thought that the story was so unique, and I realised that it would translate everywhere. It’s cool to see the worldwide response to the show.

Resurrection is airing on Watch in the UK on Mondays at 9 pm; thanks to Lucy Fox for her assistance with this interview

Read our review of episode 1 here

 

 

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