Torchwood: Miracle Day – interview with Bill Pullman

Our story really begins in a very precarious moment for the earth and my character in particular. He is getting three lethal injections, because he has been convicted as a murderer/paedophile. And the surprise is that he doesn’t die. He survive a very horrendous experience, but his body is still alive.

And then everyone in the hospital realises that other people haven’t died in that hospital and in that city, in the country, in the world for 24 hours or so. They realise this is a new paradigm of how and what it is to be human. For Oswald, it begins a journey of beginning to realise that he is going to survive and that he’s going to be free because they haven’t been able to kill him.

Oswald is prepared for a negative reaction, which he’ll get from most of the world. His crimes have been very prominent and everyone I think was probably looking forward to his death, so at first he feels quite a bit of rejection. And then he begins a strange journey in which things start to change and morph and he goes in a very surprising direction.

Oswald begins to do some news appearances and in a critical moment, suddenly people begin to realise that he’s human and that he seems to be an object in need of compassion towards him. It begins to be clear that some people are curious for what he has to say.

Oswald realises that he has some people who are supporters and he comes into contact with a woman who is in public relations who may have her own agenda. We form this tentative alliance as we recognise how we can help each other.

Power comes from celebrity, and I think that curious theme is what Russell is playing with – whether it’s earned or not earned. It’s a very useful thing that can be manipulated in a lot of different ways. Oswald’s riding the wave and he becomes a tool, but he’s also his own instrument and finding a way to control that type of environment.

Oswald understands the power of words, and forgiveness is a powerful word. And sometimes, people have a lot of conflicting feelings whether they are being forgiven and whether they actually feel forgiven. Sometimes they aren’t in mesh and it’s probably people like Oswald who aren’t always aware of what exactly it is.

I’m always curious every time I get a call from the agent saying you have an offer. I don’t know who the hell Bill Pullman is really. And I’m ready for almost anything and it’s been a very diverse journey I’ve had. And so when I got the scripts and we got to watch the episodes, I was clearly intrigued. The writing had a voice – it had distinctiveness, a sense of this world, and reminded me of all the things that I’ve liked about the science fiction I’ve enjoyed doing before.

It’s got a big message. It’s got a little Ray Bradbury about it in terms of themes and then it’s got a little popcorn in it too. It’s got a little sense of wow in the middle of all this crisis and catastrophe; it’s alive and fun. And so I was impressed by that, and it was one of the fastest yeses in agreeing to do this project.

I think with good science fiction, it’s those things that are intimated in your dreams and nightmares. People live a long time now and they live a specific type of life for a long time. They can be wounded by wars and then be resuscitated, and we have a lot of ways in which we embrace them. They are heroes, but there’s also a lot of conflict because of that.

It causes families to get conflicted. Someone didn’t die. They’re living 10 years with Alzheimer’s longer than they thought and that’s a gift, but is it? And these are the issues that get scratched by this premise, even though it definitely seems in our story that there’s something out beyond our world that is playing with the dial.

Russell T Davies is a very tall man, so he’s brought a lot of height to it. And definitely that makes the story a bigger story. And I think he often wears boots that have a big sole and height. So he’s even bigger, but he is a good, big soul too, and he’s a lot of the spirit of the set. It comes from him and Julie Gardner. They’ve worked together a long time. They’re very focused, but they’re very comfortable in their own skins. They’re not insecure people, so anybody in any workplace enjoys that kind of leadership.

I think both John Barrowman and Eve Myles are very engaging people. They’re having a good ride with this new expansion of possibilities of the story and they love meeting new characters and they are very welcoming to everybody and not possessive of the torch.

Torchwood: Miracle Day premières on July 8 on Starz in the US and six days later in the UK, on July 14 on BBC One.