George Young makes his American series debut as the calm and collected Dr. Victor Cannerts in the CW’s Containment. It’s a dream he’s held onto since watching Dawson’s Creek. Talk Nerdy had the pleasure of talking with this suave Brit about being at the center of the outbreak, watching real-life autopsies, his new fear of germs and how royally screwed Atlanta would be if his character gets infected. Check out his entertaining interview, this is one actor who definitely earns his nerd cred.
As Dr. Victor Cannerts you’re not only at the epicenter of Containment, but you ARE the epi-center. Your character is solely in charge of finding the cure and saving Atlanta, possibly the world. What’s it like playing a role that has that kind of weight behind it?
It’s such–you’ve hit the nail in the head, I’m right there on ground zero dealing with all this going on and at the same time I have to hide all this stress. Because people are looking to me for answers and I’m right there on the inside, I’m researching the virus, I’m investigating what’s happening with the patients.
People are looking to me for answers and I feel like, I feel as the character, Cannerts needs to stay calm. Because if he starts showing how stressed out he really is people will start to panic.
You don’t want to–I always think about when I go see a doctor and I tell them I have a problem, you don’t want the doctor to go, “Oh my God, that’s terrible. What am I going to do?” (laughs). You don’t want your doctor to freak out. I kept that in mind with this character. When people look to you for the answers, you’re the professional; you’re the guy doing the research, investigating it. You don’t want to scare the country; you don’t want to scare the world.
It’s just a large-scale of that doctor/patient kind of thing. But, of course, over time anyone is going to…show, when you’re under that immense sort of stress, the cracks will start to appear or will start to make it apparent in some way.
You’re seeing that with characters at the moment. You’re seeing Jake under pressure a lot. You’re seeing he’s very different to Cannerts. So he shows it a lot more. Cannerts did stay kind of cool. I envisage Cannerts and Jake in a typical corner like Captain Kirk and Spock, kind of thing. I’d like to think that. I’d like to make that comparison now, I’d like to get that on paper as much as possible. I’ve never used that before, but I’m using it now. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy. I like the Kirk/Spock relationship and I hope that grows. (laughs).
That would be amazing. It brings me to a question I have for you. We’ve seen a lot of personal connections for the other characters, but not for Dr. Cannerts. Are we going to learn more about him and his story? And does he have anyone in the cordon that we don’t know about, that he cares about?
I would hope so. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? I saw you had a chat with Christina, as well, and she said the virus is also a character in the show. My relationship really–outside the cordon I have Dr. Lommers who I communicate with and that’s the basis, but in terms of inside, as well as immense pressure, I don’t seem to have anyone I’ve got a relationship with, in terms of a historical relationship.
Yes, bonds are forming between people, including myself with the people I’m with, Katie and Jake. But my main relationship right now is with the virus. Which can’t be any fun. But I have to focus on it.
Like you said, right at the start of this chat, you were saying it’s so much pressure on Cannerts to deal with this, so he’s kind of focused right now. In the early days of what’s happening here, things are going from bad to worse. What we’ve seen so far. I have to concentrate on this. Cannerts does not see a fun future for him in terms of this, as what he has to deal with.
Part of his bedside manner is just getting worse and worse. He has this sort of exterior where he has to keep the stress inside, so it doesn’t lend itself to being all that personable. But obviously a lot of things get to people and we just see what happens on the show.
I’m definitely excited to see where it goes. And while you say you can’t be very personable, I have to say you must be one of the most suave doctors I have ever seen.
Suave doctor, did you say? (laughs).
(laughs) Yes, you’re very, very suave.
Oh, nice. Oh, thank you. I’m very glad that comes across. The suaveness there. I didn’t realize that was coming across to the audience. That’s nice to see. I have to say it was unintentional. It was accidental suaveness, I think.
Now, Containment is your first American series. How did you come to get the role? What drew you to the character?
Yes. When I heard about the show, that they were auditioning, I have an agent here and everything like that, so I auditioned here and all that stuff.
In terms of the character and what drew it to me, it was the story itself. It was something very different to what the CW had been doing before. I love the whole superhero stuff, I love the fantasy stuff and I knew of Julie Plec’s work even when she was working with Kevin Williamson on Dawson’s Creek. That was one of the first shows I used to watch on the WB. I used to watch it and I loved it. I loved that show. I was thinking, I wish I could be on a show like that in America or one of these other shows.
Now I’m working with Julie Plec, who was working on Dawson’s Creek on the CW which was derived, in part, from the WB. And to be on the show is just a dream come true for me, it really is. I can’t believe my luck sometimes. In this case, especially.
The characters and storyline, different from the CW stuff, in that everything is so real. It’s almost like a documentary of what could happen if a virus like this hit the US. It explores not only that, but how people will behave. You have all sorts of people thrown into this chaos, thrown into this pressure cooker almost and see what happens to them. The audience gets to see that and ask themselves what would I do in that situation.
I also love how the audience is reacting. What I was hoping when the show was coming out was to see how the audience would react and what sort of predictions they would make. Audience and reviewers. And everyone has their theories about what’s happening and what they would do, what they think this character would do, but when you’re in a situation like this you can’t really tell what would happen. It’s chaos. You don’t know what people would do, even if you think you know. You don’t really. In this sort of chaotic situation, so that whole storyline, that whole theme, is so interesting.
It really brings people to sort of their baser instincts and who they really are at their core when they’re in a, like you said, pressure cooker situation like this.
Yeah, it starts to slowly strip away their social layers. The layers we build up living in normal society. As each day goes by, each hour goes by, yeah, it comes out, we become more raw. Raw humanity starts to appear and your baser instincts, exactly like you said and that’s what I love about it. I love observing that. And people observing that.
This is a question I’ve asked several of your castmates now because it’s something I’m really interested in. What I love about Containment is, like you said, it’s realism. The thrill of it is how terrifying it is in its authenticity. I’m curious to know what kind of impact being a part of this story has had on you. Have you grown paranoid about germs or do you feel compelled to create a bunker in your house?
(laughs) I see you have been asking people and I personally have become a lot more cautious about other people’s illness and other people’s sniffles and coughs. It can be very small, little things. I’ll see someone sneeze. If I’m sitting next to someone on a plane and they sneeze or they cough I used to think very little of it, and now after filming the show I’m turning away. I try to be as polite as possible. I’m trying as suavely as possible, you might say. But I’m still trying to protect myself from getting infected.
My wife just recently recovered from an illness, the flu, and her parents now have the flu. She’s having family over, they’re all living together and they’re infecting each other. They’re constantly infecting each other and, Janet, my wife just got ill again. So I see it. That’s like a mini-show of Containment right there. (laughs). And I’m watching it as they’re stuck with each other and they’re infecting each other. I’m basically giving them advice like Cannerts would. Stay 4-6 feet apart. Wear a mask, please. It’s real life. And it’s making me more aware. I hope it makes the audience more aware.
One of my favorite scenes with you was the autopsy scene. I anticipated the squirt, I knew it was coming, but when it did I flinched so hard it hurt. What was it like to film that and should we be worried about Dr. Cannerts long-term fate, because you’re doing the most dangerous job?
I was hoping I wasn’t going to throw up in my hazmat suit, because that would be very embarrassing. The thing is, I was working with a medical advisor for a lot of the procedures, again we want to make it as real as possible, and part of my homework was, I decided, to watch some autopsies. Real autopsies.
Eerily enough you can find some real autopsies on YouTube. I couldn’t believe I could. But you can. And now everyone is going to go on and look. It’s very gruesome. But I had to get used to it, had to see the procedures, how they acted, how they were using the tools, and I went through the whole thing with my med tech advisor, Jill. I needed to make it as real as possible. I went through the whole thing.
Thankfully, everything was so realistic, apart from the smell and that’s one of the most important things. If you’re in a real autopsy situation I think the smell would’ve…I would’ve thrown up. The body is so real. As you can see in the show.
We filmed about four hours’ worth of material, going through different angles of it and coverage. Obviously, you only saw a little bit. A lot of it was too gruesome for TV. What you saw, which was gruesome enough, was what we could get away with.
Maybe we’ll get some uncut version later on down the line. Or I could send in some footage myself of the extra footage I have. It’s great that they make it so realistic. And that’s what Cannerts has to deal with. No wonder he hasn’t got a lot of personal relationships at the moment.
Please finish this sentence: If Dr. Cannerts dies the fate of everyone else is….
(laughs) The fate of everyone else is…is…mmm…I would swear big time, I would say it’s f**cked. Everyone is in serious trouble.
Final question, I wouldn’t be a very good Talk Nerdy With Us writer if I didn’t ask you what you nerd out about?
Oh, God. A lot of things. Comic books. One of my dream roles is to play Nightwing. DC thing, CW, that would work. Video games. I play a lot, even portable games, and also your usual Xbox and PS4. I play a lot with gadgets. I kind of geek out on my gadgets. I actually installed custom ROM on my phone and I tweak it and I like to play around with that sort of stuff so I am truly kind of a geek. If you’re Talk Nerdy With Us, I’d love to talk nerdy with you all the time. That’s what I do in my spare time.
Containment airs Tuesdays 9/8 C on the CW. You can catch up on episodes at: http://www.cwtv.com/shows/containment.
*Featured image photo credit: Nicky Loh