‘Five Days at Memorial’ Tells the Harrowing Story of a Deadly Choice

I was tense and sweaty on the set of “Five Days at Memorial,” a new Apple TV+ exclusive series about the systemic and personal failures of a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina. The emotionally invested and physically exhausted cast was wiped out.

It’s time to play mafia.

Also known as Werewolf, the free-wheeling, ice-breaking role-playing game is a favorite of Cornelius Smith Jr., who plays the distraught Dr. Bryant King in “Memorial.” He brings it up every time they bond, and hearing the cast of “Memorial” say it would have wilted if they hadn’t come together when the cameras stopped rolling.

“It was really insane because we were telling this story here, because it’s not all smiles. It’s a very deep story, a very nasty story, a very heavy It’s a story,” Smith said in a video interview from Washington, D.C., where he was performing with Frederick Douglass in the musical “American Prophet.” “So it was nice to be able to counter that in a really fun relationship, spend quality time with my castmates, and really bond off-camera.”

The eight-episode “Five Days at Memorial,” which premieres on Friday, can certainly be a tough sleigh. The New Orleans memorial where her 45 bodies were found in the aftermath of Katrina, based on her 2013 book by Sheri Fink, adapted from her Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative articles in ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine Her medical tells the story of her center. September 2005 (sold in 2006, the current hospital is his Ochsner Baptist Medical Center).

The hospital was flooded and power and generators were cut off. Chaos reigned. Several health care providers at the scene expressed concern that patients were given lethal injections during the evacuation process.

Both the book and series portray the crisis of Memorial as a series of impossible decisions made by flawed individuals under unimaginable pressure, and a complete systemic collapse. It’s a microcosm of Katrina with more casualties.

In a video interview, Fink, who was also a producer on the series, pointed out that the hospital has a 101-page bioterrorism plan. After all, this was his post-9/11 era. However, there was no emergency plan for water evacuation.

“People watch this series and think seriously about the consequences if we fail to invest in preparing for rare but potentially devastating and highly foreseeable situations,” Fink said in a video call. “The New Orleans hurricane and flooding were very foreseeable.”

In fact, the level of failure involved in the Memorial disaster, and Katrina in general, was staggering.

“If you have this kind of system failure, it’s also a mechanical failure,” said John Ridley, who created the series with Carlton Cuse (“Lost,” “Bates Motel”). “This is an electronics failure. And it’s a human failure. We need to see how humans interact with the systems we build.”

Immediately after the hurricane, hospital administrators did the equivalent of a victory lap and breathed a sigh of relief. Meanwhile, the embankment, which almost immediately began to collapse, became progressively worse. Then came a severe flood. (Readers unfamiliar with what happened next may wish to stop reading here.)

In the show, several members of the Memorial staff, including Dr. Anna Poe (played by Vera Farmiga), plan to offer “comfort” in the form of injections to patients they find difficult to evacuate. I am drawing a scene. You keep thinking that someone has to pay for this. But nobody does. (Pooh, along with nurses Sheri Landry and Lori Budo, played by Sharon Matthews and Sarah Allen, were later arrested for multiple lead murders to second-degree murder, but were never indicted by a grand jury. rice field.)

The viewer may be offended by some of the events depicted. However, the creators of the series claim that their thirst for revenge is futile.

“We didn’t want to dictate how people felt about this story. We didn’t want to take one side,” Cuse said in a video interview. “I’d like to know where people are coming from on all of this and what different opinions people have on how things fell apart.

One character that definitely has an opinion is King. He looks around and decides that something is rotten at Memorial.

He is also one of the few black doctors in the hospital and the only one on duty during this crisis. He can see that most of those affected by the breakdown are black, and that most of those seeking help are turned away. even acutely aware of this.

“I would like to say that Race is another character in the series,” said Smith. “Whether you admit it or not, it’s there. It affects how we perceive things in life.”

“They are in New Orleans,” he added. “It’s a predominantly African-American community. And what he’s been through is clearly outlined by race to him. That’s what he sees.”

Farmiga acknowledged that human failure is pervasive. “There was incompetence at every level of leadership,” she said in a video call. But she also defended Pou’s commitment to help, noting that she continued her duty after being told she could go home.

“She wasn’t on the call sheet that day,” Farmiga said. “She was motivated by humanitarian assistance. She chose to face those intolerable conditions. It takes tremendous courage for her.”

‘Five Days at Memorial’ was initially given the option of a film adaptation by producer Scott Rudin and then planned by producer Ryan Murphy for use in his ‘American Crime Story’ anthology series. When Murphy scrapped those plans, Cuse called and persuaded Fink to approach Ridley to be his partner.

Fink liked the idea of ​​making “Memorial” a limited series, taking the time and effort to present a detailed and well-rounded adaptation.

“It seemed like a great way to tell this story, because if it were done on film, there wouldn’t be enough time to pull out all the nuances,” she said. It’s a long, detailed book, a work of journalism that’s taken years.” (Fink, who was a staff reporter at ProPublica when her article was published, is now a national correspondent for the New York Times.)

Cuse is well aware of the parallels with the recent health crisis. He remembers his partner Ridley reminding him of the adage that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. As such, ‘Five Days of Memorial’ began production during the Covid-19 global health crisis. Many argue that the United States is ill-prepared for this crisis.

“It’s not about who’s going to get on the helicopter and evacuate, it’s about who gets the ventilator, who gets the vaccine, or who gets the monoclonal antibody,” he said. Cuse said.

Parts of “Memorial” were shot in New Orleans, but much of it was shot in a custom-built four-million-gallon tank outside Toronto. The cast and crew had to undergo quarantine upon entering Canada from the United States due to the pandemic. It was a stressful process and a prelude to a stressful shoot.

However, they knew that, unlike the characters they portrayed, they would return to an orderly life once their work was done, which meant they were ultimately playing pretend. I knew I had to get the .

Farmiga said, “I felt a huge responsibility to the people of New Orleans, to the survivors. It’s their heartache. It’s their trauma. It’s their story.”

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