Exclusive Interview with Containment’s Claudia Black

Photo Credit: Nate Taylor
Photo Credit: Nate Taylor

eClaudia Black uses her piercing eyes and husky voice to good effect in the powerful roles she plays. Best known for her work in sci-fi and fantasy, she’s taking a realistic turn as Dr. Sabine Lommers in the CW’s outbreak drama, Containment. Talk Nerdy With Us had the pleasure of speaking with her about her part in the show that’s changing how everyone views germs!

On Containment you play Dr. Sabine Lommers of Health and Public Services. She has to make the hard calls, including giving the order for a 48-hour cordon sanitaire. What kind of person does it take to make those difficult choices? And could you, Claudia Black, make them if they fell to her?

I think it takes a very clinical person who is capable of detaching from empathy and emotion to make those hard calls.

I definitely have a tough piece in me. It’s been cultivated over the years, perhaps out of a sad necessity. And now that I’m a mother, I have a fierce protectiveness that is similar to that of a wild beast; a she-wolf, a bear minding her cubs, a lioness. I tend to also be good in a crisis as long as it’s not my crisis. 

The majority of characters have connections in and out of the perimeter, but Sabine does not. Does that divide work against or in favor of the decisions she must make about their fate? 

I think Sabine is terrified and puts up a decent show. None of this is easy for her. Perhaps she’s naturally gifted at rationalization and I’m sure it is easier for her to detach and make tough calls without loved ones being directly affected, even though she expects it of Lex.

What is Sabine’s greatest challenge in this crisis?

Maintaining control amidst the chaos.

I understand the show worked with Georgia and the CDC to present a truthful representation of what would happen in a containment. Can you speak to this a bit and did you talk to anyone in the field about your role?

George Young (plays Dr. Victor Cannerts) and I met with an epidemiologist from the CDC, which was something the production arranged for us. It was an excellent meeting. I loved being given context and their perspective. It really felt like going behind the curtain.

Apparently, when the original Belgian series, Cordon (upon which Containment is based), was in pre-production, the creators consulted with their equivalent of the CDC. It was the government’s belief that if the virus and the situation were depicted faithfully, their show would perform a public service. According to them, Belgium as a city, is now the most prepared for a viral outbreak in the world.

I was really surprised to hear that the visual gore on Containment had in a way been encouraged by the CDC. They told our showrunners (who were at first being more conservative) that the virus would be fast, brutal, and more extreme than their imaginations and sensibilities had allowed.

This show is scary in its authenticity. The thrill and the fear is knowing, believing, it could actually happen. Has being part of this story had an impact on you? Done any doomsday prepping or stepped up your germ fighting initiatives? 

(laughs) I am definitely more mindful in public restrooms. I wash my hands more diligently in general now. I was also affected by playing Sabine at certain points. She’s a tough one to carry around.

This is your second Julie Plec project. Did she approach you directly for the role of Sabine after having worked with you on The Originals?

I was only one or two episodes in shooting on The Originals when the pilot for this came through. I auditioned like everyone else. I met Julie for the first time in the audition room and she said such lovely things about my work on The Originals it almost threw me off my audition game. (laughs). Partly because I’m not used to it and partly because I needed my “hardness” to be nice and pointy to read for Sabine about three seconds later.

Both of your parents are doctors and now you’re playing one amidst a deadly outbreak. What do they think of your role and the concept of Containment? 

My mum told me that her friends who are epidemiologists thought the way the virus and its impact etc. in the movie Contagion was realistically portrayed, so I’ll have to check in and ask her if those same friends have been watching Containment. Mum texted after the pilot episode and said that they are airing it in OZ on Stan at the same time and so far she’s up to date. It’s fun to be watching it within the same 24 hour period as her, each week, on the other side of the world.

That’s amazing! It’s my understanding that you play guitar at fan conventions. Any other hidden talents? 

(laughs) I played three chords at a convention ONCE. My guitar skills are an embarrassment to music.

Are you working on any other projects, film or otherwise that you’d like to share with our readers?

There are a few things about to release that I’m not allowed to talk about yet. This is very challenging for me as I looooove to talk.

Lastly, we at Talk Nerdy With Us would love to know what it is you nerd out about?

Musically, I cannot get enough of Chet Faker right now and I’m digging Jack Garrett’s ‘Worry’ to the point of annoying my kids on replay. I’m excited to hear Radiohead’s new album.

I bloody love travel and adventure and being active. I just saw Agnes Martin’s exhibition at LACMA and cried. (Nerdy enough for ya?) And the Mappelthorpe was extremely inspiring. (laughs).

When I take up a new activity or hobby, I have to go balls to the wall with it. I’m very type A that way. I know that if I don’t get far enough up the learning curve quickly, I’ll pack it in and feel I’ve wasted any time and money spent on it in the first place. I don’t have much time to watch television or do much of anything though I just fully binged SOA; the whole lot. So I’m kinda scared right now to choose a new hobby because whatever it is, it’s going to be intense. I’m likely to go at it “hammer and tongs” as we say in Australia.


Containment airs Tuesdays 9/8 C on the CW. You can catch up on episodes at: http://www.cwtv.com/shows/containment.


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