‘Chernobyl’: When Does HBO’s Miniseries About the Nuclear Disaster Premiere?

The name has become synonymous with nuclear disaster. When the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine (then part of the USSR) experienced an explosion and partial meltdown, massive quantities of radioactive material were released into the atmosphere.

Dozens of people died in the immediate aftermath of the April 1986 incident, many fell ill, and thousands were forced to relocate. The radioactive cloud stretched across most of Europe — in fact, the disaster only became known to those outside of the Soviet Union when scientists in Scandinavia noticed unusually high levels of radiation in the air.

Now, HBO is bringing the dramatic story of the Chernobyl incident to life in a new miniseries, which is set to premiere this May.

Chernobyl premieres on May 6

Chernobyl premieres on Monday, May 6 on HBO. The five-part series stars Stellan Skarsgård, Jared Harris, and Emily Watson. Craig Mazin, who wrote The Hangover Part II and Identity Thief, wrote the screenplay and Johan Renck, who directed several episodes of Breaking Bad, directed. Here’s how HBO describes the show:

Chernobyl dramatizes the story of the 1986 nuclear accident, one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history, and of the brave men and women who sacrificed to save Europe from unimaginable disaster, all the while battling a culture of disinformation.

“From the moment Craig Mazin pitched us the story, we were convinced that this all-too-true tale of horror and redemption needed to be told,” Kary Antholis, president of HBO Miniseries and CINEMAX Programming, said in a statement when the miniseries was announced in 2017. “It will engage – and enrage – our viewers, as well as audiences around the world.”

Who are the characters?

Stellan Skarsgård in Chernobyl
Stellan Skarsgård in Chernobyl | Liam Daniel/HBO

In the miniseries, Harris will play Valery Legasov, a prominent Soviet nuclear physicist who is part of the team that responds to the disaster and is one of the first to grasp the extent of the crisis. (In the trailer for the series, he says that “every atom of uranium” released into the atmosphere as a result of the explosion “is like a bullet penetrating everything in its path.”)

Stellan Skarsgård plays Soviet Deputy Prime Minister Boris Shcherbina, the man dispatched by the Kremlin to lead the government commission that’s investigating (or covering up, depending on your point of view) the Chernobyl disaster. Emily Watson plays Ulana Khomyuk, a Soviet nuclear physicist who wants to discover what really caused the devastating accident.

The rest of the cast includes Paul Ritter, who portrays Chernobyl deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov; Jessie Buckley as Lyudmilla Ignatenko, a resident of the nearby city of Pripyat who is married to a firefighter on the first response team; Adrian Rawlins as Chernobyl’s chief engineer Nikolai Fomin; and Con O’Neill as plant director Viktor Bryukhano.

The series is like “a horror movie”

The series strives for historical accuracy, according to Mazin. ““We want to be as accurate as we can be. We never changed anything to make it more dramatic or to hype it up,” he said at the Television Critics Association in February. “The last thing we wanted to do is fall in to the same trap that liars fall into.”

“Chernobyl will be a horror movie, it will be a war movie, it will be a political thriller and a courtroom drama,” Antholis said. “You know how bad you think Chernobyl was? It was hours away from being much worse.”

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