Creator Sam Shaw and director Thomas Schlamme of WGN America’s new show “Manhattan” compared their recent work on the 1940s period drama to hit shows “Masters of Sex” and “The West Wing” during Wednesday night’s panel at the Paley Center for Media.
Schlamme said that “Manhattan” shares a lot of the DNA with “The West Wing” by balancing the world of politics with the world of human emotion.
“It was very important in this show that scientists talk like scientists,” he said. “It wasn’t that important that everyone understood everything the scientists were saying. That was the golden rule in ‘West Wing,’ we never had to stop to explain to the audience what these people were talking about because what they would feel is what was the relationship between those people.”
Schlamme added: “That’s how these two shows relate, they are about very large issues, but our job is to show the human side to those issues.”
“Manhattan” is set during World War II, following the scientists and families located in a secret city in Los Alamos, N.M., as they build the world’s first atomic bomb.
It seems to be a full circle moment for Shaw — the writer was hired to work on “Masters of Sex” on the basis of a sample piece, which happened to be the script for the first episode of “Manhattan.”
He says the two shows are similar in terms of science and that both are set in the middle of the century, but it’s really about “this hazy place where issues of scientific inquiry and human life and morality and ethics, where those things become confused.”
Star Rachel Brosnahan was also able to compare her work on “House of Cards” with “Manhattan,” where lies and secrecy are at the center and both shows are set in a political world just a different times.
“It’s interesting actually to hold them up against one another in a way because (‘House of Cards’) is about what’s happening today in a dramatic sense and this is about what’s happening then in a dramatic sense,” Brosnahan told Variety. “It’s important because it’s holding up a mirror to what’s happening today.”
“Manhattan” premieres on July 27 on WGN America.
(Pictured: Sam Shaw and Thomas Schlamme at the Paley Center)