Adapted from Lucy Kirkwood’s award-winning stage play of the same name, new Channel 4 drama Chimerica follows an American photojournalist whose reputation is thrown into disarray when accusations of fake news are levelled against him, but how far we will go to rebuild his credibility?
Updated for television, Chimerica takes place during the 2016 US Presidential election and explores current political issues including censorship, fake news and the impact of political protest.
Played by Alessandro Nivola
Award-winning actor Alessandro Nivola (Jurassic Park III) plays Lee Berger, a passionate photojournalist who’s driven to protect victims of abuse in warzones, leading him to falsify an image that propels his career to notoriety.
The famous picture, the Tank Man of Tiananmen Square, depicts the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protest of Beijing in 1989, where civilians were massacred by the Chinese military with rifles and tanks.
Following the massacre, a lone man stood in front a squadron of tanks, and Berger was one of the few photographers to capture the iconic moment.
Decades later, the picture is revealed to have been doctored. The discovery threatens to wreck Berger’s leading him on a journey for redemption by finding the Tank Man.
“I think that that's Lee's main frustration - nobody really seems to care about suffering or conflict unless it's packaged in the perfect image,” said Nivola of his character.
“The need to manufacture that perfect image and turn people's attention towards different kinds of injustice is what drives Lee to cheat his photograph.”
“This series more than anything is about the way that good intentions can pave the road to hell.”
Played by Terry Chen
Terry Chen (Jessica Jones) plays Zhang Lin, a kind-hearted English teacher and old friend of Lee Berger, who continues to grieve for the loss of his wife Liuli during the Tiananmen massacre.
Lin has since rejected all protest, but his rebellious spark is reignited when he meets human rights lawyer Joy Fu.
“Zhang Lin lives in a world where he doesn't necessarily follow everyone else’s path accepting what they are being fed by the Chinese government,” explained Chen.
“It’s an interesting arc because when we first meet him he's very much influenced by his wife Liuli - his political ideologies come from her, directly.”
“After her death he struggles to really find his own path.”
Played by Cherry Jones
24 star Cherry Jones plays Mel Kincaid, a seasoned and uncompromising war journalist who has taken a step back from the front line and now lives with her wife and child.
Now working in a less exciting field of journalism, Kincaid is able to support her family.
Kincaid was a parent figure to Berger, watching his career develop. However, their friendship is tested when Berger’s famous photo is revealed to be a fraud.
“I don’t think of Mel as maternal necessarily but there’s a protectiveness with Lee,” commented Jones.
“She thinks of him not as a son, not even as a brother really, but as this young man that she treasures as much as anyone in her life.”
Played by Sophie Okonedo
Sophie Okonedo (Flack) plays Tess Kendrick, an ambitious businesswoman who works for a credit card company based in the US and conducts market research in China.
Trying to break into the market in China, Kendrick’s job is to profile her company’s potential customers.
After a painful divorce, Kendrick now dedicates her life to her work.
She eventually gets involved in the search for the Tank Man and gets a kick from uncovering the protestor’s identity.
“She does care about people she meets and politically she is also anti-Trump,” Okonedo stated.
“Some of Lee’s ideas are things she’s probably thought about before but through meeting him she becomes a little bit more open to being politically active if only on a very personal level.”
“Over the course of the series she definitely shifts her perspective, and part of that is from her experiences with Lee who opens her eyes a bit.”
Played by F. Murray Abraham
F. Murray Abraham (Homeland) plays Frank Sams, a news editor whose been mentoring Lee Berger since the beginning of the photojournalist’s career.
Sams is an old pro who is facing the realities of how the landscape of journalism is changing and tries to keep up to avoid losing his job.
A Republican who despises Trump, Sams shares Mel Kincaid’s unflinching principles of upholding the truth and avoiding falsities.
“I love that Frank Sams is a Republican who adores Kissinger, someone I don't adore, but he still insists on voting against Trump,” said Abraham about his character.
“He's in danger of losing his job if he doesn't keep up, and he's hip enough to know that. He will learn to tweet but that doesn't save him from people 25 or 30 years younger than he is, with the same ambitions he had when he was starting out.”
“I like the idea that he doesn't quit in the face of it - he accepts it. This change in the landscape is forced on him, but he doesn't just turn tail and run. I admire people like that.”
Played by Naomi Yang
Naomi Yang (Mars) plays Joy Fu, a human rights lawyer who champions the rights of the innocent people persecuted by the government.
Fu moved to Hong Kong when she married her current partner, but now wants a divorce after discovering her husband’s infidelity.
During a visit to her mother Ming Xiaoli, Fu meets her mother’s neighbour Zhang Lin, kindling a possible romance between the two.
Played by Katie Leung
Harry Potter star Katie Leung plays Liuli, a political activist who tragically died during the Tiananmen massacre.
Liuli dreamt of a democratic future for China, and inspired her husband Zhang Lin to join the cause.
But now Liuli’s memory looms over Lin as a haunting reminder that he has failed to keep fighting for his wife’s dream.
Chimerica starts on Wednesday 17 April at 9pm on Channel 4.
The whole series will be available on All4 after the first episode airs.