Ella Purnell Talks New Fallout TV Series & Why She Loves Playing Women In Survival Mode

Grab your Pip-Boys, strap into your Power Armour, and prepare your RadAways, because the television adaptation of the beloved video game Fallout is finally here. And while some of you may read that first sentence and become instantly overwhelmed ("What the heck is a Pip-Boy?!"), you can sit rest assured with the knowledge that the Fallout TV show is groundbreakingly addictive — whether you've played the game or not.
Set in 2296, almost 200 years since civilisation was wiped out by a nuclear apocalypse, the series watches as three protagonists try to survive in an apocalyptic wasteland, where bottle caps are currency and finding fresh water that hasn't been poisoned with radiation is an uphill battle. We follow Maximus (Aaron Moten) — a member of a militaristic faction dubbed the Brotherhood of Steel. Then there's The Ghoul (Walton Goggins) — a mutated survivor who's spent a bit too much time with radiation. Finally, we've got Lucy (Ella Purnell) a cheery all-American Vault Dweller who has spent her entire life in an underground bunker community... until now.
For Ella Purnell, playing a character that is, in her words, "Ned Flanders in the apocalypse" was something that she couldn't pass up, especially with the knowledge that minds such as Jonathan Nolan's (Westworld) were at the helm. "As soon as I read the script, I knew I had to be a part of it," Purnell told Refinery29 Australia in an exclusive interview. "I wanted to work with Jonathan. I wanted to play Ned Flanders in the apocalypse!"

"Coming into anything that is an adaptation is stressful and definitely intimidating."

Ella Purnell on joining the Fallout Universe
It's not the first time Purnell has taken on a video game adaptation, previously appearing in Netflix's Arcane, an adaptation of the League of Legends video game. However, the actress explains that when it comes to the Fallout universe, there was a distinct type of pressure in knowing that she was coming into such a well-loved universe.
"Coming into anything that is an adaptation is stressful and definitely intimidating," Purnell explains. "Coming into anything that is well-loved and already very firmly established is hard. You want to treat the source material with respect, especially when it's something as good as Fallout. You really want to do justice to the people who work so hard on the games and the fans who are so passionate about the games."

"I love seeing women in survival dramas and seeing women sort of explore the very depths and the extent of what they're capable of in desperation."

Ella Purnell on women in dystopian media
Purnell has already established herself well and truly in the dystopian universe. Many viewers will know her for her role as Jackie in the award-winning series Yellowjackets, which saw a bunch of teenagers bid for survival after a plane crash deep in the Canadian wilderness (warning: may contain cannibalism). But it's not so much the post-apocalyptic genre that draws her to these projects (in fact, Purnell says that she's "not a big post-apocalyptic genre fan", shocking us all); it's the idea of watching women in survival situations, and all the complexity that comes with that.
"It's only recently that we've seen women explore the same emotional depths as men," Purnell says. "I love seeing women in survival dramas and seeing women sort of explore the very depths and the extent of what they're capable of in desperation. Really getting into the nitty gritty of what survival means — you're starving, you're desperate, you're exhausted. You're not this together, pretty picture that films originally depicted women as."
"What fascinates me are stories of survival and psychological thrillers," she continues. "Seeing women be violent and gory and not shy away from having to make really brutal decisions... Anything that's smart and, I suppose, political in a way — and I think Fallout hits on all those points."

"Fallout is an inherently political game."

Ella Purnell on 'Fallout Went woke' Criticism
While the choice for writers to focus on a female protagonist in the Fallout television series shouldn't be an outlandish one, the show has still been subjected to idiotic criticism about the franchise going "woke". Purnell quickly shuts down these ideas. "Fallout is an inherently political game," she argues, adding that part of the DNA of the game is in how it analyses society.
"I really like the mirror it holds up to society and I really liked the comedy," she explains. "They've managed to nail the tone of the game so well and blend this mix of comedy and drama. Humans have this way of finding humour and comedy as a coping mechanism to deal with quite heavy topics. It's what I do at least, when I'm talking about something heavy. I just throw a couple of jokes in there."
"I read the script and I really just wanted to watch the show," she continues. "I hadn't really seen anything like it before."
Fallout releases exclusively on Prime Video on Thursday 11 April

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