10 Things We Learned at the ‘Fallout’ Press Conference

Movies

Prime Video has unveiled the first trailer for ‘Fallout,’ the long-awaited series based on the iconic post-apocalyptic video game franchise that first began publishing back in 1997, yielding four games in the main narrative and more than half a dozen spinoffs since then.

In the games, nuclear war has rendered the United States (and the world at large) into what’s called the Wasteland, with pockets of survivors living underground in highly protected shelters known as Vaults. The games are set further and further in the future each time out, with inhabitants of the Vaults venturing out into the Wasteland on various missions and encountering dangerous creatures (such as the artificially created bioweapons known as Deathclaws), mutants, and irradiated humans.

‘Fallout,’ the streaming series, takes much of this premise and the popular ‘Fallout 3’ game – which is set 200 years after the war – as its starting point. Ella Purnell stars as Lucy, a character created for the show, who ventures outside her Vault and learns the hellish nature of life on the surface. Along the way she meets Maximus (Aaron Moten), a member of the militaristic technology cult The Brotherhood of Steel, and The Ghoul (Walton Goggins), a mysterious figure with a connection to the past and the Vaults.

Aaron Moten, Ella Purnell, Todd Howard, and Walter Goggin from 'Fallout' attend The Game Awards 2023 at the Peacock Theater on December 7, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

(L to R) Aaron Moten, Ella Purnell, Todd Howard, and Walter Goggin from ‘Fallout’ attend The Game Awards 2023 at the Peacock Theater on December 7, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Scott Kirkland/PictureGroup.

After years of rumored films and false starts, ‘Fallout’ comes to streaming thanks to husband-and-wife team Jonathan (Jonah) Nolan and Lisa Joy, whose previous sci-fi series was HBO’s ‘Westworld.’ Joining Nolan and Joy as executive producers and showrunners are Geneva Robertson-Dworet (‘Captain Marvel’), Graham Wagner (‘Portlandia’) and Todd Howard of Bethesda Game Studios, along with James Altman for Bethesda Softworks.

In conjunction with the arrival of the trailer, Prime Video held a virtual press conference featuring Nolan (who directed the first three episodes), Robertson-Dworet, Wagner, and Howard, along with Purnell, Moten, and surprise remote guest Walton Goggins.

Here are 10 things we learned at that press conference, edited for clarity and length.

1) Jonathan Nolan Is A Huge Fan of the Games

Jonathan Nolan and Ella Purnell on the set of 'Fallout.'

(L to R) Jonathan Nolan and Ella Purnell on the set of ‘Fallout.’ Credit: JoJo Whilden/Prime Video. Copyright: © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC.

Jonathan Nolan says that his obsession with ‘Fallout’ was so intense that, ironically enough, he spent more time early in his career playing the game than looking for writing opportunities.

Jonathan Nolan: I think it started, for me, with ‘Fallout 3,’ which devoured about a year of my life. You know, I was an aspiring young writer at that point. It almost derailed my entire career. It’s so ludicrously playable and fun. I mean, seriously, the games were just incredible. It’s such a rare thing and such an unbelievable thing — and I’ve gotten to do it twice in my career — to take something that you love and get a chance to play in that universe, to create your own version, I guess, of that universe. The first go-round for me was Batman (Nolan co-wrote ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ with his brother, Christopher Nolan), and this time with ‘Fallout,’ a series of games that I absolutely loved. About five years ago, Todd and I went and had lunch together — it was a bit of a fanning-out moment for me — and just started talking about the possibilities of how you could take this incredible universe… we came out of lunch with a handshake deal that we’re going to try to make this work.

2) The Series Tells A Whole New Story

Ella Purnell as Lucy in 'Fallout.'

Ella Purnell as Lucy in ‘Fallout.’ Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video. Copyright: © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC.

Graham Wagner says that the show is a continuation of the mythology from the games but also a new story, not an adaptation of the existing games.

Graham Wagner: It’s set in the world of ‘Fallout,’ but it’s a new story that comes, sort of, after the events we’ve seen. So the show is really built on 25 years of creativity and thinking and building. We sort of thought the best thing to do is to continue that [rather than] retread it. Because that’s sort of what has worked with ‘Fallout’ over the years. It’s traded hands, it’s changed, it’s been altered, and it’s a living thing. We kind of felt like we ought to take a swing at trying to build a new piece on top of all of that.

3) What Canada Has to Do With A Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

Actors Walton Goggins, Ella Purnell, Co-Showrunner Geneva Robertson-Dworet, and Actor Aaron Moten attends 'Fallout' Cast and Creators Presentation at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

(L to R) Actors Walton Goggins, Ella Purnell, Co-Showrunner Geneva Robertson-Dworet, and Actor Aaron Moten attends ‘Fallout’ Cast and Creators Presentation at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Prime Video.

According to Geneva Robertson-Dworet, a big factor in the appeal of adapting ‘Fallout’ was the underlying themes of the story.

Geneva Robertson-Dworet: The themes of ‘Fallout’ are also what really drove us to want to adapt this with Jonah, and we were really especially drawn to the social commentary inherent to the idea of these Vaults. Graham is a citizen of Canada. I’m a dual citizen of the US and New Zealand, and we often talk about how those countries are sort of celebrated as these wonderful, peaceful utopias…But what would it mean if those countries were to open their borders and let everyone in, and everyone could have a better life? Well, they would change, right? We saw the Vaults as basically a mirror to that. This idea that, like, ‘What if we create a Vault that is very peaceful and wonderful?’ But what does it mean that not everyone gets to live there, and people suffer on the surface?

4) Why It Took Years to Bring ‘Fallout’ to the Screen

Power Suit and Aaron Moten as Maximus in 'Fallout.'

(L to R) Power Suit and Aaron Moten as Maximus in ‘Fallout.’ Credit: JoJo Whilden/Prime Video. Copyright: © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC.

Todd Howard of Bethesda Game Studios says that the company was very deliberate in allowing ‘Fallout’ to be adapted to another medium.

Todd Howard: People would approach us over, I would say, a 10-year period after ‘Fallout 3’ came out, from 2009 on, to adapt ‘Fallout’ to film or television. We took a very cautious approach, and Jonah was somebody [who] I was such a fan of the movies he did and the TV he was doing, and I actually had someone reach out. And when I first talked to Jonah, I mean, honestly, it was like someone I had known for a long time: [he] obviously played the games a ton, and his approach, right from the get-go, was in sync with what I was thinking.

5) Why Ella Purnell and Aaron Moten Were Thrilled to Be Part of ‘Fallout’

Actor Ella Purnell attends 'Fallout' Cast and Creators Presentation at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Actor Ella Purnell attends ‘Fallout’ Cast and Creators Presentation at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Prime Video.

British actor Ella Purnell and ‘Emancipation’ star Aaron Moten described what made their characters so exciting to play.

Ella Purnell: Lucy is a Vault Dweller, and what excited me about playing her was that she is so innocent and naive and obviously very privileged as well. It was exciting for me to start in that place. She’s essentially a newborn baby. She hasn’t had any real-life experiences. All she knows is what she was taught and what she’s read in books that she has in the Vault. It’s limited. Then you put her in the Wasteland, and what happens? What happens with that? That’s a really exciting place for me to start in.

Actor Aaron Moten attends 'Fallout' Cast and Creators Presentation at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Actor Aaron Moten attends ‘Fallout’ Cast and Creators Presentation at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Prime Video.

Aaron Moten: I play Maximus. He’s part of the Brotherhood of Steel. I guess what excited me was a little bit of what Ella’s talking about — that starting place, and where you go from there. [He’s] a person who’s lived in the Wasteland for his entire life, and he has to have a certain type of moral ambiguity that is forced upon him, living in the world that he lives in. Where do you go from there? How do you hold onto what is your unique, pure self, how does that change, and how do you discover what it is that you want?

Related Article: Walton Goggins, Kyle MacLachlan and More Feature in the First Images from the ‘Fallout’ TV Adaptation

6) Who is The Ghoul?

Walton Goggins as The Ghoul in 'Fallout.'

Walton Goggins as The Ghoul in ‘Fallout.’ Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video. Copyright: © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC.

Not able to participate in the press conference, acclaimed actor Walton Goggins (‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’) beamed in with a pre-recorded message about his character. Alive since before the war and once known as Cooper Howard, he’s now a mutated bounty hunter called The Ghoul.

Walton Goggins: The Ghoul is, in some ways, the poet Virgil in ‘Dante’s Inferno.’ He’s the guide, if you will, through this irradiated hellscape where we find ourselves in this post-apocalyptic world. He is a bounty hunter, an iconic bounty hunter. He is pragmatic, he is ruthless, he has his own set of moral codes, and he has a wicked sense of humor — much like me [laughs]. No, he’s a very, very, very complicated guy, and to understand him, you have to understand the person that he was before the war. He had a name. His name was Cooper Howard, and he was a vastly different person than the ghoul that you’ve seen so far. Over the course of the show, through his experience back in the world before the nuclear fallout, you will understand how the world was, and he is the bridge between both these worlds.

7) The Level of Detail in ‘Fallout’ Is Off The Charts

Brotherhood of Steel and Vertibirds in 'Fallout.'

Brotherhood of Steel and Vertibirds in ‘Fallout.’ Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video. Copyright: © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC.

Both executive producer Todd Howard and star Ella Purnell emphasize that there is an incredible amount of detail and world-building in the show, with Purnell adding that most of the show was done practically instead of digitally, as per the wishes of Jonathan Nolan.

Todd Howard: The authenticity they brought to it [is] obsessive. We like to say when we make the games that we obsess over every pixel. And Jonah and crew, they obsessed over every pixel [laughs] of every frame, just to make it authentic. The other thing, watching that trailer, the trick with ‘Fallout’ is it has so many different tones. It goes between the serious, the dramatic, and the action, and some humor and nostalgic music and dramatic music…it weaves those different things together in a very unique blend that only ‘Fallout’ can bring, and they’ve done just an awesome job.

Ella Purnell as Lucy in 'Fallout.'

Ella Purnell as Lucy in ‘Fallout.’ Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video. Copyright: © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC.

Ella Purnell: This was so much fun, working on this show. Every shoot is hard, not every shoot is fun, and this one was just so fun for an actor. No two days were the same. Every prop, every costume, every location, every set was just bonkers. One of the joys of working with Jonah is he loves to do everything, as much as he can, for real. So you’re not working with that much green screen or dudes in green leotards. You get to really work with practicals, and you don’t have to imagine so much. It’s real and you can really do it.

8) The Most Challenging Thing To Get Right

Power Armor Suits in 'Fallout.'

Power Armor Suits in ‘Fallout.’ Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video. Copyright: © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC.

Two completely different aspects of ‘Fallout’ – the physical protective suits known as power armor, worn by the Brotherhood of Steel, and the more elusive overall vibe of the show – are the two elements that Jonathan Nolan cites as difficult to pin down.

Jonathan Nolan: We talked a lot about the power armor. The tone was a big thing. I think the tone was maybe the most challenging and the most intimidating thing for me. But working with Geneva and Graham, you knew that we were going to be in a really good place with that incredibly ambitious story. On a technical level, the scope of the world and the power armor in particular was one of those things where you go, ‘Oh, how on earth are we going to do that?’ But we got there.

9) What Sets ‘Fallout’ Apart From a Million Other Shows

Walton Goggins as The Ghoul in 'Fallout.'

Walton Goggins as The Ghoul in ‘Fallout.’ Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video. Copyright: © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC.

There are tons of shows out there now on many different platforms competing for our eyes, and quite a number of them are actually set in post-apocalyptic landscapes. But ‘Fallout,’ says its creators, is different.

Geneva Robertson-Dworet: It’s not just the incredible tone, which is, as people have talked about, this unbelievable blend of action and comedy and just weirdness. But I think it’s these incredibly prescient themes, factionalism being maybe the most obvious. When you play the game ‘Fallout,’ you go from settlement to settlement or from faction to faction. That was something we were really excited to manifest with our heroes.

(L to R) Ella Purnell as Lucy and Kyle MacLachlan as Overseer Hank in 'Fallout.'

(L to R) Ella Purnell as Lucy and Kyle MacLachlan as Overseer Hank in ‘Fallout.’ Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video. Copyright: © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC.

Jonathan Nolan: I think you also have a moment that we’re in right now in which the world seems to be ever more frightening and dour. So [this is] an opportunity for us to work on a show that gets to look that in the eye, right, and we get to talk about the end of the world, but to do it with a sense of humor. I think, honestly, there’s a thread of optimism woven into the show as well, that I think for us, you know, is a bit of expiation to be able to work on this every day.

10) Pleasing ‘Fallout’ Fans is Not the First Priority

Actors Aaron Moten, Ella Purnell, and Walton Goggins speak onstage during 'Fallout' Cast and Creators Presentation at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

(L to R) Actors Aaron Moten, Ella Purnell, and Walton Goggins speak onstage during ‘Fallout’ Cast and Creators Presentation at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Prime Video.

Video game adaptations are notoriously hard to get right – the filmmakers often try (and fail) to walk a tightrope between servicing the fans of the game and attracting new viewers who couldn’t care less about the game. Jonathan Nolan doesn’t think that’s the right approach.

Jonathan Nolan: I don’t think you really can set out to please the fans of anything, or please anyone other than yourself. I think you have to come into this trying to make the show that you want to make, and trusting that as fans of the game, we would find the pieces that were essential to us about the games and try to do the best version of those that we can. I think it’s kind of a fool’s errand to try to figure out how to make people happy in that way. You’ve got to make yourself happy. And I’ve made myself very happy with the show.

Actors Walton Goggins, Ella Purnell, and Aaron Moten attend with 'Fallout' Cast and Creators at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

(L to R) Actors Walton Goggins, Ella Purnell, and Aaron Moten attend with ‘Fallout’ Cast and Creators at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Prime Video.

What is the Plot of ‘Fallout’?

The show depicts the aftermath of an apocalyptic nuclear exchange in an alternate history where advances in nuclear technology after WWII led to the emergence of a retrofuturistic society and a subsequent resource war. The survivors took refuge in fallout bunkers known as Vaults, built to preserve humanity in the event of nuclear annihilation. Two centuries later, a young woman (Ella Purnell), a descendant of the original “Vault Dwellers” from one of many Vaults, leaves behind the only life she has ever known to venture out into the dangerously hostile and savage Wasteland of a devastated Los Angeles.

Who is in the Cast of ‘Fallout’?

 

Actors Aaron Moten, Ella Purnell, and Walton Goggins speak onstage during 'Fallout' Cast and Creators Presentation at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

(L to R) Actors Aaron Moten, Ella Purnell, and Walton Goggins speak onstage during ‘Fallout’ Cast and Creators Presentation at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Prime Video.

Other Movies Similar to ‘Fallout’:

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