“Make the Apocalypse Bearable” — Ella Purnell Opens Up About Her Time on “Fallout”

Ella Purnell is Lucy MacLean in Fallout 2024
Prime Video

Since the dawn of the atomic bomb, humans have been terrified of a nuclear apocalypse overtaking their backyards. Throughout the 1950s, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, “Kiss Me Deadly”, and “Godzilla” all dived into this anxiety. The original 1997 “Fallout” video game begins with the player living in a nuclear bunker. Likewise, 2024’s “Fallout” TV series begins with a storm of nuclear bombs raining down from the sky.

However, while humanity is scared of a nuclear apocalypse, we cannot help but imagine what life would be like afterwards. The majority of both the 1997 game and the 2024 “Fallout” television adaptation takes place 200 years after nuclear armageddon. “Fallout” 1997 requires the player to leave their bunker, go to the lawless surface, and find a water purification device. “Fallout” 2024 stars Ella Purnell as Lucy MacLean, a bunker dweller who’s excited about getting married.

In an interview with POPSUGAR Australia, Purnell said that it’s inevitable for us to meditate on what it’d be like surviving an apocalypse, and humour can help make such thoughts more palatable. Across the course of Purnell’s career, she’s been in multiple survival-themed shows, playing Kate Ward in “Army of the Dead” and Jackie Taylor in “Yellowjackets.”

“You think about the thing that you’re trying to avoid as a way of subconsciously trying to control it, avoid it,” Purnell said. “What I love about ‘Fallout’ is the tone, how we balance the comedy and the drama, the light and the dark, and how we somehow make the apocalypse bearable through humour. I think humans do that. When we’re telling a hard story or a sad story, we throw in a couple of jokes.”

“We used comedy and humour as a coping mechanism. I’m not saying that was the intention of the people that created the ‘Fallout’ games, but it certainly makes for entertaining TV.”

“Fallout” 2024 uses its post-apocalyptic setting and tone to great effect, and it’s a launchpad to explore an important question — If society crumbles, should we still hold onto hope? 

The 100 Faces of Ella Purnell’s Lucy 

In “Fallout”, Ella Purnell’s Lucy MacLean is more than just a bride-to-be. Lucy is an optimist who has spent her whole life in Vault 33, and she’ll do whatever she can to protect her bunker’s survival. 

On the day of Lucy’s wedding, her father, Hank MacLean, is kidnapped. Lucy then leaps into action and wants to save him from the surface. She might be peaceful by nature, but she’s not afraid to use violence when it’s necessary. 

Prime Video

However, Purnell would prefer it if “Fallout” fans don’t refer to Lucy as a strong female lead. She instead believes that all female characters are inherently strong. 

“Lucy’s strength has 100 different faces,” Purnell said. “Yes, she can handle herself, right? She knows how to use a gun and could fight you if she wanted to. But that’s not necessarily, in my eyes, what makes her strong. What makes her strong is her dedication to believing in the golden rule, believing that people are good.”

“Even after she comes out of the vault, even after she is in the wasteland and experiencing evil for the first time, experiencing lawlessness, she continues to believe that people are good. When someone is trying to actively hurt you, finding the goodness in that person is a choice that’s incredibly courageous.”

Like many women, Lucy has the strength to hold onto hope, even after the last flames of her dreams have been extinguished. 

“Fallout” 2024: To Hope or Not to Hope

During the first episode of “Fallout”, Lucy MacLean isn’t the only character who’s filled to the brim with hope. Before being kidnapped, Hank MacLean makes a speech that explores why humanity must survive and repopulate the planet. 

Yet, while these characters are foundational in “Fallout” 2024, their perspective is challenged throughout this series. On the surface, Lucy meets plenty of hopeless people. For many characters, a post-nuclear earth isn’t an earth worth living in. 

Prime Video
Prime Video

Purnell believes that “Fallout” isn’t an inherently hopeful or hopeless show. It ebbs and flows between these two philosophies. At times, it sits somewhere in between.

“It encourages the audience to make their own decision, come to their own conclusion,” Purnell said.

“In the show, there’s a lot of moral ambiguity. I think there’s also ambiguity in the level of hope you’re left with. I think everyone’s going to come out with a different answer.”

“Fallout” 2024 releases exclusively on Prime Video on Thursday, 11 April.

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