Ours is a global village. We live in an interconnected, interdependent community.
But what if we were suddenly cut off from everything beyond our immediate surroundings?
Austin area-based actor Mike Vogel of Under the Dome, a provocative new summer series premiering at 9 p.m. Monday on CBS, has been mulling over the consequences.
“I’ve thought long and hard about the kings in today’s world — the tech geniuses, the medical geniuses, the hotshot Wall Street investors — and how irrelevant they all would be in the face of real calamity,” he says. “If there were some kind of apocalyptic event, a crippled economy, with so many of us separated from our food and water and energy supplies, everything that these movers and shakers represent suddenly means nothing and the farmer is king again.
“The guy who knows how to plant a seed and raise a chicken from an egg, the guy who knows how to hunt and survive and feed himself and others, he’s the king now.”
Funny that Vogel should keep using the word “king.” Maybe it’s an unconscious thing. Because Under the Dome, which addresses so many of these issues without being heavy-handed about it, is based on the 2009 bestselling novel by author Stephen King.
Here’s the scenario that King first laid out in his cinderblock-sized book: The small town of Chester’s Mill is inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous invisible barrier of unknown origin.
While the inhabitants search for answers about the Dome — Where did it come from? Is there any way out? — they also find themselves facing shortages and dwindling resources. How will they adjust to losing virtually all contact with the outside world? Will they run out of food and fuel? How will they sustain their day-to-day lives?
“These are questions that people raise nowadays about life in the world,” executive producer Neal Baer says. “ Under the Dome is essentially a parable of our times.”
The hand of the King
Yeah, but more importantly, it’s also thoroughly entertaining television.
Once the Dome drops, slicing its way deeply into the ground on all sides, viewers will get a “that’s something I don’t see every day” visual that’s so disgusting and so amusing, they’ll be completely hooked.
And, yes, King fans will be happy to know that the creator of Chester’s Mill, Maine, has been very hands-on with the TV version of Under the Dome.
“He has been to our set in North Carolina several times,” Baer says. “He reads every script, sees all of the cuts, corresponds with us, gives his ideas.”
Adds Vogel, who remembers how the menacing clown in King’s It scared the bejabbers out of him as a kid: “As actors, we’ve been allowed to have a lot of input into our characters. But all of a sudden, you’ll get a note like, ‘This comes directly from Stephen. He wants this.’ And you’re like, ‘OK,’ because it’s good to know he’s involved and having constructive input the whole time.
“It’s nice to know he didn’t just cash the check and leave his name on it, that he’s going to keep everyone close to his vision and protect what the book was, while still allowing that there will be certain roads where we have to deviate to continue this story.”
Hoping for a second season
Vogel plays Dale “Barbie” Barbara, a stranger in Chester’s Mill who had the misfortune of getting sealed inside. He has a military background and skeletons in his closet.
“But I like his chances,” Vogel says. “I like his odds of surviving a situation like this.”
Vogel is crossing his fingers for a second season, but that doesn’t mean viewers will be left with too many unanswered questions when the current season of 13 episodes comes to a close.
The way Baer explains it, the Dome will still be ever present, but the many elements introduced in the pilot episode will be resolved.
“We present a lot of mysteries in the first episode,” Baer says. “What does Big Jim [played by Dean Norris] have to do with the secret shipments of propane? Will Julia [Rachelle Lefevre] find out that Barbie was involved in her husband’s death?
“What’s going to happen to Deputy Linda [Natalie Martinez] now that her fiance is trapped outside the Dome and her mentor, the sheriff, has died from an exploding pacemaker because he touched the Dome?
“What’s going to happen to Joe [Colin Ford], who is left alone without his parents and his sister Angie [Britt Robertson], who is trapped in a bomb shelter by Big Jim’s son Junior [Alex Koch]? We have raised all these questions and they will be answered this season.”
Sometimes Vogel feels, by working in North Carolina while home and family are back in Georgetown, that he’s living in a dome of his own making.
The Pennsylvania native was introduced to Texas in 2002 while filming The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
“I fell in love with the spirit of Texas,” he says. “It has Southern ideals, but it’s not the South. It’s more like its own country. There’s an independence that’s bred in the people of Texas. I love the confidence that my kids will have being raised there. And I love the respect for culture in Texas that doesn’t exist any more in other parts of the country.
“My wife and I had been wanting to move there for quite some time. And last year, when I was finally to the point in my career where I could say, ‘You know what? I don’t have to live in L.A. to be a working actor,’ we moved. And I owe it all to Leatherface and his nasty old chainsaw.”