Behind the scenes of Fallout with Jonathan Nolan and star Ella Purnell

Prime Video
the prisoner

Nolan's uncle appeared in an episode of the classic Patrick McGoohan series

game of thrones

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was Nolan's favorite character on Game of Thrones


When watching Bluey, Nolan finds himself "amused and often moved to tears" by the animated series 

ABC Kids

Fallout premieres April 10 on Prime Video

Prime Video
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Fill 1
April 10, 2024
Online Originals

My 7 Shows: Fallout's Jonathan Nolan (Exclusive)

With his new Prime Video show, the Westworld co-creator shares some of his favorite series.

Screenwriter, director and executive producer Jonathan Nolan has literally made it his business to look into the future. And judging by his work on provocative series such as the CBS sci-fi drama Person of Interest and the HBO adaptation of Westworld, he's not looking through rose-colored glasses. 

"For me, it seems like the question of our age is what we're going to do with our technologies," Nolan says. "I think we're waking up to the reality that we were in charge of our technologies for the first 100,000 years of our history, but it doesn't really feel like that anymore. Our control is slipping away."

Nolan's new project, the Prime Video series Fallout, serves as another cautionary (and wildly tantalizing) tale. Highly influenced by the post–World War II culture of the 1950s, the eight-episode drama (now streaming) depicts a post-apocalyptic world in which the wealthy take refuge in bunkers. When survivor Lucy (Ella Purnell, Yellowjackets) leaves the shelter, she discovers a decrepit hellscape that used to be Los Angeles. To survive, she must navigate it. "It's about what America means when it's gone," he says.

Nolan, a director and executive producer along with his wife, Lisa Joy, adapted the series from Bethesda's action-packed role-playing video game franchise. "I needed a palate cleanser when I was on a break from writing the Batman movies, so I started playing it," he explains. "I thought the games were so unusual, political, violent, dark, weird and funny. It was a perfect opportunity for a TV adaptation." Perhaps it's a bit surprising that Nolan is nostalgic about his own TV past. As a latchkey kid in London with two older brothers — including his longtime film collaborator, Oppenheimer writer-director Christopher Nolan — in the early 1980s, Nolan says he came home and let ITV, BBC 1 and BBC 2 be his de facto babysitter. "I've always used television as a sort of understanding about the world," he says. There's still "a lot of TV on" in the Nolan household.

And the auteur still holds his favorites so close that he made a special ask during his Television Academy interview to include a bonus entry for his My Seven Shows. Request accepted, here's his list:

The Twilight Zone (1959–64, CBS)

As a kid, I thought it was a little scary in some places. Then I started working in television and had a whole new appreciation of what [creator] Rod Serling was trying to do. In the writers' room when we're talking about where a story can go, I'm constantly referring back to the show's twists and turns and beautiful ideas. I came from broadcast television, where I thought it was tough doing 23 episodes in a year — and there were some seasons when they were doing 30 or 40 original stories! And every episode had a new cast! It's inconceivable how they did that at such a high quality.

The Prisoner (1967–68, ITV)

This is a classic Patrick McGoohan, English espionage series that my brother and I discovered on A&E one summer when I was in high school. Then, to our great shock, we found our Uncle John as an extra in one episode, and that sealed the deal. [Creator and star] McGoohan played a secret agent and was [then] the biggest star on television. But it's also about the Cold War and this very scary — and now resurgent — moment in our world when every authority figure is seemingly in collusion. And the hero of the show is not a free man. So it's a laboratory for terrific plot developments.

Magnum, P.I. (1980–88, CBS)

I'm talking about the original with the Ferrari, the shorts and the mini-fridge with beers in it. As a kid, I spent the summer in Florida with my grandma, trying to figure out what America was all about. Magnum [Tom Selleck] was my guide. The show was so fun and a classic example of the most durable format in television, which is the case-of-the-week procedural. And if you hung in there every week, you'd learn a little bit about Magnum. My favorite episode was [1983's] "Home from the Sea," where there was no mystery. He was stranded at sea, treading water and thinking about his family. Those oddball episodes helped define the show.

Twin Peaks (1990–91, ABC)

My asterisk entry! I watched it live during its original run. I was about 13 at the time, so I was probably too young. But I think it defined television for me in that it blew my mind about all of its possibilities. It was so weird, so avant-garde and so exciting. And I had the great pleasure of working with [star] Kyle MacLachlan on Fallout.

I'm Alan Partridge (1997–2002, BBC 2)

For me, the experience of television is about watching it with people you love, right? So this is a show I watched with my brother Chris, and it's reflective of the entire canon of British comedy. It's [creator and star] Steve Coogan's insane meta series about a TV show host who gets fired and has to become a regional radio host. It makes Curb Your Enthusiasm look positively diminutive, because it's full-bodied cringe from the beginning of the first season to the end. It was something that Chris and I bonded over in terms of our biting, scheming and self-defeating English sense of humor.

The Wire (2002–08, HBO)

I watched The Wire that first night it aired on HBO, because I was curious about it. It was a revelation. Every beat was naturalistic, and every moment was earned and every character felt like you could walk out your door and encounter that person. But at the end of every season, you felt like you watched a Greek tragedy play out. I don't know how the hell they did it. Now, when you're a little brother, most of your culture is handed down to you by your older brother. But I told my brother he had to be watching it, and he did. It was one of my few wins, because I got to introduce the older brother to something that's genuinely great. Then the show became part of our conversation about The Dark Knight in the idea of this municipal crime story.

Game of Thrones (2011–19, HBO)

I've got to give it up to this show, because it's the fucking greatest, biggest, ballsiest, craziest. [Co-creators] Dave [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] and I became friends at HBO when I was making Westworld. But we only made Westworld because we saw what they were doing with Game of Thrones.

The ambition of that show, the scope of it and the way in which they challenged conventions and blasted them to pieces in this beautiful location was just amazing. My favorite character was Tyrion [Peter Dinklage], because you never saw a guy like that on television with that sense of humor.

Bluey (2018–present, ABC Kids)

This is an animated show — I think imported from Australia — about a family of dogs. But it's incredible children's storytelling. I started watching it with my kids during the pandemic, which is how I think most parents found it. Each episode is about seven minutes long, and each one is a magic trick: The kids enjoy it and are howling with laughter on one level, and then more often than not, I'm amused and often moved to tears by its observations about what it means to be a parent and a kid. It's absolutely the greatest.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Fallout is streaming now on Prime Video.

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