Fallout star Kyle MacLachlan: ‘Sci-fi has come full-circle in the 40 years since we made Dune’

As the TV adaptation of hit videogame series Fallout arrives on Prime Video, David Roy speaks to stars Kyle MacLachlan and Walton Goggins about making the action-packed and darkly funny post-apocalyptic drama from the producers of Westworld

Walton Goggins as The Ghoul in Prime Video's Fallout
Walton Goggins (The Ghoul) (Courtesy of Prime Video)

As the star of the original 1984 movie adaptation of Dune and 1987′s cult classic The Hidden, Kyle MacLachlan is an actor who knows a thing or two about putting science fiction on the screen.

Thus, the Washington State-born star is well placed to speak on the genre’s evolution from its reliance on practical special effects in the early ‘80s through to today’s CGI-enhanced productions, where state of the art digital effects are employed alongside more traditional methods to create strange new worlds such as the futuristic post-apocalyptic setting of his latest series, Fallout, from Westworld executive producers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.

“You know, it seems like we’ve come kind of full circle in a way,” offers MacLachlan, whose relationship with Dune director David Lynch led on to further key roles in Blue Velvet and the 1990s TV hit, Twin Peaks.

“On Dune, most of the effects were practical effects with miniatures attempting to mimic real life, so they were very labour-intensive - as is CGI, albeit it’s a different kind of intensive labour.

“I think we’ve gone through that period and the pure CGI-era to arrive at our show, which uses a lot of practical effects again. I think people now recognise that there’s actually value in that kind of world.

Ella Purnell as Lucy in Fallout
Ella Purnell (Lucy) in Fallout (Courtesy of Prime Video)

“That’s kind of one of the fun things to see, the film industry evolving like it has to where it’s come back around to the old ways.”

Based on the hit series of console games, the majority of Fallout’s eight-episode run takes place in alternative timeline version of 2296 post-apocalypse America, now an irradiated, barely inhabitable desert known as the Wasteland - though we also glimpse flashes of the world as it was just over 200 years beforehand, prior to the nuclear debacle - an oddly 1950s-flavoured version of our near-future.

The Wasteland has a kind of Mad Max meets the Wild West feel and look to it, conjured via an alluring mix of brilliant set design and CGI-enhancement.

Bedraggled humans barter and battle to survive amid the ruins and detritus of a long-lost world while utilising and adapting the surviving remnants of pre-apocalypse technology.

The Brotherhood of Steel in the Fallout TV series from Prime Video
The Brotherhood of Steel (JOJO WHILDEN/JoJo Whilden/Prime Video)

This post-apocalypse future also features the militaristic Brotherhood of Steel, an army of armoured high-tech soldiers in ‘mech suits’ which transform them into flying, heavily-armed robot warriors known as Knights, and an underground elite who survived the Armageddon in luxury underground Vaults while the world above burned to a crisp.

Aaron Moten (Maximus) in Fallout
Aaron Moten (Maximus) in Fallout (JOJO WHILDEN/JoJo Whilden/Prime Video)

MacLachlan plays Hank McLean, family man and Vault Overseer - essentially a benevolent dictator type - whose world is thrown into chaos when the security of his domain, Vault 33, is unexpectedly shattered by malicious intruders.

Kyle MacLachlan (Overseer Hank) in Fallout
Kyle MacLachlan (Overseer Hank) (JOJO WHILDEN/JoJo Whilden/Prime Video)
Ella Purnell (Lucy) and Kyle MacLachlan (Overseer Hank) in Fallout
(L-R) Ella Purnell (Lucy) and Kyle MacLachlan (Overseer Hank) in Fallout (Courtesy of Prime Video)

His daughter, Lucy (Ella Purnell from Yellowjackets) is forced to abandon her planned future as a homemaker/breeder in order to set off across the Wasteland on a perilous quest.

Ella Purnell (Lucy) in Fallout
Ella Purnell (Lucy) (JOJO WHILDEN/JoJo Whilden/Prime Video)

Along the way, she encounters The Ghoul, a 200-year-old mutant bounty hunter with a bad attitude and unrivalled survival skills.

He’s played by Walton Goggins, who viewers will just about recognise beneath his impressive CGI-enhanced facial prosthetics from roles in movies like The Hateful Eight and Django Unchained and the TV hits Justified, Sons of Anarchy and The Shield.

Walton Goggins (The Ghoul) in Fallout
Walton Goggins (The Ghoul) in Fallout (Courtesy of Prime Video)

In those aforementioned flashbacks, Goggins also gets to play a more human version of the same character - Cooper Howard, an top actor who often played cowboy heroes in the pre-apocalypse days, as well as fronting the ad campaign for Vault-Tec, the corporation behind the Vaults.

Walton Goggins (Cooper Howard) in Fallout
Walton Goggins (Cooper Howard) (JOJO WHILDEN/JoJo Whilden/Prime Video)

“It was an extraordinary opportunity to understand one character in order to understand the other, through loss as much as anything else, and to really think about how they speak to each other over time.” enthuses the Georgia-born performer, who is also set to star in the new series of The White Lotus.

“I quite liked being in the social world of the 2050s in our timeline of Pax Americana, this post-war kind of McCarthyism era in American history.

“And then to be a bounty hunter 200 years later, a lone wolf, if you will, who literally doesn’t see the humanity in anyone because all of that’s been stripped away. It was an extraordinary opportunity to play two spectrums of the same person.”

While Goggins and MacLachlan were forced to remain tight-lipped on whether or not they actually got to share any scenes in the Graham Wasner and Geneva Robertson-Dworet written and created series, the first four episodes of which are directed by Jonathan Nolan, they definitely both got to enjoy working with co-star Ella Purnell.

“I love Ella, she’s wonderful,” enthuses MacLachlan of their scenes together.

“She actually does look like she could be my daughter, which is fantastic, and we have a similar sense of humour, which I really enjoyed. She’s delightful.”

Ella Purnell as Lucy in Fallout
Ella Purnell as Lucy

“She’s a wonderful actor, you know and the nature of [her relationship with The Ghoul] and how it progresses over time is something that I found infinitely fascinating,” comments Goggins.

“Like, why is he mean to her? And is he mean - and by whose standards, right? What is morality [in this world]?

“I hope that the audience sees a morality of convenience based on having your needs met, as far as Ella’s character is concerned, and the rest of us that were left with nothing on the surface to die. Their two life experiences were apples and oranges.”

Finally, we come to the most important question of all: if these actors were lucky enough to be given a spot in a Vault in which to survive the apocalypse, which book, movie and game (video, board or otherwise) are they bringing with them to help kill the boredom?

“I got a board game: Backgammon, for sure,” enthuses Goggins.

“My book would be The Moon and Sixpence by W Somerset Maugham - that’s my favourite book and my son’s name is Somerset - and for a movie, how about Blue Velvet?”

“The Hateful Eight” is the movie MacLachlan chooses straight away, much to Goggins’ obvious delight.

“And, for a game, I’m torn between chess, Monopoly or possibly Scrabble.”

Sadly, we ran out of interview time, so he never got choose one, nor to pick a book - but surely he’s long overdue a re-read of Frank Herbert’s Dune...

Fallout is available on Prime Video from April 11