Stars of the new Amazon Prime streaming series talk gender, empowering female viewers, and the development of their characters.
The traditional red carpet was modified to resemble snow at The Whitby Hotel on the night of March 21. Fans, reporters, models, and actors flocked to the luxury hotel for the New York City premiere of Hanna a new show set to launch on Amazon Prime Video this Friday.
The storyline of the show centers around Hanna, a 15-year-old girl who has been trained by her mercenary father to fight future attackers for her entire life. Raised in the isolated forests of Eastern Europe far from human civilization, the main character is discovered by a CIA operative and a team of agents. She is separated from her father and must utilize her survivalist instincts and training in order to survive.
Writer and executive producer David Farr’s story of Hanna was developed over the past few years. “I think it really started to materialize properly as a television show about four or five years ago,” said Farr, “I really felt that there was an incredible story to tell about this young girl who grows up in a forest and knows nothing of the world. Her father for some reason and she does not know fully why has kept her there. Her innate teenage curiosity to break out of that control he has had over her results in her endangering them both, and they have to leave and suddenly she meets the world.”
Farr’s character of Hanna was written to depict the realities of female adolescence, and all of the awkwardness, confusion, and struggles young female-identifying viewers could relate to. “It’s a very weird marriage of a thriller with some really exciting action and a very emotional coming-of-age story,” said Farr, “She has to learn to become a young woman. What is the world like? What is love? What is friendship? What is jealousy, all of the emotions we all have to learn to negotiate in our lives?”
“I think young women need existential heroes who are female but are not defined by that in a particular way,” said Farr, “I think Hanna is kind of free but not a rubber-clad superhero. She’s real, vulnerable and fragile so I think that mixture is really what I want people to enjoy.”
Hanna will be the breakout television role for actress Esme Creed-Miles, who stars as the show’s titular character. After several auditions and takes, Creed-Miles won the role of the female protagonist, one that she said brings to light important messages for all viewers. “I think this idea of gender is something we can really begin to question in terms of the conventions of it. Hanna is so absolved of that. She really embraces this holistic humanness that I think is super contagious.”
Joel Kinnaman, who plays Erik Heller, Hanna’s father mentioned the importance of their bond in the development of both characters. “The father-daughter storyline really is the arc of the show in a way. It expands over eight hours.”
Kinnaman also spoke about the impact the cast hopes to have on audiences worldwide. “I think it’s a really exciting story about a young girl that is completely naive and untouched by the world but at the same time, she is a lethal assassin. It’s incredibly powerful and capable. I think that this is a coming-of-age story but it’s with someone that has incredible physical capabilities. It’ll be pretty satisfying for young women to see how she deals with some of the things I think a lot of girls struggle with when growing up.”
Mireille Enos, who stars as Marissa Wiegler, the rogue CIA operative who is hunting Hanna, discussed her multifaceted and complex character. “I’m really fascinated by the theme of secrets and what having secrets does to a person. I think Marissa is an incredibly lonely person because of her secret, and sitting in that isolation is an interesting space to explore,” Enos said.
Regarding themes of the show, Enos wanted those who tune in on March 29 to feel inspired by the strength and vulnerability of its main character. “I’m not a proponent of people going out and inciting violence. I don’t want that to be what young viewers walk away from, but what I do want them to take away is there are tools available to them to make them feel empowered in their lives. If they can find a voice, they don’t have to feel powerless. If Hanna can be an example of that journey to finding your strength in whatever context you need, that would be a wonderful takeaway.”
Creed-Miles, Enos, and Farr each highlighted women in their lives and in the world of arts and culture who inspire them.
“I would say PJ Harvey is my one true inspiration in life. She is the most incredible woman who has ever existed,” Creed-Miles said of the British singer-songwriter.
“I had this really remarkable acting teacher when I was in my twenties. Her main mantra was that you are enough, any other box you try to cram yourself into would be less interesting than who you are just in your purest form,” said Enos, “She said that if you bring yourself, that’s the most direct path to creativity, and that was life-changing for me.”
“I’ve always really enjoyed female protagonists personally, as a viewer. Because I’ve got two daughters I felt a little insight,” said Farr, “They were exactly the same age Hanna is when I was writing it, so there’s quite a lot of inspiration from their lives I took from them in order to make this show.”
After the cast members walked the entirety of the red carpet, a screening of the show’s first episode was held in the hotel’s private in-house cinema. Farr and Esme Creed-Miles greeted the audience members before the premiere began. Kinnaman and Enos also sat in the theater for the viewing.
Snickers bars, as seen in the premiere to be a favorite snack of Hanna’s, were served to attendees along with popcorn. The hotel bar was open to guests after the premiere ended.
Creed-Miles shared parting words on the many sides of her character, and one that may surprise viewers who expect to see an action-packed suspense thriller. “I think Hanna is very funny, surprisingly funny,” she said with a smile, “She’s got a good sense of humor.”
David Farr shared what he wanted to resonate most with those who watch Hanna. “This is the story of a young woman in the modern world and the complexity and difficulty of her identity. It’s so important right now. I feel very aware, I’m a guy. That’s one of the reasons why I have Sarah Adina Smith as the first director and Esme as the amazing spokeswoman of her role. She’s truly very eloquent.”
Hanna will be released globally on Friday, March 29 on Amazon Prime Video.