Five Days At Memorial is a grim look at the impact of Hurricane Katrina on a local New Orleans hospital. Vera Farmiga and Cherry Jones star as Dr. Anna Pou and Susan Mulderick, real women who had to endure the grueling conditions and take care of patients inside the hospital after the storm hit. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with the actresses about how they prepared for the series and why they didn’t speak to doctors at Memorial to do so.
“None of us did, in part because this is a dramatization of a journalistic book, and when screenwriters start to dramatize something, they may be drawing on source material. But of course, they’re making up the conversations,” Cherry explained. “So I try sometimes not to read the original source material and just focus on what my job is, which is what’s written on the page. So that and I’d be too shy to meet Susan Mulderick, but I have great respect for her.”
Vera added, “I look forward to meeting Anna one day, but I think all those details were mined from Sheri [Fink]’s extraordinary investigation. There were so many interviews, not only of Anna but also of friends and family members, people in her sacred circle. You want to know what the doctor was like, talk to the patients. There was so much information in Sheri’s book and interviews with colleagues and with nurses and fellow doctors. So that was my Bible. That was my everything in this process.”
Everyone at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans endured horrific conditions of no power, clean water, or air conditioning for days. Controversy engulfed the hospital after 45 corpses were eventually removed from the hospital in the aftermath. This triggered an investigation that led to the arrest of Dr. Pou and two nurses connected to deaths at Memorial. A grand jury refused to indict Dr. Pou a year later and the charges were expunged.
Dr. Pou admitted to administering morphine and the sedative midazolam to patients but not to euthanize them. She stressed that the drugs were only administered to alleviate the pain the patients were experiencing. Five Days At Memorial will inevitably bring up a discussion about ethics, but Vera hopes that viewers will have “compassion” for everyone who suffered during that difficult time.
“Viewers will feel what it was like to be [there] in multiple perspectives in these characters’ shoes. They will feel it viscerally. That’s the great power of the series,” she told HollywoodLife. “But I hope they do have compassion for everyone who went through it: the doctors, the nurses, the staff at Memorial, the patients, the families that were there, the people that were seeking shelter. I do want them to have that compassion.”
She continued, “And in so many ways, it is a tribute to doctors and nurses, and our frontline, those health care workers that have just been on the frontline for years now with a pandemic. The choices they had to make in the pandemic being overworked and under extreme duress and with their mental health, suffering with everything that was in front of them, and what they had to contend with lacking PPE and scrounging for ventilators, and deciding who gets a bed and who doesn’t… all of that. These are the heroes amongst us. We’ve got to honor them. It’s a wonderful spotlight for them.”
Five Days At Memorial will premiere on August 12 on Apple TV+ with the first three episodes. The remaining episodes will air weekly every Friday