Athena Karkanis of NBC’s ‘Manifest’

ATM: What are your comments about the show and the attention circled around it?

AK: On one hand I am not surprised at all. I think the show and the premise are great. The network was really behind us. They pushed it, and the show was on a lot of people’s radars. It holds up. If you say the premise of the show, people are like “Oh I am curious, I would like to see this.” When you watch the show, you are not disappointed. As someone who has been in this business for a while, I feel like I have been in a position where I have been on a show that everyone is like “This is the one. It is going to happen.” Then it does not. I was prepared for this to be the case. I was pleasantly pleased that this is not the case. We are doing well so far, hopefully, it continues this way.

ATM: How has this show’s subject matter changed your scope and meaning of life itself?

AK: My character is kind of more the emotional center of the show and less the mystery part. My role was not on the plane. You will see as the show goes on, that the main characters that were on the plane start to dive deeper into the mystery of what happened to the plane. There is this whole conspiracy that develops. My role is not a part of this section of the show. She is about the more emotional center of the show and the family. And about what has happened to the family as they were torn apart and pushed back together.

It makes me think a lot about family and about being united as parents trying to negotiate the thing that has happened to their family that they both care a lot about. They both are hugely changed by what has transpired. For my character, it is the last five years, and for his character, it was just the previous five days, which is still epic. I think a lot about family and on a long-term, how you keep things working and moving along.

ATM: What does life mean to you? What is your meaning of life?

AK: These are really deep questions. I do not think I know the meaning of life. I would say the most important thing in my life is my family. This is what I get the most joy from and the thing I think about the most. This seems like a generic answer, but I feel like I take the most meaning from this.

ATM: What characteristics identify Grace and what is her self-esteem level?

AK: She is a wife and a mother. She has been through a lot over the last five years. She thought her son and husband had died. She got left with a child who was also grieved the loss of her twin. Also, a father who had a hard time with it. You will learn in the further episodes that they suffered. They talk about it in the pilot that she went to therapy and had depression. She was also the only person left for her child that greatly suffered and she was also greatly sufferred. This is a big formative thing for a person.

She came out of it on the other side. She started her own business. She did not have a catering business before the disappearance of the plane. You must have good self-esteem to do this kind of thing. You have to be pretty brave to start your business and have a lot of confidence in yourself. She is a good mom and cares about her kids. She adjusts her parenting to what suits them and works for them. She makes choices that might not be the typical parenting choice but works for her children.

ATM: Talk about her emotions inside her presumed marriage.

AK: It is tough because her marriage ended five years ago, and it is suddenly back where it was five years ago. Grace thought in these five years that her husband died. She grieved him and moved on. She fell in love with a person and was very happy with this person. She never stopped loving her husband. When he gets back in the picture, obviously he is the one she must go back to because he is the father of her children.

To him, the marriage never ended. They have been on different paths. He was on a plane for 3 hours, and she has these five years that has transpired of her getting over her husband and finding someone new. This is going to be a challenge for Ben and Grace in the episodes coming out. Also, how they have profoundly changed by this event if it had not been for the new man. And still dealing with a child with leukemia and another child who has dealt with all this emotional stuff and she does not know her father. She is ecstatic that her son and husband who she thought were dead are not and they are alive and well. Her son has been better than he would have been five years ago. In the five years, there have been advancements in his pediatric leukemia. Now, he is probably going to live whereas five years ago he was not. This is wonderful.

It is hard, and she is conflicted. She had to completely, at a drop of a hat leave this other man who she was also loves. She is feeling like her husband is going down this rabbit hole. Secretly, she is not into it. He is trying to figure out what happened to the plane and he is getting all involved into the conspiracy. She does not have control over this. There is that fence of not having control and spirally. She is trying to pull her family back together, and everyone is sort of pulling in different directions.

ATM: Do you consciously agree with some of the people’s choices that they have made after the five years, in how they chose to move on with their lives?

AK: I cannot fault them. If you think someone is dead, then you mourn them for a while. You eventually have to get on with your life. You cannot spend your entire life in mourning. If you are lucky enough to find love with someone else, then this is good. I cannot fault them for that.

ATM: What would you do if this storyline fitted in line with your life?

AK: Life if my family suddenly disappeared and then reappeared?

ATM: Yes (Laughs). It sounds funny when you say it out loud.

AK: (Laughs). I do not know what I would do. I would probably do something like Grace is doing in trying to pull it back together. What would anyone do? It is so unfathomable. This is what makes the show so intriguing. It puts you in this position, and you are like, “What would I do?”

ATM: What are thoughts on the creator’s imagination with this script?

AK: Jeff Rake has such a great creative mind. The premise of it itself is so intriguing. A good premise is excellent, but you need a lot more to go on than this. The place that the story is going and different stories they are telling, as the story goes on you will meet other people who were on the plane. They all have these great stories, and this is the exciting part. There were almost 200 people on the flight, so there are these many stories to be told.

ATM: What do you think the show says about our universe?

AK: It’s not specifically religious or scientific. It is sitting in between spiritual and science. It is interesting because it is a debate. I feel like many years ago people would have said, “Yeah, of course, I believe in God.” This is like the automatic answer. Now, it seems a lot of people are questioning this. They are saying, “I do not know if there is a God, but there is something or some kind of higher power.” I feel this is kind of where the show is going with it. Maybe this reflects what people are thinking.

ATM: How does this series display the difference between wasting five years or making the best out of five years of your life?

AK: It depends on the character. For little Cal, this means he will have a life. If he had been five years ago, then he would be already dead. Right now, in these five years, he has been granted a second chance. For Grace, she has grown a lot in these five years. They were hard, but often this is how you grow. We often grow through adversity. This has been the case for her. She’s had a really difficult five years. She has this amazing gift of getting back her family.

ATM: Where were you five years to this exact date/month?

AK: Five years ago, I was an entirely different person because since then I’ve had two children. They have changed me a lot. Motherhood and what my family has grown into what it is now. This has changed me. I was more career focus. Not that I am not career focus now, but I do have something deeper that is fulfilling my life.

I was in Detroit. I was filming a series in Detroit, which I actually really loved. I was working with wonderful people that I liked. I was happy five years ago. This is kind of a cliché apparent thing to say. I was legitimately happy, but I am so much happier now. My capacity for happiness and love has grown tenfold because I had a baby.

ATM: How were you emotionally five years ago?

AK: I was happy. My career was going well. I was in a relationship that I was happy with. I really loved my dog. I still love my dog, however, he is now older. He does not go for runs with me anymore.

ATM: Do you think everyone is unconsciously aware that life is moving on? Were you conscious that five years were moving on?

AK: Yes and no. Of course, we know time is moving on. You never know what tomorrow is going to bring. You never know how you will change as a person, who you will meet, or who will come in and out of your life. Or how you would react to the new things that will happen to you. All of this is unknown. It is not a thing we are aware of even when you are aware of it. As I said five years ago, I did not have kids, now I do. I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter, who was my first, I was like, “Our lives are going to be so different.” I knew, but I had no idea how. As much as people tell you your life is going to be different, you cannot know all these things. You cannot know the way this will actually feel. It is a yes and no to this answer. We know that life is constantly moving and going forward, but we do not know how or what this will actually mean for us when we get 5, 10, or 50 years into the future.

ATM: Wow, 50.

AK: If we are that lucky.

ATM: That is just a massive jump. If someone blacked out all the clocks and the numeral definitions of time, do you feel we would still know what time of day it is?

When we think back, we do not remember the exact time and date. We are only able to pinpoint memories based things that happened. Do you think time is really of the essence?

AK: We define so much of our lives by it. So yes. But if it were to disappear suddenly and this was how things were, then I suppose we would continue to move forward in this new reality. It is true when you think of a memory you do not necessarily think that, “Oh, this happened at 12:35.” You might remember the way, night, sunrise or sunset.

ATM: What if we lived by this? What if we were conditioned to live by the shade of light outside? If you cover up the time, then it could either be sunset or sunrise.

AK: We were once living like this before the clock. We went by the sun. We have our rhythms, which is like our natural body clock. I think in today’s society, it is so driven by the rat race and the grind that we are very governed by the time of day and the clock. Also, how much time we have been doing this and that.

Maybe we would enjoy the little moments more. We would not constantly look at the clock and worrying about what time, “I have to be here and there. Or how much time I have left.” This is so ingrained in our way of thinking. You are a bit little like this when you are on vacation. You are sort of like I am hungry. Maybe we would be more relaxed.