Where Is Does The Show 'Manhattan' Take Place? Get To Know 1940s New Mexico
WGN America's latest drama covers the exciting period of scientific discovery in the early 1940s, as scientists from around the country were recruited to work on weaponizing nuclear technology. This new series is called Manhattan and while the titular "Manhattan Project" may be named for New York City, but didn't take place there — the series Manhattan and the real project it's based on actually took place in the American Southwest.
While the science and the framework of the research project is based on reality, the particulars are reinvented for the show. The scientists are amalgams of the real famous scientists that populated the ranks of Robert Oppenheimer's project. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Manhattan writers' policy is to leave Oppenheimer as the only real person and create the rest for maximum dramatic impact.
The show is set in a small, artificially set up New Mexico town in Los Alamos where scientists Charlie Isaacs, Frank Winter, and their respective teams of physicists handpicked by the US government will eventually build the atomic bombs dropped at the conclusion of WWII. The project relies on secrecy, so the town is completely isolated. It's literally off the map. This creates a fishbowl effect, which heightens the characters' emotions in both an entertaining and plausible way.
The show explores what the reality of living in a nonexistent place like Los Alamos is like. While the scientists know the basic reasons why they're there and what they're doing, their wives and families got wrapped into this world without being allowed to know anything about the project. The secrecy is weighing heavily on the men, especially Charlie, who's a fair amount younger and less experienced than the others. He might be the first to snap and tell his wife what they've been working on, which should come as no surprise because she's played by House of Cards' Rachel Brosnahan, also known as Rachel Posner, master of secret hearing and secret keeping in the world of Frank Underwood.
Once the secret is out that what they're building is a bomb, moral quandaries will arise as they consider the destructive power of atomic energy. While they consider these bombs as a negotiating tool to enforce world peace, in reality the US military intends to and will use them. If the show continues and moves through history, there should be more intriguing questions that arise as we move from experimentation to the end of WWII. As they progress, the bombs will be tested in the flat New Mexican desert — how did they keep that hidden from the other citizens of the town? And, of course, if the show goes on long enough, the scientists will have to reckon with the destructive power of their ideas when the US uses them in Japan.
After the featherweight genre fare that was Salem , WGN is diversifying. By focusing on the monumental power that was in the hands of this group of men and taking a balanced view between the scientists and their families, they've stumbled into a really fascinating concept for a drama, not least because of its isolated setting.
Image: WGN America