“What kind of person would you be in the apocalypse?” It’s the type of question that could compel a celebrity’s publicist to corral an interviewer back on topic. In this case, the actor is Rachelle Lefevre, the star of the new TV series Under the Dome, about a New England town that becomes inexplicably isolated from the rest of the world by an invisible and impenetrable bubble.
CBS clearly considers its latest gamble a sure thing. The network ordered 13 episodes of the show (which is based on a book by Stephen King), aired the first commercial during the Super Bowl and hired The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev to helm the pilot. Produced by Steven Spielberg and adapted for the small screen by Brian K. Vaughan, of Lost fame, the series is a Lord of the Flies set in modern-day Maine. Trapped inside a snow-globe universe, the characters must pool their resources, establish laws and ultimately decide whether or not they will obey the rules they’ve created for their microcosm. Montreal–born, Los Angeles-based Lefevre, who landed the coveted lead role, is undoubtedly expecting a few existential questions.
“I’ve thought about it a lot,” she says. “If people are honest, I think everyone has two answers: there’s the person you hope you would be and the person you’re afraid you might be. I hope that I would be the kind of person who doesn’t loot water and doesn’t resort to violence or theft. I think deep down we’re all afraid we’d be the kind of person who hides inside, locks her doors, hoards her supplies and waits for it to pass. I hope I would be the kind of person who would pull people out of burning buildings.”
One of the perks of being an actor is not having to wait for Judgment Day to explore extreme what-ifs. The 34-year-old gamely investigated the darker corners of the human psyche when she played the bloodthirsty vampire Victoria in the first two Twilight movies, a self-destructive poet in Barney’s Version and a former CSIS agent in the French-language film Omertà. On the small screen, she’s been a doctor twice: at an understaffed clinic in the South American jungle in Off the Map and in a New York City hospital in A Gifted Man.
Although Lefevre’s Under the Dome character, Julia, is an investigative reporter, that changes when the bubble comes down, rendering most of the characters’ regular-world occupations useless. Suddenly, everyone has the basic choice of being good or evil, a doctor or a dictator. As Lefevre explains, “We run out of medical supplies in the first episode, and it dawns on everyone that we’re never getting them back.” She hopes the show will serve as an allegory for real-life communities that must make do without sewage systems and proper sources of food and water.
For her part, Lefevre insists she wouldn’t lose her mind over petty end-of-days inconveniences like no Internet access or cellphone reception. “Brian K. Vaughan thinks we’re all secretly longing for the apocalypse,” she says. “I do some-times have moments when I genuinely wish the cellphone had never been invented. If I’m sharing a meal with anyone, my phone stays in my bag. There have been times when I’ve pulled it out because I’ve looked up and everyone else was on theirs, and I thought, I may as well!”
Truth be told, maybe Lefevre should keep her phone on the table. With her latest role as “Channing Tatum’s baby mama” (her words) in the summer blockbuster White House Down and a part in the upcoming action film Homefront opposite Jason Statham and James Franco, Lefevre’s Hollywood star is picking up serious speed. Hypothetical apocalyptic scenarios aside, her future looks bright.