How ‘Back to the Future’ inspired time-travel series ‘The Lazarus…


Rising British star Paapa Essiedu, who earned an Emmy nomination for “I May Destroy You,” takes the time-traveling route in “The Lazarus Project” on TNT.

Essiedu plays George, who wakes up one morning to find that he’s seemingly repeating a day that happened six months ago yet nobody else seems to notice. He thinks he’s losing his grip on reality until he learns about a top-secret international organization called The Lazarus Project that uses time travel to stop mass-extinction events.

(He’s told that the world has already ended several times, including once in the ’60s when Russia and America launched nuclear warheads at each other — but The Lazarus Project was able to undo it). 

Essiedu, 32, said he enjoys series in which time travel plays a main role.

“I loved ‘Russian Doll.’ I haven’t watched the second [season] yet but I thought the first one was brilliant,” he told The Post. 

“‘Back to the Future’ is a classic. I think this show [‘The Lazarus Project’]  pulls on strands of all of that, and tries to create something that feels unique. There are sci-fi elements, romance, action, thriller, comedy.

“All of it.”

The Lazarus Project,” which first aired on the UK’s Sky Max in 2022, has already filmed a second season. 

Paapa Essiedu looking at the camera, with different versions of his face behind him.
Paapa Essiedu stars as George, an ordinary man who finds himself in an extraordinary situation.

“I think George is a really relatable guy. He’s a very normal dude,” Essiedu said. “It’s crazy what he goes through. But he’s almost an everyman. He works in tech, he enjoys watching football, he’s got a girlfriend. He’s someone who is not prepared for this extraordinary situation, and has to improvise or adapt to reach the levels required of that world.

“I think what’s exciting about the show is … in the film of our lives, we’re all quite ordinary people. But weird sh–t happens all the time. How do we cope with it?”

Paapa Essiedu standing in a stone archway in an old building.
George (Paapa Essiedu) finds himself out of time in the time-bending new show, “The Lazarus Project.”

Essiedu said that he was able to relate to George because in his own life, he’s experienced situations where he’s felt like a fish out of water. 

“I remember when I went to drama school when I was 19, I never really went to the theater. I had never seen a Shakespeare play, I had never been around people who cared about Chekhov or Stanislavski or whatever,” he said. “And suddenly I found myself in this institution where that’s all anyone talked about all day. I felt like the odd one out. 

“But you adapt and stretch yourself to be able to meet the demands of the space,” he said. “I think that’s what George does well. But I also relate to his questioning of the environment that he’s in. He doesn’t just turn up and people tell him what to do and he just does it. He asks questions.” 

Paapa Essiedu smiling at a woman.
Paapa Essiedu in “The Lazarus Project.”

Essiedu also has a lot of other projects in the pipeline, including a role in the hotly anticipated sixth season of “Black Mirror.” (“Absolutely not,” he said, when asked if he can share anything about that.) He’s currently in rehearsal for the play “The Effect” at the National Theater in London, he’s co-starring in the film “The Outrun” with Saoirse Ronan and he’s also co-starring with Melissa McCarthy in a Christmas movie from Richard Curtis.

“I just did a comedy,” he said, referring to his movie with Melissa McCarthy. 

“And that was so different to the things I had been doing before that. But it was so nourishing for me as an artist. I try not to pigeonhole myself, or do the same thing twice. I’ve been busy.  

“I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given, and I don’t take them for granted,” he said. “I want to continue exploring different types of stories and characters.” 

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How ‘Back to the Future’ inspired time-travel series ‘The Lazarus…

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