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Augustus Prew as James Bell in 'Pure Genius' | © CBS
Augustus Prew as James Bell in 'Pure Genius' | © CBS
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Augustus Prew on 'Pure Genius', The 'Prison Break' Revival And Moving To America

Picture of Cassam Looch
Film Editor
Updated: 25 November 2016
Culture Trip’s Cassam Looch speaks to the star of US series Pure Genius and finds out that the actor is busier than ever.

2016 has been a hectic year for Augustus Prew. He’s taken the lead role in the new medical drama that has just begun on TV, he joined the cast of the hotly anticipated Prison Break revival, filming scenes earlier in the year, and he has also now moved to Hollywood.

Right now though, its an everyday problem that is holding up our phone conversation.

“I’ll be with you in a sec… I’m just trying to make a coffee as we speak.” Prew tells me in his surprisingly English accent. Surprising only because of his convincing American twang in Pure Genius.

'Pure Genius' | © Colleen Hayes/CBS
‘Pure Genius’ | © Colleen Hayes/CBS

I wonder just how long Augustus has been away from England. “This year has been wild. I began with the pilot for Pure Genius and then I also did Prison break, which was so randomly brilliant, but since then I don’t think I’ve stopped at all. I think it was Guy Fawke’s night last year.” He pauses. “Wow. That is a long time, isn’t it?”

It certainly is. I first spoke to Augustus a few weeks before he left the UK at the 2015 premiere of the Ben Wheatley film High-Rise, but he remains refreshingly down to earth when asked about what he misses the most.

“I guess my friends,” he replies. “I grew up in London, near Shepherds Bush, and I have known these people for my entire life. I have an incredible group around me, and you can’t make old friends. My parents have also moved, so I think I miss my old house as well. This will be my first Christmas in Wiltshire so that will be groovy, and I’ll definitely be back for the end of the year.”

We were speaking the day after the first episode of Pure Genius was broadcast in the UK, and Prew has already got feedback from some critics he respects the most. “My friends have seen it and they loved it! They might be biased. We are waiting for the ratings and things like that, but I do know it’s a very cool show to be a part of. I get to peek behind the curtain of how hospitals are run, and how they could be run. The technology we get to play with is incredible. We had the inventor of one of these devices, which has only been trialled in three places around the world, come in with this blow-up bath that is full of a gel that can help maintain your temperature. It was honestly like something out of Star Trek.

In the series, Prew plays James Bell, a young Silicon Valley billionaire who builds the state-of-the-art Bunker Hill Hospital, stacking it with the best medical brains and latest scientific gadgets. I ask Prew whether he thinks Pure Genius is still a ‘medical drama’ in the traditional sense?

“It takes it to a different place. It’s not about the lack of resources or money, the conflict comes from having such an abundance that we can do so much… but should we? We get into murky ethical waters very quickly. All of the technology in the show, as futuristic as it may seem, is either in the works or available right now. We are right on the cusp of this stuff. We were lucky to get our hands on so much of it even before we started filming. They are working on things like sending thoughts to one another and the Virtual Reality is mind-blowing. It is overwhelming in some ways, and I guess that is the dark side of the show. It can be used for good, obviously, but it could also be used for bad.”

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‘Pure Genius’ | © Colleen Hayes/CBS

Over the course of the first episode we learn more about James Bell and his personal interest in pushing medical boundaries. “He is dying. When you have someone who is at that level of desperate, they have nothing to lose. There is no right or wrong in it. It operates in this grey area of where he [Bell] starts it for what you might perceive to be the wrong reasons, but does that actually matter in the end?”

The cast features Dermot Mulroney as a doctor who is initially hesitant about joining Bell’s project. What was the actor like to work with?

“Big D? He is amazing! He is so talented…” Prew breaks off the conversation and tells me he is unsure about the use-by date on the milk he is about to put into his coffee. “It says November 9th. That’s probably off right?” Its 10 days off. I decided its time to jump in and save the day myself. “Definitely don’t put that in there,” I say. Prew agrees after smelling the contents of the carton to make sure.

“The whole team involved in the show do live tweeting when the episodes go out. That’s a really cool thing that I don’t think many others do.” Prew continues. “There are no divas on set – I guess if you can’t see any divas on set, then it means you must be that diva though. We have a great time and Dermot is really cool.”

As well as launching a new show, Augustus has also joined the cast of Prison Break. What was it like being involved in such a well-known series?

“I felt I was part of something really special. These people haven’t seen each other for the best part of a decade so it was a return for them, but also a new format. Its set in Yemen now, we’re not in Illinois anymore. We shot in Morocco, and with some of the original cast, but it was about the feeling of the country we were in. It was a real bonding experience. We were filming in the middle of the Sahara desert. Everyone had food poisoning at some point. There are some unbelievable stunts involved, every single day we are jumping out of a plane, blowing up buildings, diving off trains, detonating gas stations… It’s a full-blown action movie. When you are working 16-hour days, everyday, you are in the club, whether you’re new or old.

“There are whole chunks of it shot on the water. We did some filming in Vancouver as well. Wentworth Miller [star of the original series] is actually writing me a green card letter at the moment. All of my scenes are basically with him. We go off and have the adventure in the show. I felt so welcomed from the start.”

With Prew having spent the year in LA, working on so many different projects and having found love with someone who he now lives with, it looks like the move is permanent.

Oh, and he can thank me later for saving his life from that milk.

Pure Genius airs on Universal Channel Wednesdays at 9pm