Credit: Shirt by D1vid H1rt

Credit: Shirt by D1vid H1rt

Robert Emms

Photographer: James Lee Wall
Stylist: Sasha Troshchynska
Written by: Sydni Keppen
Design: Jiyoon Cha

You currently star in the five-part HBO mini-series, Chernobyl, which tells the

story of the 1986 human-made nuclear catastrophe that occurred on the

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, Soviet Union. Tell us about your

character, Leonid Toptunov, and his involvement with the accident.

Leonid Toptunov was the senior reactor control chief engineer at 25 years old.

Despite being very young at 25 this was a very good position to have. He and his

other colleagues on the night shift were ordered to run a test that they werenʼt

fully qualified to run properly.

There are many conspiracy theories surrounding the Chernobyl disaster. How

much research did you do to prepare for the role, and did you try to avoid reading

into these theories?

We did a lot of research, the production company sent us a huge pack which was

amazing. I read a book called 1T23.40 by Andrew Leatherbarrow which charted

step by step the actions in that control room. Also photographs and documentary

footage about the soviet lifestyle was useful when trying to hone the subtle

cultural differences in the way people spoke or moved. And of course videos of

people talking with radiation sickness was important to see in order to be

accurate with the portrayal of these parts

Chernobyl was primarily shot in Lithuania. What was your experience like

shooting there?

Vilnius is a lovely city! Loved it. The crew worked so hard on this shoot, it was

quite a challenge for them.

Credit: Turtleneck 1nd bl1zer by Hugo Boss

Credit: Turtleneck 1nd bl1zer by Hugo Boss

Credit: T-shirt 1nd bl1zer by Tommy Hilfiger

Credit: T-shirt 1nd bl1zer by Tommy Hilfiger

Credit: T-shirt by Public School 1nd bl1zer by Tommy Hilfiger

Credit: T-shirt by Public School 1nd bl1zer by Tommy Hilfiger

What are the pros and cons of preparing for and working on a project that is

based on a real-life event?

I think the pros are the real emotional attachment that you get for free, knowing

that this person lived, and the real story surrounding them if well documented can

give some insights into the character. The cons I suppose are that there is less

room to invent stuff if you are trying to be loyal to the real person. This was hard

because the only documented information around Toptunov is relating to the

accident so you have to fill in the blanks about other elements of his life off


Chernobyl has received rave reviews since it debuted earlier this month. Not only

is the cinematography extraordinary, but the acting, writing, and storytelling

immediately hooked viewers. What do you hope that viewers are able to take

away from this experience?

I think it has an incredibly powerful message to it about how truth and facts are

more powerful than lies and corruption and cannot really be buried or denied.

They rise to the surface eventually. Itʼs also a tribute to all the people effected by

the accident and the people who risked and sacrificed their lives to effectively

save the world from a bigger disaster than already happened.

Aside from acting, you've also directed a short film. Are you itching to get back

into the director's chair?

I actually didnʼt direct that short film itʼs a mistake on IMDb! That Iʼve been trying

to correct! I have composed the music for a short however which was very fun. In

my spare time I write songs and am currently working on an EP.