‘Chernobyl’ Writer Discusses The Things He Included In The Show That Didn’t Happen In Real Life

Joshua RogersJoshua Rogers in Entertainment, TV
Published 10.06.19

Sky Atlantic and HBO’s new show Chernobyl is the highest rated TV series of all time, and now producer and writer Craig Mazin has addressed the key things he included for dramatic effect.

Chernobyl is the show on everyone’s lips and for good reason.

The series follows the infamous disaster in a Ukrainian town in 1986, and shows people a terrifying representation of what happened on that fateful day involving the meltdown of Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

It’s also now the top rated TV show on IMDb with a rating of 9.7 – surpassing the likes of Game Of Thrones and Breaking Bad -while sitting pretty with a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

High praise indeed.


The show has been widely praised for its faithfulness to the events that transpired. The Soviets who tried to use robots to clean the contamination site but eventually resorted to human labor? Yep, that happened. The ‘liquidators’ that had to kill all the contaminated animals in the area? Also true.


However, Chernobyl writer and producer Craig Mazin has recently addressed the main things he took dramatic license with.

The first regards a character, specifically, Emily Watson’s Ulyana Khomyuk – who actually didn’t exist at all.

Instead, Watson’s character is an amalgamation of other scientists who did exist.

chernobylEmily Watson's Ulyana Khomyuk character

For Mazin, though, placing a female character at the heart of the investigation made historical sense.

“One area where the Soviets were actually more progressive than we were was in the area of science and medicine,” Mazin told Variety.The Soviet Union had quite a large percentage of female doctors.”

“There were hundreds of scientists that worked on the problem of Chernobyl. Valery Legasov was the scientist in charge, but there were so many more involved, and a lot of them were in positions of opposition to Legasov. They were at times more aggressive about the dangers, they challenged him on some of the solutions he was considering. In order to consolidate these people into one, I felt I had to create a composite character,” he added.


So the actions of Khomyuk in the show did happen, it’s just that a number of people performed them.

Another thing Mazin included that didn’t happen in real life concerns the trial of the final episode, which switches between the Chernobyl trial and the reactor 4 accident.


In the episode, Legasov (Jared Harris) reveals exactly what happened in the power plant, but as Mazin puts it, both he and Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard) weren’t actually present at the time.

“Legasov was not at the trial. This was enormous dramatic license that I took out of necessity. I could have portrayed this trial exactly as it unfolded – with other people – but we wouldn’t have known who they were, and we wouldn’t have cared. It also took weeks and was quite boring,” said Mazin.


Furthermore, the helicopter crash in episode two isn’t entirely factual either, as it took place two weeks after the recovery – not, as the episode suggests, in the wake of the explosion.


In a statement to Men’s Health, Mazin said it was one of the few events that had to be moved around chronologically.

“I wanted people to know that this was one of the hazards that these pilots were dealing with — an open reactor. Radiation was flying over it,” he said.

There we have it; while the show more or less stuck to historical events, there were a few, key things added in for effect.

I want to watch it all over again, but I can’t bring myself to see some of those awful events over again.

I might have to.

Images via HBO/Sky Atlantic