The series finale of Devs debuted on FX on Hulu today, and it's safe to say that it raised more questions than it answered. The miniseries, which was created, written, and directed by visionary director Alex Garland, follows a potential conspiracy Devs, a secret division of the Silicon Valley tech company Amaya. The conspiracy in question - and the ramifications it could have on reality and free will itself - bring an array of people into Devs, including Katie (Alison Pill). The right-hand woman of Forest (Nick Offerman), Amaya's founder, Katie plays a significant and surprising role in the eight-episode miniseries, in part thanks to her complex views on the theory of the multiverse.
In honor of Devs' finale, we got to chat with Pill about her character's epic ending, and how working on the series has impacted her relationship to science and philosophy. In the process, we asked about the next miniseries Garland is working on (which is expected to feature the same ensemble cast in a drastically different plot), and her thoughts on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World's upcoming tenth anniversary.
ComicBook.com: What drew you to Devs? Because it seems like such a fascinating project all around.
Alison Pill: Well first, Alex's work, I think, is just some of the most interesting happening today. And I think that's been true for a while. Everything he had written, I thought was really interesting. And then, when he started directing his own work, I was just struck by the tension he was able to create in really interesting ways that were not expected. And then, the exploration of gender and technology and humanity and big moral questions that other people would shy away from, he found a way to make them relevant and real in daily life -- even if your life isn't like going into a weird alien forest. [laughs]
But the immediacy of that tension, I found really striking. And so, when I learned about this TV show and I was like, "Yeah, of course." Because Annihilation had been one of my favorite scripts that I've read. I was like, "This is crazy beautiful." So few people are capable or interested in making things that are not usual. So, there was that side to it.
And then, just reading the scripts, I was fascinated by the character of Katie. And also by the fact that, a viewer gets to put these things together that otherwise, they might be told in the first or second episode. It's not even twists and turns; it's not something that you could see coming, it's just a deepening and greater expression of what was already there, which I just think people don't usually have the patience to do or they're scared about an audience. Alex has great respect for an audience, as do I. I think the slow burn of it was really interesting to me, as well as the specifics of Katie herself.prevnext
Katie and Forest
I completely agree with that, and the way that the onion kind of gets unpeeled throughout the show. I feel like that's especially true with Katie's relationship with Forest, and the scene when you kind of learn, "Oh. They are somewhat romantically involved with each other." It's a thing that you're not expecting, but it also makes perfect sense given what you've already seen.
Yeah, and I think Katie is an incredibly honest person. So I think when she says, "I would rather it be me than anybody else. He needs somebody." The acknowledgment of that is very honest. At the same time, I think she's insanely generous to have taken on this man's dream, for his daughter to come back, and make it a reality. We were talking about the question that he asks when they meet, after that lecture scene, and it just cuts to "Is it possible?" Like, what would he be asking? "Is it possible to bring my daughter back?" And for her to say, "Yeah, I can do that for you." Just the generosity of that, I think, is really interesting.
And sure, it's for the sake of the science and everything else, but I admire her honesty and generosity in the midst of some really harrowing choices, that she would argue that she didn't even make. Because she is a true believer in determinism, as more helped by the evidence that she sees.
As for the question of their relationship, I think the Forest-Katie relationship, I just love it. It's complicated, but it makes perfect sense. I don't think anybody sees it and isn't like, "What? I didn't see that coming." Because it's not something that you do or don't see coming. As you say, it just kind of makes more sense with what you know so far. It's not out of left field, but it is a slight surprise. And potentially I think in that scene, it's surprising how she feels about Forest, in that scene at the end saying, "I might be in like with you."prevnext
I also wanted to ask about the scene at the dam, because technically and aesthetically and from an acting standpoint, that scene seems so complex and powerful and interesting. I was curious what it was like to portray that.
Okay. To be clear, I haven't seen it yet. I mean I did it, I know the scene you're talking about, obviously. But I haven't seen how it ended up being cut together, because even though I got the links to the episodes, I declined to watch them on a laptop. I just couldn't fucking do it.
I totally get that. I watched them on my laptop and then I went to an event that Alex was at, and watching it broadcast on a big screen was instantly like "This is how you're supposed to see this." My tiny little laptop screen didn't do it justice.
Seeing it at the premiere, I got to see it on the big screen and I was like, "Oh, man. I wish we could watch all eight episodes like this." Because it is a movie. All this to say, I haven't seen the scene yet, so I can't speak to the details too much.
But I think what it comes down to is: two people so invested in science and scientific exploration and a true belief in them and the excitement in that. We discussed ways to play that scene, but I just felt like, "Oh, my gosh. The enjoyment that Katie has with Lyndon who really did crack the puzzle." And potentially, we had discussed that Katie is actually always a fan of Many-Worlds Theory, that that was sort of satisfying to her. The proving of that to be correct was satisfying.
And Cailee is such an incredible actor to work with. We shot it over two days in technically, a tricky location. The sun sets, and we have to flip around, and we're just baking out in the middle of this little overpass and all of the things. I think that, and the scene with Sonoya in the kitchen, are just two of my proudest things I've ever been a part of. It's so rare that you get to have scenes between people about something, that's not plot in the general sense of it. It's a real discussion of moral or scientific or philosophical questions. And they're being posed by people. They're not just being posed by these intellectual ciphers, they're real people. The way that they discuss them is the way different people see these philosophical questions. They are character-driven in that way. They can seem kind of cool and solely intellectual, but I don't think that's true at all. I think they're really heart-filled scenes, despite the fact that they're pretty much pure philosophy, which is how philosophers and scientists feel. This is their life.
It was a pleasure to shoot, despite the difficulty of the location. And I'll just always be grateful for these scenes between two people that are just such a rarity.prevnext
What do you hope audiences take away from the ending? Because as it relates to Katie and to the other characters, it's such a complex and interesting ending. I feel like people are going to interpret so many different things from it.
I think the overall message is that whether Many-Worlds is real, whether determinism is real, can we argue? I don't know how we prove or disprove that. Well, maybe one day, but if it is true that the university is deterministic and many people fully believe that it is. Smart scientists believe it is. Then, it's not that nothing you do matters. It doesn't have to turn you into a nihilist, that free will is an illusion.
I think the overarching message of the show is honestly all about love. The only thing that has any point - whether the universe is deterministic, whether it's Many-worlds, whether anything - the difference you can make among your close friends, and the people you need is the only thing that matters.
The whole show is about how far love will take a person as a motivator, whether or not they have a choice in it. But that experience of, "You matter to someone", helps you find meaning in it. I think that is my message that I get from it, besides the implication that there will be literally near-infinite versions of every single reality that we live in. It's really hard to think about the probabilities, the way it branches. And how some probabilistic stuff has you leading towards -- there'll be more branches that have been like this [reality], like most branches will be very similar, but what are the outliers? Anyway. The science of it, and the data involved, and the statistics of what the near-infinite multiverses look like in each given instant is an insane amount of math to do in your head. It will cripple your brain.prevnext
I totally get what you mean. Since I was a kid, I've been the type of person who was terrified by The Butterfly Effect. And as I've understood more of the science behind it, it's really terrifying to think about, how many possible realities there are just stemming out of every single decision that I could ever make.
Well, and that you don't make a single decision ever in your life.
Have you read Exhalation, the Ted Chiang collection?
I haven't, no.
It's really, really wonderful. He speaks about the free will machine, or the determinism machine. It's just basically, there's a button that always knows before you're going to push it. It lights up right before you can. It's just a simple thing to show you that free will is an illusion, because it just turns on. No matter what, you can't fool the machine, because there's no such thing as free will.
In the story, it talks about people being crippled by that thought, and some people not being crippled by that thought. And it's just interesting in light of Devs. I think it's so interesting that Lily, Sonoya's character, really is the type of person who would look at that and just not accept it, the bravery and the insanity of it.
The only way you can actually have an act of free will is if you know that an act of free will is impossible. Basically, that the universe is deterministic. Anyway. I hope that people think about the philosophical implications. If the universe is deterministic, you can't have an act of free will until you know what you're going into, until you have a prediction machine that lets you know what you're going to do and then not do it or do something different. Yeah. It's pretty crazy.prevnext
When I've spoken to Alex in the past, he's mentioned that he is interested in doing another miniseries, ideally with the same cast. Is that something that you're hoping to be a part of?
Yeah. Yeah. I've read the first two episodes. I better be a part of it. As of now, we don't have character names. They're just our names.
So, there will be "Alison" or "Nick", which is pretty funny. But yeah, no. I think that we're all determined to be back. Who knows what anybody's going to be doing anytime soon? But yeah. It is my goal in life is to keep this going. It's been such a magical collaborative experience with just truly everybody, from the crew to our cast to Alex. It's been a real gift.prevnext
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is one of my favorite movies, and you're so great in it. The ten-year anniversary is coming up later this year. What is it like for the film to still have so much of a following a decade later?
Yeah, I don't know. Again, who knows now because everything's up in the air. If we have movie theaters to go back to, we'll see. But I know we were trying to get everybody together for the anniversary, because it would be fun to see everyone. That's a good group of people.0comments
All of Devs is available to stream exclusively on FX on Hulu.prev