Tomorrow, Peacock will launch and one of its biggest new projects is an original TV series based on Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, a dystopian novel about an apathetic population controlled by an authoritarian government who uses pop culture distractions, class conflicts, and drugs to keep everyday people under control. The series was filmed last year, but of course by the time it hits the air, the world is in its fourth month of a deadly pandemic that has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions recovering from a devastating virus. Meanwhile, there are demonstrations in the streets against state violence and a never-ending string of people engaging in antisocial and often violent acts against one another.
That begs the question: what was it like to film a dystopian story -- in a world that already feels like it's falling apart? During the Peacock press junket, we asked a number of the actors to address the question.
Brave New World imagines a utopian society that has achieved peace and stability through the prohibition of monogamy, privacy, money, family, and history itself. As citizens of New London, Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd) and Lenina Crowne (Brown Findlay) have only ever known a rigid social order, a perfect pharmaceutical called Soma, and a culture of instant gratification and ubiquitous sex.
Curious to explore life beyond the strictures of their society, the two New Worlders embark on a vacation to the Savage Lands, where they become embroiled in a harrowing and violent rebellion. Bernard and Lenina are rescued by John the Savage (Alden Ehrenreich), who escapes with them back to New London. The arrival of John, a subversive outsider, in the New World, threatens to disrupt the stability of New London's utopian society.
Brave New World will also star Hannah John-Kamen, Kylie Bunbury, Demi Moore, Sen Mitsuji, Joseph Morgan, and Nina Sosanya. The series will be written by Brian Taylor, Grant Morrison, and David Weiner, the latter of whom who will serve as executive producers, alongside Black Mirror: San Junipero's Owen Harris and Amblin TV's Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey.
"I've done a lot of dystopian. I've done a lot of sci-fi myself. It is always, always mirroring the real world and kind of quite scarily now. And I think, it was just amazing because I already read the book such a long time ago and to be part of this new London world where everything's perfect, everything's pharmaceutical now, everything, there's no such thing as privacy. There's no such thing as currency and money and it's scary. It's appealing. It's the world we live in. It's mad. It's kind of traumatic to think about, but when you're actually playing it, you have to play it like it ain't no thing but a chicken wing.
"It's great. It's fun, like this is the life, like this is who we are and where we are. And to actually kind of play that role for such a long time, and then as this story goes on, it's interesting when you kind of go home and go, 'Oh yeah, that isn't the world we live in,' and to be on such an even kilter all the time, you can't operate like that. You need the imperfections in order... I mean, the imperfections are the perfections of the world and yeah, it was interesting."prevnext
"In a way, as soon as we finished filming, the world fell apart. So the conditions in which it's being released, are very different to the conditions it was been made in. But in some ways, yeah, you need to have a glimpse of a society that's, at least, outwardly, super happy. Would that be very annoying in this time? Or actually would have been a nice distraction? The fact is that it is a society that is not happy ultimately, because it's not free. And the relationship between those two concepts is definitely, I think, one of the central themes for our show.
"At a time when our freedoms were definitely curtailed, to a certain extent, for all sorts of different reasons this year, it's an interesting question to ask. And there have been times, I'm sure, when you'd happily take a summer and snap out and just look the other way. I think it's an interesting story to be part of last year, actually, in talking still about the things that were happening then, and finding relevant aspects of it. Because when Huxley wrote it in 1932, he had no idea what would be happening in the rest of the 20th century. And yet, he predicted this society that would be in constant need of distraction and wouldn't be able to handle anxiety and to avoid conflict. And I don't quite know how he did that."prevnext
"Yeah. It's a little on the nose, isn't it? Yeah, it was really interesting because there's so many parallels. I guess in some ways it was nice to escape our version and go into a different version, if that makes any sense. Because it's not like this other version in New London is any better, but at least there were cool outfits and cool parties and some Somas and stuff."prevnext
"What I hope for the series is that it's able to hold a mirror up to some of the events or rising tides or currents that have been moving through our world in these intense ways, and give us a chance to think about them differently, have more perspective on them. The show really tackles these huge, broad, conceptual, philosophical questions, and yet at the same time, it's all rooted in the messiness and the complication and the human emotional fear and angst and pain and love and joy. I think it's hopefully a lens through which we can look through what's going on in a very human way."prev