We’ve seen actors play twins and clones, but Adam Scott’s gig on the Apple TV+ series “Severance” is a bit more complicated than that. (Yes, more complicated than cloning.)
Scott plays two versions of his character, Mark: Innie Mark, the affable new head of Macro Data Refinement (MDR) at Lumon Industries, and Outtie Mark, the widowed dude who drinks too much in a failed effort to forget he’s been widowed. It’s the same actual person, but since the character underwent the titular (and controversial within the context of the series) severance procedure, at-work Mark has no memories of his outside life and at-home Mark has no knowledge of his life as a Lumon employee.
Here’s how that basically works, within the “Severance” universe. After a specialized chip has been inserted in one’s brain, something within the Lumon elevator ride triggers the device, flipping the severed rider’s consciousness from one filled only with memories of their outside life to one filled with memories of only their interoffice experiences.
The reverse then happens on the way out of the building. Therefore, Scott and other actors playing severed employees would regularly be shifting from what they playfully call an Outtie to an Innie — or vice versa — each time the Lumon elevator doors opened.
“It was sort of this constant math problem to be working on throughout the season,” Scott told TheWrap. “Also we shot all nine episodes at once, so we were jumping all over the place.”
As if there needed to be a higher level of difficulty here.
It was “really important” to Scott, director Ben Stiller and series creator Dan Erickson that Mark “be one guy,” the “Party Down” star told us one day ahead of starting production on the “Party Down” revival.
“It’s not two separate people, two completely separate characters — it’s almost like two halves of one guy,” Scott said. “Outtie Mark has these 40-odd-years of life experience and he’s grieving his wife, and then Innie Mark is sort of clean as far as life experiences go. He’s, for all intents and purposes, only a couple of years old. But physiologically he’s carrying all of that stuff. He has those feelings — they’re somewhere in there — he just doesn’t have the capabilities to name and locate them.”
Scott does believe that, on some deep level, one’s “Innie” and “Outtie” experiences inform each other. Like, you know, that bump on Mark’s head that he definitely did not get from slipping on an overhead projector slide while carrying boxes. (Congrats on the gift card, though.)
Anyway, all of that heady, transition stuff happens within the blink of an eye– er, within the blink of an elevator ride and its door opening. (One’s eyes technically blink a bunch and roll back into one’s head.)
We asked Scott what he does to remind himself which of the two Marks he is supposed to inhabit before emerging from the elevator doors.
“You try and make all of those decisions of ‘What can I do, what can I not do?’ ahead of time so you can just free yourself up in the scene,” Scott said. “But it was a lot to sort of keep in the background as we were working our way through.”
And then we had a few lightning-round-style questions for Scott during our Zoom time; from which we can print two answers today without fear of spoilers. For starters, what is the “Allentown” connection here, we asked, referring to the word engraved on Mark’s crystal paperweight carved in the shape of his face. This reporter/Billy Joel fan wondered if it might be a reference to the Piano Man’s “Allentown,” a song that contains the spooky lyric “If we work hard, if we behave.” (Isn’t that so perfectly Lumon?)
The answer was a bit more simple than that. For now, at last.
“It’s the name of the file that I was able to finish in record time,” Scott said. “As far as where those names come from, I’m not sure.”
Then, perhaps the biggie. What the hell is Macro Data Refinement even doing with those weird files on those old-ass computers?
“I will say that we as actors are far more curious about it than the characters in the show, save for Helly,” Scott said. “I think these guys have kind of settled in to not knowing, and it’s OK to them, which is something that starts to change a little bit over the season. It’s something to be explored in a Season 2, ultimately.”
Episodes 1 and 2 of “Severance” are out now on Apple TV+. New episodes roll out weekly on Fridays, one at a time.