Amazon’s upcoming series “Utopia” may hit a little close to home with its pandemic storyline, but the show’s cast promises it won’t remind you too much of the current state of the world.
“When we started it the pandemic wasn’t happening,” star John Cusack said during a Television Critics Association panel on Thursday. “But the themes of these people who were obsessed with utopia, who know within utopia lies a secret to a dystopic or apocalyptic future that included viruses, it included famine, perhaps nuclear accidents — so the theme itself covered a lot of that, but it was kind of disturbing and surreal to see it come so close to life with the pandemic.”
Adapted from the original British series by “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn, “Utopia” centers on a group of comic fans who meet online and bond over their obsession of a seemingly fictional comic called, “Utopia,” unearthing hidden messages within the pages that predict threats to humanity.
In addition to Cusack, the series also stars Dan Byrd, Ashleigh LaThrop, Jessica Rothe, Desmin Borges, Javon “Wanna” Walton, Rainn Wilson, Farrah Mackenzie, Christopher Denham and Cory Michael Smith.
“I don’t think there’s anything not weird about 2020 thus far, regardless of if you work on a show that had some sort of pathway to our pandemic or not,” said Borges. “Everything about 2020 is the weirdest it’s ever been, personally.”
Byrd added that even though the show bears that one similarity to real life, “Utopia” is “by no means a docudrama reality.”
“This is very much a comic book frequency that the pandemic is playing out in,” he said. “So I don’t really see people watching it and feeling like oh this is like watching the news, this is hitting too close to home. It’s really about the adventure that the group’s going on and these sort of intersecting storylines. The backdrop happens to be a pandemic, but it’s in a completely different context than what we’re experiencing right now.”
The cast said they hope audiences can see the show as a means of escape from the real world, be it through the more fantastical elements or the “dark humor” of Flynn’s writing.
“There’s moments where it just grabs you by the throat, and then there’s moments where there’s levels of brevity and you can kind of float along and enjoy it,” said Borges. “It’s nice to interweave between those, and get quite a bit of laughs along the way. So that it helps the mind, it helps the soul cleanse and continues to progress the plot forward and the characters forward.”
“It’s kind of the best of both worlds because it’s escapism with relevant elements,” said Byrd.