“It was just a joyful experience to come to work every single day,” admits Alison Pill about working on the acclaimed psychological sci-fi drama “Devs,” in which she plays a mysterious scientist that has discovered a machine that will change humanity. “Everything about it was perfect.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Pill above.
“Devs” is writer and director Alex Garland‘s first foray into series television after his sci-fi films “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation.” It follows a young software engineer (Sonoya Mizuno) who believes that the secretive ‘Devs’ division of the Amaya corporation, a Silicon Valley quantum physics company where she works, is behind the murder of her boyfriend Sergei (Karl Glusman). Devs is the passion project of Amaya’s CEO Forest (Nick Offerman) and quantum physicist Katie (Pill), both of who we learn have developed a machine that can see literally backwards and forwards in time.
Like Garland’s previous features, “Devs” features visually and aurally striking elements, such as the internal gold-plated walls of the cubed Devs bunker created by production designer Mark Digby and set decorator Michelle Day and the avant garde electronic score by musicians Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow collaborating with The Insects (otherwise known as composers Tim Norfolk and Bob Locke). “It’s very rare to see both score and original music used so effectively and I’ll never forget the first time we walked into the cube,” Pill recalls when talking about the show’s look and feel. “It was such a magical, weird space to be in, like a casino where you don’t know what time it is outside.”
The series is a cerebral exploration of the concepts of determinism versus free will, while also being a contemplation about grief, motivation and fate. For Pill, it was particularly challenging to play a character that was initially ambiguous, not only because she was so initially morally ambiguous, but because she had discovered how to see into the future and therefore was very aware of her future actions. “Everything has to be incredibly conscious,” she explains of the way she performed each scene.
“The biggest question for us in any scene is has Katie seen this one before? Has she watched this one before,” she asks with a knowing look, alluding to the big reveal midway through the series when we learn that Forest and Katie know how the events of the following days will play out, because they have seen them played on eerily precise simulacra or simulations in the vacuum-sealed Devs machine ‘screening room.’ “Imagine the entirely surreal experience of living through a moment that you’ve seen. It’s very strange and something you don’t get to think about often but it’s not déjà vu, it’s a very conscious ‘I’m about to say this, I know I’m about to say this, here, I’m saying it.’ And so in all of those moments, I came into Katie through her stillness and her posture because,” she pauses, “I think the awareness of every action having been predetermined at that point means you have to be really conscious.”
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