Picture a world in which corporations control everything, and wield unlimited power. In which they wage Cold Wars like nations. In which they’re given the freedom to create their own laws, and enforce those laws under penalty of death. In which people are divided into a poverty-stricken “red zone” and an affluent “green zone.” It doesn’t sound so different from the state of America in 2016. But when today’s headlines grow ever more unbelievable than the most far-fetched of fantasies, it’s weirdly, ironically appropriate that Syfy broadcast a show like Incorporated.
Premiering on Wednesday, November 30, at 10 PM, Incorporated posits a near-future nightmare not unlike that of George Orwell. Indeed, Carriers‘ director Alex Pastor, who co-created the show with his brother David, calls it “a reverse 1984,” one that substitutes capitalism for the classic novel’s Stalinism. But Incorporated‘s big ideas surround the simple tale of a man, Ben Larson (Reign‘s Sean Teale), fighting to save the woman he loves, Laura (Kings‘ Allison Miller), by positioning himself within the very same corporation, SPIGA, that controls her fate. In climbing the mother of all corporate ladders, he encounters the mysterious Julian (Dennis Haysbert) and Elizabeth (Julia Ormond), the public face of SPIGA. Teale, Haysbert, and Ormond joined Pastor and executive producer Ted Humphrey at today’s TCA (Television Critics Association) press tour in Los Angeles, where they spoke of how disturbingly close Incorporated gets to our own industrial landscape…
“The original idea for this project was a movie,” says Pastor. “It became a TV show. Having 10 hours ahead of you and multiple seasons allows you to explore the world you’re creating in depth… The first three or four page pages of [the original] treatment were just world describing. I’m excited this allows me to get to the nitty-gritty of the world building.”
Humphrey says, who’d previously worked with Haysbert on The Unit, says, “Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Pearl Street Films brought it to me. You’re always looking for that thing that you’re genuinely not seeing. I think this was that thinking. There’s nothing else like it. I love grounded speculative fiction of this kind. It was all about, ‘How do we produce this on a budget? How do we craft a story over a certain number of episodes that’s serialized?’ It’s the same process as any show, but it’s easier when you have exciting material to work with.”
Pastor adds, “We envisioned our show as an extended version of reality. In this case, corporations have the rights to make their own laws and treat their employees however they see fit. To torture or execute them if they see fit… I wouldn’t consider the show post-apocalyptic per say.”
Haysbert, who credits Humphrey with producing “the most well-rounded character I’ve ever played” in Now and Again, explains, “I think the sci-fi comes from the dystopian style. Lavish luxury—and what happens in the ‘Red Zone,’ which is post-apocalyptic. All those things we’re hearing [in the news]. It reads very real to me. Even though it’s not there yet, a few misplaced politicians and some other crazy things happening in the world…”
While Incorporated‘s politics may sound black and white, those immersed in them are refreshingly complex. Chief among them is Haysbert’s character, who’s agenda will only become clear as the series progressed.
“As you move on,” says the award-winning actor, “you’ll see a lot of facets of Julian that you will come to like, come to be concerned with, come to fear to a certain point. You’ll also see a lot of compassion. Every episode I find out some something new about Julian. He’s a man who’s actually trying to protect his family.”
Teale says, “[Incorporated] does demonstrate the dichotomy between the two worlds. The red zone and the green zone are viewed through [Ben’s] eyes.” The actor adds that his new show, unlike Reign, requires him to wear “a corset made of Burberry suit instead of corduroy.”
As for Elizabeth, whose visage is omnipresent throughout SPIGA, Ormond says, “She’s the face but I’m not sure her inner world is joyful… All of the characters will have hidden motivations. The corporate world and the green zone are still under the pressures put on them because of this dystopia. They still have to make decisions dehumanizing to other people in order to protect their families.” With a laugh, she adds, “It’s one of the most stressful roles I’ve ever played.”
While Pastor tells us Incorporated‘s darkness will be cut with a healthy amount of black comedy, Haysbert is quick to point out how it represents a future that American moves perilously closer to with every act of bigotry and brutality exploited by those who would oppress its citizenry.
“The power people have over other people is growing and growing,” he says. “We’re just pulling back the veil. I just saw something about the [first] Black Lives Matter march, which was in 1902. Nothing has changed. Until we learn some tolerance, until we learn that we are all one… Our DNA is the same. I think the first time ‘white’ was used was the 1960s. Because we were [originally] described as being where we came from—Irish, German… Now everyone’s going for a power grab, trying to figure out who’s on top. I’ll tell you who’s on top… There has always been that one person who’s looked down on everyone, and until we figure that out, this is where we’re headed.”
Check out the following just-released “first look” at Incorporated…
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