Cancel all your plans, because your next binge-watch is about to arrive. Netflix‘s The Innocents is going to be your new obsession, and we finally have some information about the series a few weeks before it begins streaming. The YA sci-fi drama, created by Hania Elkington and Simon Duric, is about teenagers Harry (Percelle Ascott) and June (Sorcha Groundsell), who run away from their repressive families to be together. The series starts off like a sweet romance with the lovers hopeful about the beginning of the rest of their lives together, free from overbearing parents. But pretty quickly into their road trip, they’re derailed by an extraordinary discovery–June’s ability to shape-shift. That certainly puts a pretty hefty dent in their wide-eyed, naive plans to live happily ever after.
As the star-crossed loves struggle to understand and hopefully maybe control this strange new power, a mysterious professor reveals that June is not alone: there are more shifters out there like her, and he promises to cure June and reunite her with the mother who deserted her three years ago. But as their journey becomes increasingly fraught with danger, Harry and June’s love for each other is tested to its breaking point and they’re faced with a choice: keep their innocent dream alive, or embrace that their lives have changed and risk everything.
But watching June’s first transformation isn’t just jarring for her and her shocked boyfriend — it’s also entirely disorienting for the audience. Because the first person she shifts into accidentally is a large, burly Scandinavian man who had been hunting her. “There is a creepiness to it and we wanted to keep that edge,” Elkington told reporters at the 2018 Summer Television Critics Association press tour. But there is definitely a question to be raised about keeping the sweet emotions of June and Harry’s relationship alive when a large, bearded man is playing her in some scenes. So Elkington revealed that they make sure to always keep Groundsell in scenes when she’s shifted into someone else, making a two-person scene actually portrayed by three people, to keep their emotional connection alive. The use of mirrors became a useful tool, because June’s real face can be seen in mirrors whenever she’s shifted.
June’s sudden new power doesn’t entirely ruin her future relationship with Harry, but it definitely doesn’t help it either. “It’s fair to say it causes a little bit of trouble,” Groundsell said of her relationship. “The characteristics of shapeshifting, the nature of it is difficult and stressful. It’s a medical condition brought on by extreme emotional situations. It’s not controlled by her, it’s happening to her body out of her control. It’s frightening and disturbing. [The series] is very much exploring the psychological consequences of this issue.”
And that lends itself to a much deeper message of The Innocents. “We wanted to look at what it means to love someone unconditionally,” Elkington said. “We use shapeshifting within that young relationship to extrapolate that exponentially.” Ascott added, “It’s a case of can you love someone unconditionally and when can you just not accept things anymore.”
Along with that lesson, June will also learn, through her shape-shifting, who she is and how to be herself. “The main theme of the show is the nature of identity and this struggle that we all have growing up of finding out who we are,” Groundsell said. “I think that’s completely universal. That same question of who am I and what is my purpose is something that everyone feels.”
Rounding out the series is Guy Pearce‘s “complex” Dr. Halvorson. The medical doctor who had dedicated his life to studying June’s condition along with the other women who have it, including June’s own estranged mother, is going to be the “mysterious” character that makes you question whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy.
“He has a history in the UK and is someone who sees himself as not necessarily an outsider but someone who wants to carve his own path as far as how he wants to develop his medical path,” Pearce said. “He’s ended up in this part of the world he never thought he would end up and discovers in his partner this rare genetic malfunction where she shifts. Genuinely, he wants to get to the bottom of this, but his ego gets involved and he’s driven to make a name for himself.”
The Innocents begins streaming August 17 on Netflix. Are you excited to see it? Let us know in the comments.