Sarah Shahi Says New NBC Series ‘Reverie’ Is ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Meets ‘Inception’

Reverie - Sarah Shahi
Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

Who among us hasn’t hated the alarm that ripped us away from a particularly felicitous dream? Reverie, NBC’s new “sci-fi emotional drama,” as executive producer Tom Szentgyorgyi calls it, posits a near future that allows people to create their own virtual reality and actually live in it — for a little while.

Think of it as “Alice in Wonderland meets Inception,” says star Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest), who plays former hostage negotiator and human-behavior expert Mara Kint. But feeling good can become a dangerous addiction: Stay in dreamland too long, and it will cause deadly harm to your body back in real life.

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When clients of the tech company that facilitates these inner voyages start dying, Mara is called in by exec Charlie Ventana (Dennis Haysbert) to enter the worlds of recalcitrant dreamers and talk them into returning to the real world. Each episode features a different case, “but the real central psychological drama is what happens to Mara,” explains executive producer Mickey Fisher. The fixer ultimately has to be fixed.

Haunted by loved ones her negotiating skills couldn’t save, Mara quit the police force years ago and began teaching college psychology. “This job represents a chance for redemption, with a new sense of purpose for Mara,” Fisher adds. The question is: How will digging into other folks’ dreams to discover why they’re stuck affect her own dreams — or even her sanity?

Don’t, however, expect Reverie to join the dystopian vision routinely offered by shows and movies dealing with future tech. Says Fisher, who was inspired by Google Cardboard, “This is a story about the importance of human connection, empathy and all the stuff wrapped up in that.” Sounds dreamy.

Reverie, Series Premiere Wednesday, May 30, 10/9c, NBC