Showrunner David Wiener Offers a Glimpse at His 'Brave New World' (VIDEO)
Dust off that old paperback—Aldous Huxley’s groundbreaking dystopian novel is getting a glow up.
Whether you groaned through or delighted in the 1932 futuristic book, a common reading assignment for high school lit classes, Peacock's fresh take on Brave New World is just that—a new world, updated from Huxley's original vision.
"I don’t want to spoil the ride for anyone, but readers of the book will recognize the key plot points of the novel within our show," showrunner David Wiener (Homecoming, Fear the Walking Dead) notes. "The biggest differences are in our imagining of New London and other important settings like The Savage Lands. One of our challenges in making this show was to take Huxley’s ideas of what the future might look like and expand those ideas to fit with our current sense of culture and technology."
Right from the start, viewers will be introduced to the drastically different worlds of New London and The Savage Lands. First up is New London, a pharma-driven, all-powerful society where its pill-popping citizens are classified at creation into various castes. Though there's an obvious hierarchy (just look at their pins!), everyone belongs to everyone, there's always a pill (called "soma") to boost your mood, and withholding from pleasure—whether your own or someone else's—is selfish. Early on though, viewers will see New London inhabitants Alpha Plus Bernard Marx (Game of Thrones vet Harry Lloyd) and Beta Plus Lenina Crowne (Jessica Brown Findlay) question why certain things, like monogamy, are banned.
Lenina, in particular, is given a major re-do for the series and steps into the spotlight for a much larger role than in the book. "The Lenina of the novel doesn’t change a great deal over the course of that story and functions mostly as a foil," Wiener says. In the show, he continues, "Lenina is often the center of the story. She’s the first character we meet and becomes our lens into the world. For me, as a writer, Lenina’s character provided the most exciting opportunity to dramatize the experience of living within New London’s social hierarchy."
And get ready for a serious view. The city of New London provides a striking backdrop to all the horrors of the pharmacology-worshipping society. Building the metropolis was not a task that was taken lightly, according to Wiener. "To make New London beautiful and real, we brought on civic planners and architects to design and partnered with ILM [the visual effects company owned by Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Studios] to construct a massive, detailed, virtual city," he explains. "I’ve never seen anything like it on television. I [saw] it every day in post-production and honestly, it still gives me chills."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the railroad tracks lies The Savage Lands, the origins of which are explained in Episode 2. The jarring, desert-set, theme park nightmare, where New Londoners vacation to ogle the natives, is home to Alden Ehrenreich’s John (aka "John the Savage" for you book fans), a prop master for one of The Savage Lands' shows, who lives with his hard-drinking mother, Linda (Demi Moore). John has evolved from the book too, having shifted his love of William Shakespeare to an angsty fondness for Lou Reed. However, he still almost immediately winds up in over his head. "John may act tough but, when 'tough happens' he’s usually on the wrong side of it," Wiener teases.
There's a lot to take in while watching Brave New World, a statement that is just as true for the original text, which was immediately well-received back in the day (though don't forget, it was banned from classrooms in the '80s for its portrayal of sex). That said, Wiener argues that Huxley's work holds more value now, in this crazy year of 2020.
"The themes of Brave New World were powerful and universal in 1932," the showrunner says. "But today, given our relationship to technology and pharmacology, they’ve become even more resonant. To what extent will humans go to avoid discomfort? Is pain a defining element of our humanity? Would we rather be happy or be free? What is the price of conformity? And, of course, the question Huxley puts to all of us… Would we surrender love and meaning for a life of sex without consequence, drugs without side effects, entertainment without end? Would you?"
Watch an exclusive sneak peek at the new series below!
Brave New World, Season 1 Premiere, Wednesday, July 15, Peacock