Utopia Showruner And Writer Gillian Flynn On Pandemic Parallels And More [LRM ONLINE INTERVIEW]


Amazon Prime Video’s latest series is a conspiracy thriller titled, Utopia. Like we mentioned before, this series focuses on a fictional pandemic, in a time when we ourselves are going through a real one. Awkward right? The series follows a diverse group of individuals who discover that a comic book called Utopia contains a real conspiracy. As they dive deeper into it they discover that the world is in imminent danger. Now it is up to them to try to save themselves and humanity.

Utopia has been adapted from Dennis Kelly’s original U.K. drama by the same name. It is written by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote Gone Girl and Sharp Objects. This series is her debut as a television showrunner. The eight-episode series will keep you on the edge of your seat as you also try to solve the mystery of Utopia. All while seeing parallels to some of the anxieties that plague our societies today.

With the series being released today, LRMOnline was able to join a roundtable discussion with Flynn about Utopia. The topics included the parallels with the real world and if Dr. Christie, played by John Cusack, is a villain. Check out the interview below.


Interviewer: Given the events of this year, did it change any way that you look at Utopia and do you see any parallels?

Gillian Flynn: You know, it didn’t change the way I looked at Utopia. Certainly the parallels were impossible to ignore. Particularly surprising was less spin… The medical and procedural stuff, because we had had kind of a pandemic specialist advising. So, a lot of that felt disturbingly familiar.  Having come from, having spent all of 2019 filming it and then suddenly be looking up from when I was editing to 24 hour news channels and I was looking at similar scenes was incredibly unsettling. I think what I was surprised about was the number of conspiracy theories that have popped up that I thought were much more unlikely to happen. Everything from the Bill Gates to well, the list could go on. But that was so similarly. Got so rampant, so quickly. So, I think that was the most surprising piece of it.


Interviewer: While I was watching the show  what I inferred was a theme of conviction versus loyalty or duty. And I wondered if that was kind of an intentional that you wanted to make, or if it’s something that just kind of came out in the final product.

Gillian Flynn: It’s interesting you picked that up. I don’t know that I was phrasing it as much like that, but certainly that idea interested me.. It’s on a similar theme of what we say we’ll do versus what we really will do. What is convenient versus what is hard to do. To me, that’s what comes down to a lot of different choices we make. That we can, we know what we’re supposed to say, and we certainly know what we’re supposed to do. But to actually make that choice when it gets hard. I think is always a really interesting debate because I’m someone who can get very, very stubborn about what I think needs to be done and falling through. Sometimes losing the spirit of the thing and in the pragmatic nature of the thing.

So to me, there are so many choices that get made that lose one or the other of those important pieces along the way. I think they need to sort of live within each other. You have to have that will to do the hard thing, because you have promised you showed her, you know you showed, but at the same time, you also have to have the good sense to know when a situation has changed and when a different outcome needs to happen. And that’s all why it’s hard to be human.


Interviewer: Can you describe a little bit between the, about the tension between Dr. Christie and his son, Thomas? Is there a little bit of a rift there or a competition?

Gillian Flynn:  Definitely. To me, it’s playing along a little bit of the theme of how we treat our children. I mentioned this in several different places that the Nelson Mandela quote about how a society treats his children to how when Christie earlier says “You’re my… A child of my loins”, by that biological impulse versus treating all children correctly, so it has to do with that. A bit with that imperative and I liked that they have this innate bit of conflict that Christie resents that Thomas isn’t exactly like him.

At the same time, I think ideologically, he would say “Of course all humans aren’t supposed to be like each other. That’s what makes humans different.” Because he knows that’s what he’s supposed to say. But at the same time, he’s like “Oh, Thomas doesn’t get it!”. So I liked that consistent conflict of I went to the trouble of having this, what was supposed to be my mini me, and it turns out that this creature has all of its own opinions and ideas and values and what the hell. Certainly that’s an ongoing theme in the show.


Interviewer: I wondered about sort of your framing of Christie as a villain in a sort of a cultural era where a lot of times we get these villains who lately. Especially, who are very sure that what they’re doing is right. So their villainy is a bit gray and arguments can be made in their favor. I wondered if you saw Christie that way, or if you kind of just saw him as a bad guy?

Gillian Flynn: No, I don’t. I never think of any of my bad guys as bad guys, but I think once the audience gets to what the ultimate plan is, and his ultimate goal, my hope is that some people will lean back and cross their arms and think “Oh, this guy and that other people will lean in and go, well, you know, he’s got a point.”, and interesting discussions will then ensue… is the hope. I didn’t want him to twirl his mustache or anything like that.

The same thing with Arby. I have a real fondness for Arby the assassin. Largely because Chris Denham is such a great actor, but I liked that anytime you have those divided loyalties like at the end of Silence of the Lambs, when you’re Hannibal Lecter’s slipping off and, and you’re like “Go, Hannibal!” And it’s like, wait, he killed many people. I like that moment where you’re kind of rooting or feeling for someone that you realize maybe you shouldn’t be.

You can watch all eight episodes of Amazon Prime Video’s Utopia now exclusivly on their streaming service!

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