The conspiracy thriller from Amazon Prime Video, Utopia, has now been out for almost a week. Since it’s release we have put out various interviews with some of the cast as well as the award-winning writer, Gillian Flynn. This eight-episode series focuses its attention on a comic book conspiracy. Utopia has predicted the end of the world and now a group of misfits must come together to solve the mystery of the book. In the process, they may not only save themselves but the world as well.
“Where is Jessica Hyde?” This is a common question that every one early on is trying to figure out in Utopia. She is played by the talented Sasha Lane. She is in search of Utopia as it will reveal her past and the whereabouts of her father. Another very interesting character that we see early on is the young boy, Grant, played by Javon Walton.
LRMOnline had the opportunity to take part in a round table interview with both of the above-mentioned cast members. We talk about their individual roles, the violence, and killing in the series, as well as their thoughts on the pandemic. You can check out down below!
Interviewer: What makes your character so interested in the dystopia Utopia conspiracy?
Javon Walton: Grant is just a character that is super interested in conspiracy theories. He’s loved them forever. He just is thinking to get his hands on Utopia would just be awesome. So, he goes out and tries to get Utopia, but he doesn’t know sacrifices and consequences that are going to be made to be able to get it.
Interviewer: When you’re presented with a project like this that not only involves the comic book craze, but it also involves the deep state. What’s your first reaction in being presented with this project? Then what was the final catalyst for you to sit there and say, “yes! I need to be this character?”
Sasha Lane: Yeah there’s this comic book craze, but my interest hit with the full spectrum of the world. The stakes and the kind of friendships forming. The weird bonds and all of that, just kind of the relativeness, the craziness, the conspiracy. I think putting all that together was what hooked me in this and made it pass something of just love for comic books. Then Jessica Hyde was amazing, and that’s what sold me.
Javon Walton: When I first went in to try out for Grant, I thought it was an awesome character. I loved how many layers he had to him. I was just super interested in a project like this with such a street smart kid. Grant doesn’t want to play a really cool person, that super street smart, it’s just really fun.
Interviewer: How do you go into playing such a complex character. Someone with such history, but at the same time, an unknown history. And now you have to rely on people who are reading it out of a graphic novel to help you discover your past?
Sasha Lane: I think you go in acknowledging it just for that. This is a very complex character. This is someone who you can’t off the bat say is good or bad. You won’t necessarily like her decisions. But you learn to understand her decisions. Then you start to just take on Jessica Hyde. I became, I acknowledged what kind of mannerisms she’s going to have.
ALSO SEE: JOHN CUSACK ON HIS ROLE IN THE EERILY RELEVANT AMAZON SERIES UTOPIA [LRM EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
I went into the mind and the psychology of a girl who’s been in survival mode. She has a mission. She will do whatever it takes and you take key elements like that and you live in that space. So I think that’s kind of what helped drive everything else.
Also, the real frustration of here is this damn comic book that has a lot to do with my life, but that you’re so enthralled in for reasons other than mine. I’m frustrated that somehow you can kind of decode these things. I’m having to rely on people, which is not a common thing for me. I usually rely on myself. So now I’m relying on you to kind of help tell me about the life I’ve been wanting to know since forever.
Interviewer: One of the cool things about Utopia is the chemistry between Grant and Alice. How much time do you guys spend together before? How did you guys develop such a good relationship to do a really good job on screen?
Javon Walton: Well to start off, before we did teams, we had a lot of off-time where we got to hang out. It really formed that brother-sister kind of relationship. And over time we built that up and that’s how we became really close in the show and good dynamic.
Interviewer: This show has its intense moments and a bit of levity every once in a while. When you have those moments of levity, how much easier is it for you on set to sit there and go, “okay we’ve dealt with the heavy stuff. Now when they call cut, we can just at least enjoy ourselves a little bit”?
Javon Walton: There’s been a lot of moments where there’s a lot of heavy scenes right. But after those scenes are over, you’re so much better than we have the rest of the day. Now, these are just super fun scenes. So there’s definitely been scenes like that, but that’s what makes it enjoyable. That you can like really be able to like get the heavy stuff out of the way and then be able to get to like the really fun stuff.
Sasha Lane: Yeah, it definitely is. I mean don’t get me wrong, my favorite parts were the killing parts and just how crazy that was. But I think towards the end there were moments where I would be in my chair like I don’t want to kill anybody today. I just want to coast. I just want to say what’s up and you know, maybe Jessica Hyde sits down for once. But you know, not very often, but when you had moments like me and Ian in the car and it cracked me up. Our dynamic and things that you just get to chill out on a little more. It’s nice to have a breather from murder.
ALSO SEE: UTOPIA SHOWRUNNER AND WRITER GILLIAN FLYNN ON PANDEMIC PARALLELS AND MORE [LRM ONLINE INTERVIEW]
Interviewer: Speaking of not wanting to kill anymore. I was wondering, do you think your character, Jessica, maybe regrets one of the early season kills? The actual question really goes, what does it take for Jessica to finally let her guard down with the group at least a little bit? I don’t think it ever goes away.
Sasha Lane: I definitely don’t think she regrets that kill. I know, of course, that’s the homegirl, but that was a good kill and it was very necessary. I think anything that is necessary will be done. That’s just the mentality of Jessica Hyde. I think it’s really not till the end that she starts to take a little bit off. She starts to find herself thinking having to use these people isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world because sometimes it’s entertaining. It’s kind of nice to have a little interaction, you know?
So I think it will take a lot to really let her put her actual guard down because in a split second, as you even see, there are moments where she’s thinking okay, maybe… Really? See, fucked up again, she doesn’t have room, she doesn’t have time. It’s just, her world doesn’t allow her to really ease up.
Interviewer: Keeping in theme with that. You did mention that you didn’t want to kill anybody that day or a specific day in the earlier episodes. The ones that are at least going to drop first, was there a moment of intensity where you’re like, wow, this is a little too insane, but it’s definitely going to make this character be more entertaining for the audiences or at least get into the psyche of the character?
Sasha Lane: I thought this kill makes sense. This kill is right. This kill will be fun to do. I think it puts you in the mindset, each one is, she does not necessarily aim to play around. Each shot is a kill shot. That kind of puts you in the mindset of whatever is quick and fast and whatever is needed and necessary will be done. I think you really start to learn that in that she’s calculated and for good reason.
Interviewer: I was really curious about both your guys’ opinions on Christopher Denham’s Arby. Because you guys have some interactions with him and he’s a very, very strange twisted character. And I want to know how you guys feel about working with him on set.
Javon Walton: Arby is a cool guy, usually cool. But on set, he brought it all, because he brings out strangeness to light. It’s so strange. You’re like, “Oh my gosh,” you know what I mean? It’s really good though. And he’s a nice guy. I remember we were in the elevator going up one floor and he was like, “Oh, I’ve been expecting you” as a joke. Where the scene started. It was mad funny, but he was like creepy at the same time. He was actually going to shoot me with the gun.
Sasha Lane: That’s exactly it, he killed Arby. It was such a staple. To the point where we were like, “no it’s just Arby”. But nope, there’s a whole human behind this role. The way he did it, I love the kind of, it’s just psychotic and there’s something. But do I actually want to give you a hug because now I’m starting to feel something. It is incredible. I love Arby.
Interviewer: There’s a lot of gray areas in this and there’s moral ambiguity where sometimes it seems as if we can justify the behavior of the characters. Was there a moment of reflecting on it, going, “okay, me as a person wouldn’t do that, but I could see why this character would want to do so”?
Javon Walton: Definitely. I definitely agree with that. I wouldn’t kill a person for no reason. But I could see why the character would want to do that at times. Things get frustrating when you’re living in a world like that. Everything is so twisted because you have this one thing that everybody wants their hands on. I could definitely see the reasons why Grant would do that and I wouldn’t.
Sasha Lane: It’s illegal to do what she does. So I think to me, well, obviously I can’t do that. I actually, don’t really have the aggression in me, like I used to. So I think I’m a lot calmer. I could walk away. My mind’s a lot more peaceful. But I definitely understood why she did it. A part of me, the weird sick part of me who can’t present herself to the world like that, is like, I’d do it too, but that’s not good to teach people. But I get it.
Interviewer: After filming the first season of Utopia and then after going through what we are going through now in 2020, do you guys look back and kind of see maybe parallels to it or see things are similar that are maybe kind of strange in that aspect?
Sasha Lane: I see it and I also am like, eh. But I feel like also it’s not even just now, yes, there is a major pandemic and it’s freaking crazy. But also these viruses, especially that we’re talking about and the things that have kind of happened have existed for a while. We’ve lived through them. Other people have lived through them. They’ve happened before we were alive. As well as conspiracy theories have existed since forever. There’s always multiple sides to those. So I think it’s kind of like, been there, but also, damn okay, relevant.
Javon Walton: As far as if they’re alike for me, it’s crazy that the timing has a line like this. We shot about a pandemic and now we are in a pandemic, which is crazy. But I don’t really think that they’re too similar because if you get the disease in Utopia, you’re going to die. So they’re not as similar in that way, but Corona’s pretty dangerous too. Really pretty dangerous.
You can watch all eight episodes of Amazon Prime Video’s Utopia now exclusively on their streaming service!
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