Based on the groundbreaking novel by Aldous Huxley, the Peacock original series Brave New World shows that the reality of a utopian society of peace and stability isn’t always the harmonious vision that it would appear to be. In New London, monogamy, privacy, money, family, and history itself are prohibited, but in order to find balance, all of the citizens partake in a drug called Soma to help them achieve the happiness that they’re expected to eternally experience.
During the virtual press day for the new TV series, co-stars Alden Ehrenreich, who plays Savage Lands resident John the Savage, and Demi Moore, who plays his mother Linda, a woman whose past has bled into every aspect of her present, talked about what hooked them on this story, creating a believable look for the show, exploring their characters’ unusual mother-son relationship, the trappings of a world that forces you to experience pleasure, what would most surprise audiences about what it takes to make this show, and what they most enjoyed about playing their characters. Ehrenreich also talked about whether he might ever get to return to the role of Han Solo.
Collider: There are just so many interesting layers of this story to dig into and explore, and I’m completely hooked. What was it like for you guys reading this? Did you get hooked on the story when you were reading the script? What made you want to be a part of telling this story?
ALDEN EHRENREICH: For me, the thing that I thought stood out the most was that the show is tackling these very grand philosophical questions that are obviously put forth in the novel, and talking about society, and talking about class, and talking about sexuality, but your guide through all of it is that you’re living through the way that those things manifest themselves in the day to day, moment to moment emotional experience of the people in these worlds. And I thought the way in which each scene was the most emotional, messy version of what these people’s lives and intimate lives are like was a more compelling way to get at that, and felt much more human and much more real than something that might be more prescriptive, or something.
This is a show where the look of these lands is very important and if those visuals aren’t there, it could feel very cheap, or like a set, as opposed to a real place. What was it, in conversations with the creative team, that really reassured you and really sold you on the vision that they had for this and how they would bring it to life?
DEMI MOORE: Going in, the scope of what was going to be needed to make this as grand as it needed to be was something that they were clearly committed to, and you could see that in what was being built. For me, I was really existing only in the Savage Lands, and surprisingly, it took a lot to create that apocalyptic world of the future that was broken down. I just think it was clear from the get-go that, if you’re gonna do this, you have to do it right.
Alden, how was it for you getting to be in both the Savage Lands and New London?
EHRENREICH: The look of the show is believable, in both the Savage Lands and New London, as worlds that people would have created. They did not go so sci-fi or apocalyptic with it that it feels comic book-y or like a genre movie. In some sense, these worlds are justified by what humans might create for themselves as utopia. A lot of New London looks like renderings of forward-thinking, eco-shopping malls that exist now. They couched it in the humanity. It is sci-fi, but it’s using sci-fi to talk about the world we’re in now and reflect that back to us, as opposed to create an escape from it.
This really is so cinematic, and it’s so impressive to see what has been accomplished with it. How did this shoot feel during the production? Did it feel like it was on the level of anything you’ve done in film?
EHRENREICH: In many respects, yes. The thing that’s different to me is that, in a film project, it’s more director-driven. This is the first series that I’ve really done. Wrapping my head around the staggered version of the power hierarchy, or who the boss is and who’s setting that tone, that’s a lot clearer when it’s a director on a film, especially a writer/director on a film. So that was the only aspect that felt different, but that being said, the directors we had were really strong and there was a real intention to make this feel like a film.
MOORE: And I think the cinematography also really speaks to that. I, too, have never done a series, but when it came to the look of it, there were moments that we had, in some of the scenes, that felt like a Swedish film. The lighting was so rich and was telling so much of the story, along with everything else
Alden, when you do something like this, does it compare, in any way, to a shoot for something like Solo? Does the Star Wars universe still feel bigger than anything else you’ve done, or is the scope of this pretty on that level?
EHRENREICH: The scope of this is pretty big. It’s not quite Star Wars big. Star Wars really lives in the spectacle of these things, whereas this really lives in the moment to moment, person to person of at all. It felt really different because this really felt, essentially, like a drama and a love story. There’s a great sense of humor to it and a sense of satire, but it’s really grounded. Whereas the fun of Star Wars and the enjoyment of it is that it’s a completely different world and people act in this fun way that’s somewhat camp and somewhat stylized. Having come off of Star Wars, this didn’t feel like a sci-fi thing at all, in a way.
I really loved Solo and the cast, and I thought that was such a fun movie. Are you hoping that you might get to reprise that character at some point?
EHRENREICH: We’ll see. I don’t know. They’re figuring out what Star Wars looks like in our world today. In all ways, with the media landscape, everything’s so different, with the streaming services and everything, so we’ll see what comes of it. I think what’s exciting is that we’re living in a time where there’s a lot of out of the box thinking around what this might be. So we’ll see.
The mother-son relationship between your characters really is crucial to this story, in getting the audience to want to follow their journey. When did you guys first meet, and what helped you in establishing that relationship?
MOORE: Well, we met in Wales, or maybe it was London. We met over on the other side of the world. For me, at the root of it, is a mother that wants the best for her son, or what she believes is the best. There’s an interesting, immediate difference between their two worlds. Linda’s understanding of sexuality comes from New London, which is obviously more free. There is no monogamy. It’s a social body. I think that spills over into her behavior towards her son. What would be, in some ways, a bit unnatural for what we consider to be a mother-son relationship.
Your character also has a very distinct look that’s different from how we’re used to seeing you. When it came to exploring the character, how did that help you in finding her, and what is the real fun in getting lost in the character in that way?
MOORE: For someone who went from never experiencing pain to being abandoned and left to have a child, and also remembering that people in New London don’t age or don’t fall apart, and everything about what her life had has become is survival, the look was something that the creative team really wanted to try, to really take it away and make it somewhat unexpected. She’s really broken, this woman, but yet still trying to keep some semblance of attractiveness.
It’s such an interesting concept with the themes of this world, because forcing people to participate in pleasure seems to somewhat take the pleasure away from it all. Do you guys both personally feel like happiness comes more from a balance of things, rather than over-indulging in any one thing, like these characters try to do?
MOORE: First of all, happiness can only come from within you. In this dystopian world, you’re a hundred percent right, the social bodies’ actions are no different than getting up and having breakfast. I could see that it could take away the magic. But like anything, if it’s the only thing you know, then it’s the only thing you know. Only through Alden’s character do we get to really live what it might be for our experience, to be stepping into it and learning a new way of existing.
EHRENREICH: With the pressure for happiness, there are certain feelings that are okay and certain feelings that aren’t, and there are certain feelings that are good and certain feelings that aren’t. This is using sci-fi to talk about our world, so a massive ignorance around fulfillment or happiness needing to look a certain way, or to have a certain quality to it, and that bad feelings are bad to have, there’s a lot of wisdom in [Aldous] Huxley, and about the trap of that when you are disowning feelings that come up in you. Feelings you might have, like fear, anxiety, pain, grief and anger, if those things are being buried, the happiness you’re running through isn’t quite on a real foundation.
What do you think would most surprise people about what it takes to pull off a show like this?
EHRENREICH: With the orgy scenes, the people who were doing those scenes were such enormous troopers. We were shooting at three in the morning, in the middle of a Welsh forest, in a mud pit in the middle of that forest, waiting for hours and being given lunches in little boxes, and they just had a great attitude about it and a great sense of humor about it. That was very surreal to get used to.
It’s a whole new suffering for your art.
EHRENREICH: More on their part.
MOORE: I didn’t get to see any of that, but in watching it, even the choreography of the movements of it, I can’t imagine what that would take.
EHRENREICH: The orchestration of all of that was really phenomenal. And they made sure everyone was comfortable.
MOORE: It actually looks really beautiful.
Were there aspects of these characters that you particularly enjoyed getting to explore because they were things that you had never had the chance to play before?
MOORE: Yeah, there were definitely things stepping into Linda where, when someone is, as she is at the beginning, fairly unconscious, it’s very interesting, the level of freedom on one hand, that exists in their irresponsibility. With just how out of control she actually really was, I don’t know if I’ve never done that, but it was certainly an interesting part of the arc of somebody who wakes up to the moment that she’s been waiting for, the way she comes out of a slow death.
EHRENREICH: For me, there was a jaded mischief. There was a hostility and fun. There’s a term from this book, and I’m gonna fuck it up, but it was a dark pleasure of soured romanticism, and there was an element of that. Whereas in a lot of other roles that I’ve played, I was playing how I felt for a long time, which was deeply idealistic and romantic. There’s still that in here, but it has some other edges to it that were really fun.
Brave New World is available to stream at Peacock TV.