From filmmaker Gregg Araki and sex columnist Karley Sciortino, as well as executive producers Steven Soderbergh and Greg Jacobs, the 10-episode, half-hour Starz comedy series Now Apocalypse is a surreal and wild coming-of-age story that follows Ulysses (Avan Jogia) and his friends – Ford (Beau Mirchoff), Carly (Kelli Berglund) and Severine (Roxane Mesquida) – as they explore identity, sexuality and love in the often strange city of Los Angeles. As his premonitory dreams become more troubling and seemingly apocalyptic, Ulysses begins to wonder if something dark and dangerous is going on, or if the weed he’s been smoking is just making him hallucinate.
While at the Starz portion of the TCA Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with co-stars Kelli Berglund and Tyler Posey (who plays Gabriel, a charismatic but mysterious guy that matches with Ulysses on a dating app) to talk about why this show scared them, working on such a comfortable set, what they like about their characters, having Gregg Araki direct all of the episodes, their first exposure to his films, shooting the season like a movie, and adding the sci-fi/supernatural aspect to it all.
Collider: When you read this script, were there a lot of questions involved? Did you wonder just what this would be about?
TYLER POSEY: Sure, but once you knew who was creating the show and directing it, you could put some pieces together that were missing, that you don’t really get from a script. It was like, “Gregg’s directing it. Okay. This is what it’s gonna look like. This is the style it’s gonna be.”
KELLI BERGLUND: It flows so well. It’s in the Gregg Araki world. If you watch a lot of his other films, it’s all very similar, with a running theme, and it’s stylized that way. On set, too, it was just so well run. Gregg knows what he wants, and he knows how to communicate with people. That’s why it looks the way it does.
POSEY: We all knew what we were in for, definitely, but we were still blown away.
BERGLUND: I was a little scared and a little terrified, but definitely excited, more than anything, seeing it come to life. You read the script, and then you film it, but until you see it, you’re like, “Whoa, that’s what it looks like!”
POSEY: The show is shot so cool. The shots are like a still-frame art piece, every single frame. It’s very cool and psychedelic.
What were the things that scared you the most, and what ultimately made you decide to do it anyway?
BERGLUND: It was a very brief time period of being scared. It was mainly just before filming anything, and just reading the scripts and being like, “Wow!” As an actor, I’ve never done any sort of intimate scene on camera before, or been topless, so that was just nerve-wracking, as a human. But I was excited, too, because a lot of the sexual situations with this show are not scary. I’m representing something bigger, with female sexuality and being confident with that, because my character, Carly, finds her confidence through sexuality. She’s not scared. She’s embracing it, and that sends a message to everyone watching it. Naturally, it’s a little intimidating, especially when you have to go to a sex dungeon, but that was really it. Everything else was just exciting for me, honestly.
Do you also feel like there was a very comfortable environment, on set?
BERGLUND: Totally. I had no concerns, whatsoever, and that trickles from the top with Gregg setting the standard for everyone. I totally felt comfortable, every single moment. Gregg would let us have our freedom, but we could talk to him. I’m the kind of person who would be like, “What do you want? Give me your critiques. Tell me.” And he would do that. He’s the best director, ever. He’s so awesome. So, it was a very comfortable environment, which I think he’s been setting, for a long time. A lot of his stuff deals with this, so you have to make sure things are professional.
POSEY: This is by far the most naked I’ve ever been on camera and the most risque situations I’ve ever done on camera, and it was the most comfortable I’ve ever been, doing them. I’ve had sex scenes in the past, and there’s an air of it being wrong, where people are like, “Don’t look! Nobody look! Okay, everybody, just wrap each other in clothes, as soon as we say cut!” There’s this tension that makes that a little uncomfortable. Here, I just had so much fun.
It also helps that these characters seem to feel very liberated by their choices.
BERGLUND: It’s liberating in real life, too. You’re like, “You know what? It’s just a body.”
POSEY: “My ass is out, and I don’t care!”
BERGLUND: Everyone else on set that doesn’t have to be naked is still very professional.
POSEY: They know how to make you feel good, in a vulnerable position.
BERGLUND: Everyone is just doing their thing. It’s human.
POSEY: And it’s inspiring.
BERGLUND: That’s life. We do that in real life, so why not try it, on screen? People are just afraid because it feels taboo. People are afraid to watch it, but it’s human.
POSEY: It’s like how mental health is still taboo, but it’s being talked about a lot more and therapy is becoming more normal. Seeing these experiences that these kids are going through, people are gonna be less scared to experience it themselves, and feel more accepted for the way that they think, or what they want to experience, sexually, and not feel ashamed by it, as long as it’s consensual.
What do you like about this particular character?
POSEY: I loved this character because he seemed one way through text messaging. He seemed very elusive and like he was an asshole, and you were like, “What’s this guy’s deal? Is he cat fishing?” But then, in person, he’s super genuine, very sweet, and very vulnerable. You want to believe him. You want to believe that he truly has a connection with this guy, and that he believes what he’s saying. He’s got these crazy premonitions, too. He’s sorry he’s a bad texter, he’s sorry that he’s late, he’s sorry that he’s a jerk and elusive, but you feel this strong sense of him being genuine, and I love that. I connect to him a lot, in certain ways. He’s in a punk band. There’s something really cool and mysterious about him that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I haven’t quite figured out myself either, so I think that’s what attracts me to the dude. A lot of his involvement in the show, this season, was through visions and premonitions, so I didn’t really get a chance to grow the character that much. He didn’t really have too much of an arc, but he’s going to.
BERGLUND: Carly is similar, in the sense that she comes off a certain way to people, but actually has this other side to her. She definitely this double life that she’s living, with being a cam girl and no one knowing about it, but then everything she wears is outrageous and she’s putting on a show, all the time. She has this very sarcastic, dry, blunt personality, but she also has a vulnerable side. She’s a struggling actress and hates herself, and she thinks she sucks and that her relationship is so terrible. It’s really cool and different that, through her sexuality and being a cam girl, she finds her confidence and starts to realize, “Maybe I don’t need to rely on things, like being with this actor guy, or trying so hard to be successful.” She zones in on what she wants and what she needs, and she starts writing. She has these dreams of writing a web series, and decides to do it. You’ll see a transition between her and her boyfriend. Does she really want this? What does she really want to do? I love that about her. I love what she represents. I love that the female characters on this show are very strong and unapologetic with who they are. That’s what I, personally, love about the character. She’s totally influenced me, in my real life. Carly is a better, amplified version of me. She’s cooler and funnier, and she dresses a lot better than I do, but we have a similar mind-set, which is what initially drew me to the character. It’s fun to make her so larger than life, but still have a soft side, as well. I think all of our characters do. We’re all having our own personal struggle, and we figure out something about ourselves, by the end.