Scott Z. Burns proved too prescient for comfort when he wrote Contagion — the 2011 pandemic thriller that became one of the most streamed movies in the first weeks of the real-life COVID-19 lockdowns nine years later.
It’s scary, then, to think how accurate your crystal ball could be with extrapolationsthe star-studded new Apple TV+ anthology series that takes a highly plausible (and according to Burns and his collaborators, highly scientific) look at what the near future might look like with the worsening global effects of climate change.
The projects share some of the same DNA, Burns tells us during a recent virtual press day.
“I think the process that we explore as writers and creators is very similar,” says Burns, who was also a producer on the 2006 Oscar-winning documentary. an inconvenient truth with former Vice President Al Gore. “We start with science. We talk to experts. We asked them what could happen. Obviously, with the pandemic, there had been in the past. And so everyone we talked to said it’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s a question of ‘when’.
“I think in addressing the future and climate change, it’s not an ‘if’ question because you’re seeing climate change every day right now, in fires, storms, extreme heat. So it’s not a question of ‘if’. But for us, it was a matter of ‘what’. What are we going to tolerate, and what are we going to rise up and fight? And those are really the similarities and the differences in the process for us.”
From 2037 to 2070 in eight episodes, extrapolations Imagine a world where wildfires engulf vast swaths of the globe, rising sea levels sink the buildings of Miami, and elephants and whales are nearly extinct.
The subject caught the attention of Hollywood. The cast list reads like an awards ceremony: Meryl Streep, Edwards Norton, Sienna Miller, Kit Harington, Diane Lane, Tobey Maguire, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Rhys, Heather Graham, Gemma Chan, David Schwimmer, Keri Russell, Daveed Diggs and more.
“The jumps Scott is taking aren’t really jumps, this is the trajectory we’re following,” says Diggs (Hamilton, Blind Spot), who plays a rabbi from Florida whose temple is in danger of flooding. “Not that we have to, but we are. We couldn’t either. But that’s going to have to be active. We’re not going to be able to sit here and have it not happen.
“What I think is so great about Scott’s mission here is giving us all the information that he can give us over the course of the show, but also hopefully inspiring us to be a little more active in our thinking about the climate change and then go out and find the resources on our own to be more effective in the fight.”
Diggs’ castmates agree: We’re well past the point of warnings. extrapolations it is a call to action.
“It’s a pivotal time to do something like this,” says Michael Gandolfini (Newark’s Many Saints). “Scott has a real knack for educating in a way that’s not preachy but informative and kind and also grounded in humanity… You want to say, ‘What can I do?’ I can be part of protests or marches, I can have my reusable water bottle, I can educate myself”.
“These are no longer predictions,” says Rhys. “Everything is happening now. We’re seeing it in real time… We’re seeing the beginnings of everything represented on this show right now.”
Lane has already done the protest part. the infidel the actress was arrested in 2019 during a climate change protest in Washington, D.C.
“I was ready to be arrested, protesting,” she says. “You want to know what zip code you’re doing that in. And I wouldn’t do it outside the United States… But being active helps with depression [about climate change]. And I think this program shows that we’re going to be proactive and we’re not going to go down without a fight. Whether that means fighting ourselves or fighting our own nature.”
The cast also emphasizes the clear entertainment value of the show, not just the educational or social value.
“I think when you personalize things and make it visceral, you can make a difference,” says Graham. “As an actor, you also want to entertain people.”
“It’s scary, but it’s real,” says Indira Varma (Luther, Game of Thrones). “You often hear about climate change and what is happening, what it is doing. And it can feel meaningless, unless you’re living it. But hopefully, when we tell stories, we can reach more people, because it’s about how we feel.”
“The images stay, the stories stay,” agrees Tahar Rahim (the Mauritanian). “Movies and television series have a special power.”
Says Burns, 60, “I grew up in a time when there were all these movies that really created context around the Vietnam War, and that was kind of a great American story at the time. Yes it was apocalypse now either deer hunter either fields of deatheither born on july 4th. All these movies helped me understand, as a child, what just happened.
“Well, this is what is happening now. This is the greatest existential story of our time. And I think as a writer, and I think our fellow contributors on this felt the same way, that this was an opportunity to help give context to that. And I think it’s by providing people with a context that allows them to go and find their own path to action.”
extrapolations now streaming on Apple TV+.