8:45am PT by Josh Wigler
Alden Ehrenreich Breaks Down Peacock's 'Brave New World': "It's a Thousand Things at Once"
Not quite a full century after it first arrived in prose form, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World has come back to life in the form of a streaming series.
Peacock's adaptation of Brave New World, taking both its title and the bulk of its content from the provocative 1932 science fiction novel of the same name, landed with its entire first season the same day as the new streamer's launch. Featuring a formidable cast led by erstwhile Han Solo actor Alden Ehrenreich, Downton Abbey veteran Jessica Brown Findlay and short-lived Game of Thrones villain Harry Lloyd, Brave New World centers on the far future society of New London. It's a world of incredible technological advancement, including but not limited to a mandatory drug service that divorces civilians from rage, pride, monogamy, jealousy, violence, and other forms of "bad feelings."
Summarizing those things as "bad feelings" is none other than Ehrenreich, who follows his turn in Solo: A Star Wars Story with another iconic work of science fiction. Streaming free on Peacock with nine original episodes, the Brave New World star speaks with The Hollywood Reporter about the adaptation of the Huxley novel, its relevance to our society so many decades after the book's original release, and how Star Wars paved the way for his work as "John the Savage."
What stood out to you when you first started digging into Brave New World as an adaptation?
What really sparked my interest when I read the script was how human it was. It's something that takes on these enormous philosophical and societal questions. It's a show that's both very imaginative in creating this fantastical world, while at the same time, most moments of the show are letting you live in the minute to minute experiences of these characters. Their experiences are emotional, messy and complicated. The show is a treatise of asking, what's the value of the feelings we call bad feelings? What does it mean to get rid of those? It's a very moving thing to wonder about.
And as "John the Savage," you're embodying an outsider in this society who still has those "bad feelings." How did you approach that tension?
You live it the way he lives it: he doesn't know about any of this stuff. It's new. It's weird. Going from the inside of that, it's pretty intuitive. I have less heavy lifting to do than some of the other actors, in the sense that I don't have to know or invest or believe in what it's like to be a New Londoner. I thought there were so many different colors you get to see, that in contrast to the rest of the show's world, he's us. He's how I would feel going into that world.
Did you read the book in preparation, and if not, was abstaining from the reading an intentional choice?
I've done a few projects now based on source material. I always read it, but take the script as the document. That's what's going to be on screen. A mistake that can get made is when you are overly loyal. These are different mediums. A feeling you can get across in a novel sometimes has to be given a new delivery system to evoke those feelings in a film or a series. My impression was the best case scenario happened: this show embraces the essence of the book — the social aspects of it. It has the book's ideas, it's what he was writing about in terms of the characters and what they're going through. It's about the same thing, even if some of the twists and turns are quite different.
This is far from your first time taking on an iconic work of fiction. No need to name names …
You're talking about Beautiful Creatures, right?
Right. (Laughs.) But after playing Han Solo, one of the single most iconic pop culture heroes, does that ease the pressure when you're adapting a beloved work? If you can take on that Star Wars legend, can you take on anything?
One of the great almost accidental skills you have to develop in a strong way over the course of a career in the entertainment industry is an ability to let go of a lot of things you have no control over. When you're working on a series or a film, the thing you have to let go of is this question of, well, what's everyone going to think? To me, that's crippling. Star Wars was a great challenge in getting rid of that. "Here's what I can do. The rest? It's not up to me." With Brave New World, it's the same about the book: do you believe it's good? I go and watch everything that I do once, alone. After I do that, I know what I think about it. Everything else that happens next, good or bad, is somewhat beside the point. Obviously, I'm a human being; I'm imperfect. I care, I feel it. But to the best of my ability, that's what I try to do. For the pressure of adapting something, it's what I try to lean into. Do I think it's good? Do I think it captures the essence? Is it a worthy, deep and compelling adaptation of the story? And here, I really did. I think the show is super smart. It's asking questions that are meaningful about the world we live in. It's really funny, it's really imaginative, and I never read anything like it. It has a tonal consistency to it that was almost like a magic trick. It's a thousand things at once.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.