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After quickly becoming one of this year’s buzziest (and fan-theory-ist) new shows, Apple TV+’s Severance came to an end this week with a cliffhanger finale sure to leave fans with plenty of questions. At a Los Angeles finale celebration for the show on Friday, the cast and creator answered some of them, while hinting that there will be plenty more to come.
“I’m glad people seem to really like this episode because I was really scared they were just going to be mad at the cliffhanger aspect of it,” creator Dan Erickson admitted during a panel discussion at the event. “We tried to make something that gave us some satisfaction, some modicum of joy, but also opens the door for a lot of different new avenues that we’re gonna go. It’s fun to think about how the events of this episode change the world and change the game for all the characters and how they’re now going to have to contend with that.”
The sci-fi show, starring Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, Britt Lower, John Turturro and Zach Cherry, follows a company that surgically divides its staff’s work and personal lives, which begins to come undone throughout the first season. Erickson, a first-time writer, came up with the concept after working a series of bad office jobs, and once Ben Stiller read the script five years ago, the two teamed up to fully create the show’s world, with Stiller directing and exec producing.
“We always knew what it was going to be and had to trust that everybody had invested enough in the characters so that this conclusion at the end would be paying off a lot of the connection that the audience has with these characters,” Stiller told The Hollywood Reporter about crafting the final episode, as he and Erickson now have most of the second season mapped out.
Of writing season two, he said, “It’s actually been great to be in this process while the show has come out because I feel like the audience reaction to the show informs the show and it’s important to be aware of what people are responding to.”
Erickson added of their current conversations about what comes next, “You start to see what people are reacting to, what they’re liking. There are certain characters who have commanded even more loyalty than we thought they would or even more affection than we thought they would, so you always want to make sure that whatever people are loving about your show that you’re earning that and backing it up and giving back to the people who have given their love to the show.”
As for a season two appearance from Stiller, who said he’s enjoyed his recent shift to directing and producing but is “looking forward to getting back into acting”?
“Anything is possible,” he teased.
Arquette, who signed onto the show to reteam with Stiller after their Escape at Dannemora collaboration, says she is not asking many questions about what’s in store for next season. “I told them, ‘Don’t tell me anything. Do I die right away, three frames in? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to spill the beans,'” she joked on the carpet, after explaining her initial conversations with Stiller and Erickson about the project. “Everything they’d answer led to 40 more questions, and I started going down the wormhole of Lumon. You could extradite yourself and say, ‘I don’t want to go down this hellhole,’ but I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it. Let’s go down this hellhole together!'”
Following the screening, held at DGA Theater, the Severance team (minus Scott, who missed the event after testing positive for COVID-19) sat down for a discussion moderated by Judd Apatow, who joked that in a time of content overload, “it makes it worth watching 10,000 hours of shit to see a masterwork like this.”
During the panel, the group discussed the challenges of shooting during the pandemic and plans beyond season two, with Erickson noting, “We wanted to think of it in a way where it could be two seasons or it could be seven seasons, and so we tried to create something that had some flexibility within that. I have like 19 seasons planned. Twenty seasons or bust.”
The producers also talked about studying cults, religions and companies for inspiration. Stiller joked, “the corporate culture with the cult aspect of it is what’s interesting in the show because it really does sort of cross over to what a lot of people experience in these bigger corporations — not Apple, but other organizations.” Apatow chimed in, “Not Apple. Google, nightmare at Google.”
“It aspires to be a show that tells the story of workers and the people who have had jobs like this and who have felt sort of marginalized by their situation and their lot in this weird capitalist system we’re all part of,” Erickson added. “Hopefully they can at least see their story told here and see some of their struggles voiced and understood.”
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