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Soulmates creator on the pitfalls of true love: 'We were trying to be willfully unromantic'
Navigating love and relationships can be tricky enough, even with all the apps promising to help people find that special someone. AMC’s Soulmates takes it one step further. The show explores a near future 15 years from now, where the discovery of a “soulmate particle” has resulted in a soulmate test that allows people to find their perfect match with 100% accuracy.
Of course, as the six anthology-style episodes of the show’s first season slowly unfold, it becomes clear that just because you know who your soulmate is — or have the ability to find them — it doesn’t mean the end of any romantic woes. If anything, it brings about a whole slew of new problems, the kind that can only arise when love mixes with technology.
“We didn’t just want to tell romance stories, because we felt like a lot of those've been told,” series creator William Bridges (along with co-creator Brett Goldstein) tells SYFY WIRE. “When you think of stories about love, you think romance or romantic comedies. So we were trying to be willfully unromantic in a way, and go, ‘Well, how would it affect the world if this testing happened in our world, and what would come of that?’”
As shown in each of the six episodes, the complications that the existence of the test can bring about come in various forms. While the first episode in the season examines how the presence of the test as an option can impact the relationship of a couple who got married before the technology came about, a later one explores the formation of a religious cult that preys on people who’ve lost their soulmates. Yet another episode — the last of the six — delves into the harrowing quandary of what happens when you discover that your soulmate might not be a good person.
“We always wanted to ask a dramatic question with each episode,” says Bridges. “We figured if you had lost your soulmate, then perhaps there are vulnerable people that could be preyed on because of that … And then with the last one, we were looking at what happens if you take the test and your soulmate’s not a very good person. What does that say about you? We just felt like that was an interesting angle to tell a love story, and that we might not have seen that much before.”
By exploring these darker storylines within a world where this kind of technology exists, it allowed the show to keep its focus specifically on relationships themselves, and what people are willing to do for true love — or simply just the promise of it — as is the case in a mid-season episode that sees a young man willing to give up his whole life and fly to another country simply to be with his soulmate, despite never having spoken to him before.
“It’s all about the price you pay for wanting to know what true love is,” explains Bridges. “Often it comes at a cost, and sometimes it’s messy and complicated, because isn’t that what real relationships are? It was trying to bring that honesty to those relationships. We wanted to ask: ‘Okay, you’ve met the love of your life. What does that mean for the rest of your life?'”
Another mid-season episode dives into this question by having the soulmate of a married woman track her (and her husband) down. The catch? The fact that the soulmate is also a woman, despite the married woman having identified as straight her entire life up until that point.
“The test doesn’t care about circumstances or where you grew up or where you are,” says Bridges about the soulmate test, which transcends race, gender, and sexual orientation as it searches for the perfect match. “All it knows is that you have a particle in you that vibrates through a certain frequency, which only one other person in the world has the same of ... We didn't want it to be an algorithm. We wanted it to be hard science, with no need for an explanation as to why certain people match. That 'why' is for [people] to find out."
Of course, romantic love won’t be the sole basis of the series, which has already been renewed for a second season, with production already underway. “True love means different things to different people, but we want [viewers] to question it,” says Bridges of the show's approach. “There are so many different facets to love. It’s not just romantic love, though that’s a big part of it. There’s also commitment, understanding, and sacrifice. We wanted the show to explore all of that.”
As for some of the inevitable comparisons to Black Mirror, another anthology series that explores the intersection between advanced forms of technology and how it might impact humankind, Bridges — who has actually penned an episode for the popular dystopian science fiction series — says that the comparisons are at the most skin-deep.
"Black Mirror is [creator] Charlie Booker's voice, and he's got such a singular voice and such strong vision and ideas that it's his identity wrapped up in the show," explains Bridges. "[But] once you get 10 minutes into our show, you'll see that our show and Charlie's show are just very different things and share a very different space."
The cast for the show's first season includes Bill Skarsgard (Castle Rock), Malin Akerman (Watchmen), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things), Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad), Sarah Snook (Succession), Sonya Cassidy (Lodge 49), Shamier Anderson (Wynonna Earp), and Kingsley Ben-Adir (The OA).
The first season of Soulmates premieres Oct. 5 at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.