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Nudity, lizards, and heart: Now Apocalypse cast says Starz’ ‘weird’ new comedy has a soul

By Tara Bennett & Benjamin Bullard
Now Apocalypse via Starz website 2019

Even with a preview trailer and a basic outline of what we’re in for, getting a grasp of Now Apocalypse, Starz’ new sexed-up, slapstick, lizard-fleeing millennial comedy, may just have to wait until the first episode makes landfall. 

But the show’s cast and creators assure that for all the nudity, risqué meet-ups, and awkward brushes with the unreality of living and finding love in Los Angeles, Now Apocalypse wants to connect with viewers on a truly emotional level — no matter how weird things get.

I always say it’s about friends in L.A. who are looking for love on apps,” joked Avan Jogia, who plays Ulysses, the lead of the series. But drowning your isolation in so much weed haze that you start seeing lizard people just happens to be the way Ulysses buries his isolation while searching for something deeper.

Ulysses is essentially a guy who “smokes so much dope he thinks there might be an alien invasion — and there really is,” Araki said, speaking at a Starz panel for the Television Critics Association. It’s a strange setup that enlists a well-worn sci-fi trope to emphasize how surreal modern life can be — strange enough that executive producer Steven Soderbergh called Now Apocalypse “one of the weirdest things he ever read,” according to Beau Mirchoff, who plays Ford on the show.
All that weirdness serves as an affable security blanket that only conceals these 20-somethings’ hunger for something more substantial. For all their drinking, drugging, and sexcapades, they’re lonely — and they’re trying, with no handy roadmap, to connect with each other.

“We have sex clubs and orgies and it’s nuts, but there’s a real sweetness to it that imbues the characters with reality,” creator Gregg Araki said. “…It’s about the characters and not titillation — which is the heart of the show.”

Writer Karley Sciortino said all 10 of the series’ first-season episodes were written before the actors came in for shooting, and being able to see the big picture helped them fully embrace their roles, even with the edgy demands the show’s sex — much of it slapstick — placed on them: “[I]t let the actors read all of the scripts [at once], which helped finding the right actors. Kelli’s character [Kelli Berglund, who plays Carly] pees into a bottle, and you can’t do that with someone who isn’t body positive.”

Even though the panel kicked off with one of those signature lizards on stage, the team didn’t delve into the reptiles’ enigmatic function on the series. For that, we’ll just have to wait a little longer. Now Apocalypse makes its series debut on March 10 at Starz, right after the Season 2 premiere of American Gods.

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