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Utopia, the Amazon adaptation of the weirdo British cult hit coming from showrunner Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), looks to make genre fans pull out the string and corkboard as its comic-centric antics spiral out into a vast conspiracy. Those who watched the original have a solid idea of what’s in store, but those going in blind learned plenty about the eight-episode first season at the show’s Comic-Con@Home panel.
Originally set up at HBO with Flynn and David Fincher, the company and the director exited the project. That left Flynn to shop the series and adapt the Dennis Kelly original on her own. Utopia shows a Chicago-shot world where a geeky cult comic (named "Utopia") actually predicts the future and describes conspiracies happening all around the world.
Of course, those nerds who're obsessed with the comic are the only ones that can help — which means that everyone is out to get them. At least they have the mysterious Jessica Hyde on their side. Oh, and did we mention that she's the main character in the (fictional) comic book? Guess those conspiracies really ARE real.
The panel — featuring Flynn alongside stars John Cusack, Rainn Wilson, Sasha Lane, Ashleigh LaThrop, Dan Byrd, Desmin Borges, Javon Walton, and Jessica Rothe — showed off some of the first footage of the delayed series, perhaps showcasing the thematic reasons behind its delay. The topic of a virus is a pretty touchy one right now.
Fans can watch the full panel below:
"Even though I started this project almost seven years ago, trying to get it made, it never felt more resonant than now," Flynn said. "We're all seeking answers, doubting answers, asking questions — not sure up and down — and also that feeling that we are on the edge of something very dark. Wanting to be saved, wanting people to come in and find the answers and do something."
Flynn cited '70s paranoia thrillers as her touchstones for making her version of Utopia into something more gritty and dirty than the British version, which she says was more influenced by a "poppy" graphic novel sensibility. She also added many new Americanized aspects, like Cusack's doctor/biotech mogul. Cusack blew through the scripts when we was offered the role, reading all night and "was all in as soon as I read the scripts." His character is here looking to change the world "from the 1% down." The rest of the cast also described their characters.
"Jessica Hyde is like this feral cat," Lane said. "She's spent her entire life trying to survive. She doesn't know much about where she comes from." She mentions that the character is looking for her dad, who is linked to the Utopia comic book, to get her own answers about her past. Wilson's own doctor, who is much more of a basement-dwelling scientist than a rich tycoon, comes at the show's "medical conspiracy" through his past scientific work.
LaThrop's character Becky is dying of an incurable illness, the solution for which may be lurking in the comic, while Byrd's skeptic is just along for the ride (in addition to his crush on Becky). Rothe plays Sam, a "passionate activist" looking to "change the world." Wilson Wilson (Borges) is a true believer and an expert on Dystopia, which is the prequel to the central comic Utopia (a new addition to this version of the show, which was physically created by comic artist João Ruas).
The comic itself is described by Borges as "looking into the eyes of people who are going through tremendous amounts of pain," while Rothe chimed in that Ruas "made a really cute baby Sasha." If fans didn't catch that this all stems from one very, very important in-universe comic book, the show's poster drives the point home:
Utopia hits Amazon this fall.