The "Safe and Sound" episode of Amazon Prime's Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams checks off all our paranoia meets technology buttons. Directed by Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) and starring Annalise Basso and Maura Tierney as a rural mother and daughter moving back to the suburbs, the episode explores what it feels like for an outsider to walk into our hyper-fear-based society that's constantly scanning everyone as a potential next threat.
Basso did a riff on the well-balanced outsider coming into unbalanced society with her exceptional performance as Viggo Mortensen's daughter in 2016's Captain Fantastic. But in "Safe and Sound," Basso's character Foster Lee gets darkly manipulated by the system in the most invasive and terrifying way as a voice in her ear makes her question everything around her, including her own mother.
We sat down with Annalise Basso to talk about what the episode meant to her and how hard it was to shake off what Foster went through. Spoilers below!
What was the biggest appeal for you after reading the "Safe and Sound" script?
The cultural relevance of the project itself. After reading the episode, I found myself identifying with Foster and coming to know this culture that's just ever-changing. It's so hard even as a young millennial person with everything always changing, and it's hard to keep up with all the technological changes.
Tell me what your fears are and what really hit home when you were reading this script.
Just the way we relate as humans, you have it all in an episode of the Philip K. Dick sci-fi world. You have kids who really aren't even communicating with each other in a healthy, human way. They aren't connecting. They are connecting with their little screen things, and they're sending little memes or something. I'm not gonna criticize anybody who likes a good meme; I love memes.
But honestly, communication being reduced to digital pixels, that's not what humans are. We're animals who require social activity and need that. It's being taken away from us, and we're taking that for granted because it's convenient. It's a question that we have to ask. I feel like my generation is the one that will be responsible for how future generations carry on communicating, and that's a lot of pressure. But at the same time, this is the moment where we have to choose, convenience over humanity.
Foster literally ends up having a voice in her head that guides her confusion and eventual choices. How was it playing that out?
Reading it is so much different than actually performing it. Reading it is like, "Okay, sure, I get why she would do that," or, "Oh, why would Foster do this?" or, "Why would the mom do that?" or, "Why would she listen to this fictional being in her ear? Is he really even there?" But then when you're there, and then when you are in that moment with everything and it just becomes so real.
How did Alan Taylor help facilitate that realness on the set?
Alan actually did a great job of making it so real. It looks so easy to step on set and be transported, so I feel like that really helped me give an authentic performance. Maura gives a really authentic performance. We really just stepped into this world of chaos, and Alan did a really great job of managing that chaos, but also making it truly authentic, which is difficult. Once you create chaos, how do you contain it so well? Kalen Egan, the writer, did a great job with making it a super sincere story, and you believe everything that Foster does. She's just so lost, and looking for some kind of direction. I found that I would have done the same thing that she did, you know?
Did you actually have a voice in your ear doing the shoot, or did you just get lines read to you?
It was an earpiece hidden inside my ear, and Connor Paolo (Ethan) was on the other side of the monitor feeding the lines into a microphone, so that just made it even more real. Honestly, the scariest part as an actor is losing those lines between your character and yourself. Sometimes it gets really scary, but that's also what makes it so much fun, pushing that boundary and coming so close to the edge. You have got to make sure not to fall off of it.
You admit you would have done what Foster did in the story too. What made her relatable to you?
Foster is just super relatable. She's coming to explore this new world of the other side of this wall, so is the audience. She is really every young person who's stepping into a new environment and coming to know the social rules. I feel like she's so beautifully written for that reason. She's so relatable and so accessible, and yet teaches such a valuable lesson too.
Was there a favorite scene for you in the episode?
The one where she is sitting on the stairs, when she first realizes, "Oh my gosh, am I really going crazy?" I feel like we've all had those moments where we're kind of talking to ourselves, or where something in our reality shifts. We have to go on with that experience under our belt and feel like, "Okay, well, this is where I either grow or drop to rock bottom from here."
What did you think about the twist ending?
I love twists like that at the end where you just feel the breath leave your body and you're like 'What?!" I love the ending.
Why do you think this series is relevant today when Dick wrote the source stories so long ago?
We're coming into this world that I thought I would never see, or thought my great-grandchildren would see. It's just coming upon us so fast, and we're learning. His stories capture what we are going through as a society right now. We're just so eager to make progress that we aren't stopping to process that responsibility of that progress, and it's dangerous. It's funny, I see things like Minority Report and Black Mirror, and I'm like, "Oh my God, that's happening now!" People are making such beautiful advancements in technology and that's great; keep doing that. But also, can we take our time a little bit, and have time to process each step before the next step is taken? It just seems like it's a really irresponsible chase right now.
Season 1 of Amazon Prime's Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams is available now.