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Avenue 5 cast talks Jedi values, embracing Karen, and Star Trek math checking

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Jun 18, 2020

In the three months since the Season 1 finale of HBO's sci-fi comedy Avenue 5, the world has certainly changed...a lot. Although COVID-19 shut the globe down in mid-March, science keeps on sciencing, as evidenced by SpaceX's successful Crew Dragon collaboration with NASA two weeks ago. In fact, that partnership was the opening topic today during Variety's Streaming Room Q&A with Avenue 5 creator Armando Iannucci and the core cast of the series including Hugh Laurie, Josh Gad, Zach Woods, Rebecca Front, Suzy Nakamura, Lenora Crichlow, Nikki Amuka-Bird, and Ethan Phillips.

The moderator mentioned that watching the SpaceX lift-off reminded him that it was essentially the real life prototype for the idea at the heart of Avenue 5, to which Iannucci laughed and said, "I'm happy to take the credit." The writer then added, "I'm inspired by Musk's optimism, but Richard Branson has been saying commerical space flight is within eight months for the last 10 years, and it still hasn't happened."

Avenue 5 FYC Screening and Q&A. (Credit: Variety)

Iannucci went on to say that he's thrilled his farce about a doomed space travel company has taken the science in sci-fi very seriously in its presentation. "I'm a sci-fi fan and I like hard science-fi where we keep to the rules. It adds to the comedy when you experience the problems." He cited the presentation of the time delays in communicating with Earth from the ship, and the human fecal matter barrier concept as coming right from their consultants. Iannucci even proudly mentioned that he heard that a scientist who consulted on Star Trek did the math regarding a concept featured in their show and confirmed that it was indeed scientifically correct.

Apparently living up to that high-science bar gave Iannucci and Laurie good reason to visit the JPL labs in Pasadena, California while doing research for the show. They got a chance to see a test rover and talk to scientists who helped with NASA and SpaceX projects. Laurie also spilled that he happened to be working with Bryan Singer about 15 years ago when he found out that the X-Men director had purchased a seat in the still-promised first commercial Virgin Galatactic space flight.

That story prompted Iannucci's remembrance of his separate trip to Virgin Galactic's home office, where he was taken around the facility by a senior manager adamantly expressing that "I'm a Jedi and I instill Jedi values" to her fellow space planning colleagues. "She was very serious about her function and making everyone believe in their vision," Iannucci said, expressing his mixed glee and confusion.

During the rest of the 45-minute Q&A, actress Rebecca Front also brought up that her officious character, Karen Kelly, was a "Karen" ahead of her time, since they shot the show in 2019. In the last year though, Karen memes have since been used frequently to call out casual racism.

"It's been funny watching the snowballing of the Karen movement," Front said, while noting that Kelly essentially has a less-pointed M.O. on Avenue 5, as she complains about every level of ammenity on the ship. "It wasn't a thing in the U.K., being a Karen. But she is one of those women who knows a smattering of contract rights in her brain, and she makes sure it's all useful when a spaceship goes wrong. She is thriving on this chaos. If things ever go right on Avenue 5, Karen will collapse. There will be nothing for her to do. But that's never going to happen."

With a successful freshman season of Avenue 5 accomplished, a second season was ordered by HBO in February. No word yet on when we can expect the next season to... launch.


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