A co-production with the UK’s New Picture, the drama stars Scottish actress Sorcha Groundsell and Brit Percelle Ascott as teen lovers, June and Harry, who together run away from their repressive families, only to have their new life derailed by the incredible reveal that June has shapeshifting powers. What unfolds is a series of discoveries that deconstructs a lifetime of secrets kept from them.
On the panel, Ascott and Groundsell were joined by Guy Pearce (Halvorson), and co-creators/EPs Hania Elkington and Simon Duric. The co-creators said the concept of the original series came from their talks about constant change. “We all change emotionally and physically,” Duric said. And Elkington added that featuring females as the conduits for this ability came from the reality that, “women’s bodies change and are capable of extraordinary things.”
And from that, shapeshifting became the sci-fi metaphor through which they could explore the idea via a young romance in bloom. “And from a practical mythology level, we went to the Berserkers,” Duric added.
Elkington said emotionally, “We wanted to look at what it means to love someone unconditionally and what does change due to a relationship? Hopefully, the questions it raises applies to people of all ages.”
June’s ability obviously creates issues with Harry, and Groundsell said that sets up plenty of conflict to explore. “The main theme of the show for me is the nature of identity and finding out who we are. If it’s shapeshifting, or someone living in Russia or America, it’s all about the same question of who am I? Plus, the nature of [her ability] is stressful and its medical, brought on by extreme stress. It’s happening to her, without her control, which is disturbing and scary. Our characters at the beginning are so hopeful for their new life together and it’s derailed.”
Ascott added, “Making a relationship work is a complex thing and then adding shifting just adds another level. But we have so much depth in the writing. There are a lot more mature themes around our relationship like asking can you ever love someone unconditionally, and what are the lines where we can’t accept something anymore? In reality, my every day relationships change, and I wish I had more of the courageousness of Harry.”
Guy Pearce also appears in the series as a doctor aware of this rare condition because the woman he loves also has it. Together, they’ve created a safe haven away from society to protect others like her, including June’s mother.
Asked if his character is coming from a pure place in his motivations, Pearce said, “He is a medical doctor and probably sees himself as someone who really wants to carve his own path in how he wants to develop his medical path. He ended up in a part of the world he never expected and has a partner with this genetic condition that means she shifts. But there is also ego involved with his want to make a name for himself. He’s away from the normal constraints of the medical community and wants to get to the bottom of it before others discover it. He’s finding these other women who also have this condition. And once he finds out June is the daughter of another woman in the compound, he wants to reunite them, but also it’s part of this great discovery that he wants to get ahead of. He’s a good guy, but maybe getting ahead of himself.”
Elkington said she hopes audiences look at The Innocents as a show that talks about universal themes. “It’s about change, but the message is the hardest thing to be is yourself. Harry has to come into his own almost as much as June in accepting her condition and accepting that.”
The Innocents eight-episodes drop on Netflix August 24.