In the world of Altered Carbon, your body is not you, but merely a vessel. The essential part of you is housed within a hockey puck-sized cortical data stack, implanted when you are just one year old. Your body can die, but you can continue to live, so long as your stack remains intact (which is why you really should avoid neck and head injuries, if nothing else).
You shed your body like a snake sheds its skin, as one character explains in the show, but really, it's more like trading one body for another and transferring your digitized consciousness, known as digital human freight (DHF). Think of it as a thumb drive for your soul.
The question then becomes which body would you like to wear next? The mega-rich in this world tend to choose to wear their own skin over and over, and manage this by cloning themselves, storing the bodies in vaults, and backing up their DHF remotely, on a regular cycle. Others buy synthetic bodies, a rather expensive enterprise. But most people can't afford either of those options, and have to settle for buying or leasing a pre-used vehicle, a secondhand body that has been discarded for a variety of reasons.
SYFY WIRE quizzed the cast of Altered Carbon about which bodies they would love to "sleeve" into, as it's called, and at first, they loved the idea of just trying on another celebrity body for fun.
Joel Kinnaman, who plays the character Takeshi Kovacs in one body, would love to be LeBron James or Mikhail Baryshnikov for a day. Will Yun Lee, who plays Takeshi Kovacs in another body, would use the opportunity to prank his wife by sleeving into their four-year-old son. "She would be like, 'Oh my God, my son got my coffee ready!'" he laughed. "Just for him to go and make coffee, and wake her up, and not completely throw a tantrum when pieces aren't lined up, or be nice to the one dog he's never nice to."
But once the idea of being someone who has a completely different shape wore off, the cast all seemed to think the best use of the technology would be to take over the body of someone where they can make a huge difference by being them, if only for a day. And that certain someone is Donald Trump.
"We were playing with the idea of sleeving into people who have a tremendous amount of power, and doing things that need to be done, changing things that need to be changed, and then jumping out," explained Renée Elise Goldsberry, who plays a revolutionary figurehead called Quellcrist Falconer. "Just to do some things that I think are really wonderful in the world."
"I'm reasonably sensible," pointed out James Purefoy, who plays the long-lived character Laurens Bancroft. "If I were in Donald Trump's body, just for a day, he might do something sensible, too. Mostly, I would just try not to f*** up the world. Keep him away from Twitter. Be zen and sit around quietly. Even just that would be good enough."
Martha Higareda, who plays police officer Kristin Ortega, would use the opportunity to roll back some of Trump's policies and proposals regarding immigration and neighboring countries. "It would be interesting to be in Trump's body as a Mexican," she said, with a gleam of mischief in her eye. The proposal border wall between the U.S. and Mexico? "We're not building it after all," she said, plotting. "And so Mexico's not going to pay for it, because there wouldn't be anything to pay for." And the in-limbo Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy? "Definitely bringing it back," she said.
The one concern, Lee stressed, is that whoever sleeves into Trump might have to pay a price. "How damaged would your stack be, when you slip out?" he asked. "I'm serious. It's one of the things I asked [showrunner] Laeta Kalogridis. 'What happens when my stack is put into Joel's body?' And she said that there's a bit of residue in each body, and you take that with you, whether it's mannerisms or something else. So if you do this, you could come back out as Trump, a little bit."
This would not deter Goldsberry, however – just like her character, it just made her more determined to carry through with the mission on a larger scale. Instead of wearing his body for a day, she'd like a longer stretch. "I'd think I'd need, I don't know how long, at least until the midterms?" she proposed. "For the good of the world. Somebody's got to."