Alex Garland has arrived on the TV scene. The acclaimed director has created, written, and directed the series ‘Devs’ and assembled an incredible cast. HL spoke with the cast about the show and joining Alex on this journey.
Devs released its first two episodes on March 5 via FX on Hulu. The series follows a young software engineer, Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno), who investigates the secret development division of her employer, a cutting-edge tech company based in Silicon Valley, which she believes is behind the murder of her boyfriend. The cast also includes Karl Glusman, Jin Ha, Cailee Spaeny, Alison Pill, Nick Offerman, and more. HollywoodLife sat down with Karl, Jin, Cailee, and Sonoya to talk about the new series and they noted that having Alex Garland at the helm of this project was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.
“For me, the opportunity to work with Alex Garland, in and of itself, was incredible,” Jin, who plays Jamie, Lily’s ex-boyfriend, told HollywoodLife at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. “And then on top of that, knowing Lily Chan was written as a Chinese American character, and I would be playing opposite her as an Asian American actor in a show that is not necessarily about us and our racial identity was very exciting for me. That’s separate from the script being incredible, the storytelling being incredible, the questions of morality and technology being incredibly riveting and challenging. Just on that level of representation, it was super exciting for me to be able to tell a story where I could just be myself. I happen to be Asian American, but that is not the crux of who this character is and what drives me.”
This wasn’t your typical TV show where the cast scripts on a week-to-week basis. Garland gave the cast all their scripts months before filming started. “It was such a privilege because it was also my first TV show and I’ve learned so much. It was extraordinary to be able to have the opportunity to work and marinate and rework a bunch of things with Alex,” Jin continued. “I don’t know if I felt lost for a little bit at the beginning because of all the technicalities of working on screen versus on stage, but Alex was an immaculate captain and the fact that we could get reps in and we had time to work on stuff and get to know our characters over time felt really lucky.”
Karl, who plays Sergei, Lily’s current boyfriend, said that Garland was the “main selling point” for him. “I got really excited about the idea of working on anything that he’s involved in. So I would hold a spear in any production that he’s a part of any day,” Karl told HollywoodLife. Cailee, who plays the young and brilliant Lyndon, is a huge fan of Garland’s work. “When I heard he had a new project, I was just right away on it. I was so excited to audition just to meet him,” Cailee said. “And then when I did audition, basically 30 minutes after, I heard I got the part. So apparently, I was the first one he auditioned and the last person to audition for the role. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me. I felt like he had a lot of faith in me and just trusted that I was Lyndon. He gave me so much creative freedom and collaborated on it and had tons of rehearsals with the cast. I just got really, insanely lucky.” Cailee also explained how she got the role of a male character. “Alex was going to look at guys with this role, obviously, because he’s a male character. And then at the last minute, he said ‘bring in a couple girls’ to the casting director who had worked with him,” she revealed.
The Devs plot has been kept largely under wraps, much like Garland’s previous projects. However, the cast was able to tease their compelling character arcs. “Sergei is a budding young talent in this tech world setting that the story takes place,” Karl said. “I’m a computer programmer who gets recruited at the company he’s already working at to work in the secret development division of the company. Soon after joining that division, I go missing. I’m dating Sonoya’s character, so she wants to find out what happened to her boyfriend because just one day he’s there and the next day he’s not. That kind of leads us down the rabbit hole. So I sort of get things going. What I will say, and this probably applies to a lot of things in the show but also to my character, not everything is what it seems at first. I got some secrets, as do others.”
Jin added that “Sergei is the catalyst for the show. Everything kind of hinges on his disappearance. That’s how my character, Jamie, gets involved because Lily, his ex, reaches out, after two years of silence because I work in cybersecurity and hacking, to help her look for her current boyfriend. Even though the show is so heavily in the sci-fi tech world, most of my scenes were like a domestic kitchen sink play scenes. It was about relationship. It was about, ‘We haven’t spoken in two years and you come seeking me out to help you find your current boyfriend that you left me for.’ That’s the drama in and of itself. I felt like most of my work was in that realm, while simultaneously, the entire show is dealing with much larger questions.”
As much as Devs is about technology, Sonoya and Karl noted that the show also deals with love and loss. “Alex and I talked about that quite a lot, this time that a lot of people go through in their late 20s where you have relationships when you’re a teenager, early 20s and think you understand what love is,” Sonoya explained. “As you get older, it kind of redefines itself to you and you learn something about yourself and people you’re in relationships with. I think a big part of the journey was her understanding of what love really meant and how that changed over time.” Karl added, “There are a lot of very relatable themes that someone watching who are not involved in computer engineering can relate to. It’s a little something for everybody.”