Severance Took Influence From The Matrix And Many Other Classic '90s Films [Comic-Con]

There have been many movies and TV shows that showed the perspective of office workers trapped in a stultifying cubicle existence, but "Severance" managed to make it feel fresh again by adding a sci-fi twist and drawing inspiration from some of the greats. 

The series is coming off 14 recent Emmy nominations for its first season, and we've heard about some of its influences already. Production designer Jeremy Hindle cited the spaceship Nostromo in "Alien" and the huge, elaborate set in the French comedy "Playtime" as inspirations for the cavernous Lumon Industries office building, where Mark Scout (Adam Scott) and his coworkers refine macrodata — without entirely understanding what that means.

/Film's Jeremy Mathai was in attendance at the "Severance" Comic-Con panel, where creator Dan Erickson and director Ben Stiller discussed some of the other influences that went into the series. Erickson spoke first about how the idea for "Severance" was born out of a time in his life when he was working a string of office jobs in L.A. and "bored of [his] own corporate misery." That was the starting point for "Severance," but Erickson also drew inspiration from what he was seeing in different art forms, especially movies. He told the Comic-Con audience:

"There are so many influences that led to this. Theater, film, TV. Really, a lot of late '90s film. There was a while there where there was a lot of stuff that was about sort of questioning your reality. Stuff like 'The Matrix' and 'The Truman Show,' and stuff like 'Dark City' or even something like 'Office Space,' where it was all about breaking out of a reality that you were trapped in."

Stiller is a '70s person

It's easy to see how films like "The Matrix" and "Office Space" might have influenced "Severance," if for no other reason than they both start out in an office setting. "The Matrix" quickly peels back the layers of the "office" where Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo (Keanu Reeves), works to reveal that the true nature of reality is very different from the false environment he's trapped inside.

The "Innie" world of "Severance" is as much a prison for Mark Scout's work self as the Matrix was for Neo. In "The Truman Show," meanwhile, Jim Carrey's character is stuck inside a different kind of hell: a reality show. 

While Erickson was working his own office jobs in L.A., he started wishing he could skip ahead eight hours to the end of the workday and even thought that he would willingly give up that time in his life if he could. This provided the genesis for the concept of "Severance," whereby characters have their work memories separated from their outside life.

Though Erickson pointed to a number of '90s film influences for "Severance," Stiller said he's "a '70s person" and was steered more by media from that time period, which may mean that he and Hindle were on the same page when it came to "Alien." Finding the location for Lumon Industries was key; Stiller said that when the production team discovered the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex in New Jersey, it determined the show's aesthetic. Everything — including the use of color — was built around that.

Season 1 of "Severance" is now streaming on Apple TV+.