Utopia Trailer

An American version of the British series Utopia is coming to Amazon this fall, and Comic-Con at Home brought the first glimpse at the adaptation from Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn.

The first Utopia trailer debuted during the Comic-Con panel, and cast members John Cusack (High Fidelity), Rainn Wilson (The Office), Sasha Lane (American Honey), Ashleigh LaThrop (Fifty Shades Freed), Dan Byrd (Cougar Town), Desmin Borges (You’re The Worst), Javon “Wanna” Walton (Euphoria), and Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day) spoke about their characters in this twisted conspiracy thriller. The series follows about a group of comic book nerds who suddenly find themselves on the run from trained killers and get caught up in something bigger and more dangerous than they could possibly fathom. But each of them have their own reasons for seeking out the titular comic at the center of the series.

Amazon’s Utopia Trailer

Since the teaser trailer doesn’t exactly spell out the narrative, instead establishing the conspiracy thriller tone of Utopia, here’s the official synopsis for the series:

Utopia centers on a group of comic fans who meet online and bond over their obsession of a seemingly fictional comic called, “Utopia.” Together, Ian (Dan Byrd), Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop), Samantha (Jessica Rothe), Wilson Wilson (Desmin Borges) and Grant (Javon “Wanna” Walton) unearth hidden meanings cloaked within the pages of “Utopia,” predicting threats to humanity. They realize these are not just the makings of a conspiracy; they are very real dangers coming alive right now in their world. The high-stakes adventure brings the group face-to-face with the comic’s famed central character, Jessica Hyde (Sasha Lane), who joins them on their mission to save the world while harboring secrets of her own.

Standing Apart from the Original Utopia

Gillian Flynn wanted to do something different than the original British series from Dennis Kelly, which had some pop flair to it, not unlike the kind of graphic novel that’s at the center of the series. She explained:

“My idea was to not only Americanize is and deal with things that I think specifically feel resonant with Americans in a lot of ways, but also to make it gritty, and dirty, and nasty, in a very realistic way. Whereas [Dennis Kelly] took his cue from graphic novels themselves, I took my cue more from the ’70s paranoia thrillers I loved that came out after Watergate, in that era where no one trusted anyone  and there was a breakdown in what society, the government, and the world was feeling like. I wanted that paranoia to feel very real and to be able to access that through each different character.”

Utopia

Meeting the Characters of Utopia

John Cusack plays Dr. Kevin Christie, who isn’t mentioned in that synopsis. He’s a new character who wasn’t in the original British series, and he plays a key role in establishing the different approach that Flynn is taking with her take. Cusack describes him as someone that he feels all Americans will recognize in this current social climate. He describes him as being “at the top of the economic food chain and is trying to make the world a better place through science.”

Christie is the CEO of a multinational corporation working on new food sources, biotech, and is sort of into everything. With an eye on preserving the future, he constantly asks his family what they’ve done to earn their place in the crowded world. He wants both his family and the people who work for him to bring something to the table instead of just taking what the world has to offer.

Sasha Lane is taking the role of Jessica Hyde, the protagonist at the center of the titular comic book, and she’s very much a real person, not just a fictional character. Lane says Hyde can best be described as a feral cat. There’s some rage in her, but not without reason. The actress says, “She’s spent her entire life just trying to survive. She doesn’t really know much about where she comes from.” Jessica’s father is missing, and she’s desperate to not only find him, but get answers to questions she’s had for a long time.

Next up, there’s Dr. Michael Stearns, a scientist who once had some success in his career but now finds himself stuck working in the basement of a university. Rainn Wilson of The Office plays the character, who gets drawn into the global medical conspiracy at the center of the show. Wilson says that as the show goes on, he becomes more of an unlikely hero instead of just a downtrodden scientist.

Making our way to the comic book geeks at the center of Utopia, we have Ashleigh LaThrop as Becky (below right). She’s dying of a debilitating disease known as Deels syndrome, and somehow the comic book Utopia might hold the key to finding a cure. Though the global conspiracy is looming large on the series, it’s a much more personal situation for Becky.

Utopia First Look Photos

Meanwhile, Dan Byrd’s character Ian (above left) is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to his interest in Utopia. Though he’s curious about what Utopia holds within its pages, he’s skeptical that it contains any material dealing with real world truths. For the most part, he just thinks it’s a great comic book, but he finds a reason to stick around with the rest of the gang because he becomes infatuated with Becky.

On the other hand, we have Desmin Borges as Wilson Wilson (yes, that’s the same name twice, and he’s pictured second from left) who is a true believer of Utopia. Borges said to call Wilson a believer is an understatement and instead calls him “the foremost leading brilliant conspiracy theorist in the world and specifically around Dystopia,” which is the fictional comic book that precedes Utopia.

Then have a much younger nerd in the crew. Grant, played by Javon “Wanna” Walton, is a street smart kid from The Projects who was raised by a single alcoholic mother. Like Ian, he’s mostly just interested in the comic itself as any young kid might be, but he’s unaware of the sacrifices this desire would require him to make. Apparently he’s not above manipulating the rest of the group just so he can get his hands on the comic.

Finally, Jessica Rothe is Samantha (above, second from right), who the actress describes as “an incredibly passionate activist.” Samantha is much more about actually accomplishing something instead of just talking about ideas that never amount to anything. She’s the de facto leader of the group, and she thinks that this little team can help her strive to make a difference in humanity.

Though this doesn’t seem like a group that’s completely prepared to survive the danger that is about to befall them, Rothe said, “Everyone really has their strength and their weakness in a way. But they’re such an unlikely group that is going to save the world, but they have all of the resources and all of the heart.”

The Art of Utopia

Even though Dystopia and Utopia are fictional comic books within this show, there needed to be physical comic books made for production. To create them, producers enlisted the artistic talents of João Ruas. The pages themselves are filled with Easter eggs for the series, some for the audience, some for the characters to find and keep the story moving.

Desmin Borges was particularly impressed with the comics Ruas created, saying that he was emotionally moved by “looking into the eyes of people who are going through tremendous amounts of pain.” Having the comic to hold and see in front of them made the story feel that much more tangible.

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Utopia is executive produced by Gillian Flynn with Jessica Rhoades (Sharp Objects) Sharon Hall, Karen Wilson, and Dennis Kelly. Amazon Studios co-produces with Endemol Shine North America and Kudos, which is a production studio under Endemol Shine Group UK. It’s slated to arrive on Amazon sometime this fall, though no specific date has been revealed yet.

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