'Surface': Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Oliver Jackson-Cohen And More On How Universal Reality Is Exemplified In The Psychological Thriller's Complex Characters
Photo Credit: Apple TV+
Interviews , Television

'Surface': Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Oliver Jackson-Cohen And More On How Universal Reality Is Exemplified In The Psychological Thriller's Complex Characters

Imagine being on a journey of self-discovery, but it consists of putting together the puzzle pieces of a life you once lived? In Apple TV+’s Surface, it’s a mystery to say the least.

Created by Veronica West, the psychological thriller is about a woman named Sophie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who is experiencing extreme memory loss due to a severe head injury. Not only does she have no recollection of how the traumatic event happened, but she doesn’t remember the ins and outs of the relationships she’s previously formed and what secrets lie there. 

In addition to Mbatha-Raw, the show stars Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Stephan James, Ari Graynor, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, François Arnaud and Millie Brad.

Surface is produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, which has also been behind the likes of Big Little Lies, The Morning Show, and Little Fires Everywhere.

According to West, she guarantees her show wouldn’t have been in existence without the support of the media company. Touching on heavy subject matter including suicide, Sophie depicts what the show wanted to bring to light on screen.

“This is a psychological thriller and we set out to make something that would hook people from the very start and play with these ideas of life or death,” West shared with Shadow and Act. “Sophie’s struggles are something that we never wanted to shy away from, but something we always wanted to treat with respect. And really come from emotion and try to be honest about what she was feeling and going through.”

Alongside West and Witherspoon, Mbatha-Raw serves as an executive producer. Her role was on the heels of her time as an associate producer on BBC One’s The Girl Before, which marked her first producer credit.

“It was such a treat and an incredible learning curve,” Mbatha-Raw told us. “It’s been wonderful because I think I’ve been onboard with this. This is eight episodes and the show is much bigger in scale. It’s much more twisty.”

"It’s not based on a book," she continued. "This is all coming from the genius mind of Veronica West. You can’t Google the ending. You can’t go out and buy it. You’re going to have to just watch it. So, it was really cool to be a part of something that was a completely fresh and unique idea.”

As the emotional rollercoaster aforementioned by Mbatha-Raw unravels, so do the complex stories. 

For both Jackson-Cohen and James, they were allured by their characters and how they will relate to the audience’s own worlds.

“There was something about holding on to secrets and how much that eats you up that felt incredibly true, not just for me but I think for all of us,” Jackson-Cohen said. “I think that’s a pretty universal thing. Picking and choosing what we share with the world for various reasons…There was something about that that I felt was incredibly human that resonated with me.”

James added, “I feel like I’ve definitely had experience with psychological thrillers, but not from this vanishing point. To be a character that was so much in the know was really exciting for me, but also very mysterious. He was a part of the audience’s mystique. I just really enjoyed diving into somebody with so many layers that we could just slowly peel back throughout the course of the season.

'Surface' premieres on Apple TV+ on July 29. 

Watch the full interviews below:

 

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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