Josh Hutcherson, 24, has been acting more than half his life, but odds are you probably know him as Peeta from the Hunger Games quartet or the young adventurer Sean from the Jules Verne Journey films.
“Very wholesome,” Hutcherson laughs. “That’s not me. I went across to the dark side. It is really freeing.” He’s talking about his work on Future Man, Hulu’s new action-comedy series, the latest genre-riffing project from executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Hutcherson plays Josh Futterman, a janitor at an STD research laboratory who spends lonely nights in his parents’ house earning high scores in his favorite video game, Cybergeddon. “He can clean and play video games, those are his two talents,” says the actor, joking but also not joking.
Fate beckons him to unlikely heroism. When Hutcherson achieves high honors in one Cybergeddon, he’s identified as the world-saving messiah by badass future warriors Tiger and Wolf (Eliza Coupe and Derek Wilson), who travel back to our time looking for a Messiah to prevent their apocalyptic future. It’s a twist taken straight out of The Last Starfighter, and Future Man boils over with nostalgia for the ’80s-era science fiction. “All of us grew up in the era of these amazing movies like Back to the Future and The Terminator,” explains Ariel Shaffir, who co-created the show with Kyle Hunter. “This was an opportunity to lean into the genre, but do it in a funnier way.”
But don’t call it a spoof: For all the fish-out-of-time-traveling-water comedy, Future Man has big world-building sci-fi ambitions. “Our comedies are very plot-driven and conceptual,” says Rogen. “We’ve always talked about the big picture, the second season, the third season, the fourth season.” With that ambition comes film-worthy action setpieces. “It’s the most demanding show I’ve ever done,” says Coupe, who compares Tiger to aggro-badass Sarah Connor circa Terminator 2. “The amount of action stuff we do is crazy. Derek and I were doing a fight scene two weeks ago, I think it was 15 hours outside [filming].”
Real-world tragedy struck production with the passing of series regular Glenne Headly. “It still hasn’t really settled in all the way,” Hutcherson says. “In the show, her character’s my mom, the most sweet, loving, passionate woman. She’s so funny. Her and Ed Begley Jr. together are the dream parents.”
In lieu of recasting, the show will write the character out of the show. It’s another complication for an already complex series, which seeks to balance hard-R comedy with explosive thrills and mainstream nostalgia with geekish precision. “There’s so many references that maybe seven people will get,” says Hutcherson. “There’s certain weapons we use that are some deep Star Trek weaponry that my grandma, who’s a hardcore Trekkie, would know.” If Josh Hutcherson’s Star Trek-loving grandmother is satisfied, so are we.
Future Man will be at Comic-Con for a panel this Saturday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. PT in Room 6BCF.