By Christian Holub
September 23, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT
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Who would dare imagine a utopia right now? With the world beset by so many overlapping crises, idealistic visions of the future feel hard to conjure. But on Amazon Prime's new series Utopia, based on the 2013 British show of the same name, at least one person is thinking big: Dr. Kevin Christie (John Cusack), a billionaire who is trying to innovate new solutions to global problems like climate change and world hunger. As the show begins, he finds himself facing a new problem, one already familiar to us here in the real world: A global pandemic.

Dr. Christie is new to the American Utopia, written and executive produced by Gillian Flynn (Sharp Objects); he has no analogue in the British original. At the core of the show is the same group of internet pen pals — Ian (Dan Byrd), Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop), Wilson Wilson (Desmin Borges), and Samantha (Jessica Rothe) — who come together after they hear that a long-awaited sequel to their favorite comic has materialized at a convention. In the exclusive clip above, you can see the group meeting in person for the first time and speculating about the identity of their fifth member, Grant (Javon Walton), who is late to the party.

EW caught up with Cusack to discuss why Dr. Christie isn't like other billionaires. Check that out below. The new eight-episode Amazon Original Series, Utopia, premieres Friday, Sept. 25 on Prime Video.

Utopia John Cusack CR: Elizabeth Morris/Amazon Studios

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you describe Dr. Christie’s role as the story begins?

JOHN CUSACK: He’s somebody who’s trying to make the world a better place from the top down, in the mold of benevolent billionaires and cultural philanthropists. He’s trying to solve some of the riddles that are facing modern humanity. He’s trying to help with food and water shortages, pandemics, and viruses. He’s a major player from the big foundations and think tanks, from the very top of capitalism. But he seems like a good guy who is trying to do his best to make the world a better place.

How does the question we hear him ask in the trailer — “What have you done today to earn your place in this crowded world?” — sum up his worldview?

They say that service is the rent you pay for your time here on earth. He’s in that camp. He’s one of those people who is willing to make the toughest choices for the greater good. He wants everyone to sacrifice equally. He’s not one of these cats who’s preaching conservation and morality for everyone else while he flies private jets. He’s of that class, but he’s willing to betray his class and do whatever it takes to help save the world.

Given that Dr. Christie is interested in pandemics, what was it like to be immersed in that and then watch what’s unfolding in reality?

It felt timely, in a tragic way of saying that. We felt we were a step away from these things happening. If something is absurd, it indicates how things might be down the road a couple of blocks. But this felt like, Oh s---, we’re on the same block!

Utopia is a very chaotic show. How might Dr. Christie react to things not going the way he planned?

He’s the kind of person who always has a contingency. He always has a plan b and a plan c. He bakes that into the process. He’s the kind of person where failure is not an option. It’s not even entertained.

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