By Derek Lawrence
February 05, 2021 at 12:00 PM EST
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As evidenced by the below, Cristin Milioti really can't escape harrowing situations in the desert.

Fresh off the record-breaking success of her hit Hulu indie Palm Springs, the actress is returning to familiar surroundings, only this time as the face of HBO Max's new series Made for Love, which EW has the exclusive first look at.

Credit: HBO Max

"The story is about a woman who has left her tech mogul husband only to discover that he has put a surveillance chip in her brain," explains showrunner Christina Lee of her adaptation of Alissa Nutting's best-selling novel. "That, in and of itself, was a fantastic premise for a show. But what really drew me in was Alissa's voice. Her writing has a way of making you feel queasy and delighted at the same time, making you burst into laughter. She set up such a fun and unique world to adapt and expand from. Plus, what other show can boast that they have a sex doll and a dolphin as main characters?"

Credit: JOHN P JOHNSON/HBO Max

In what Milioti jokes is a "sci-fi, dark comedy, family, emotional survivor story," she stars as Hazel Green, who, after 10 years of being controlled by her sociopathic tech billionaire husband Byron Gogol (Aladdin's Billy Magnussen), momentarily believes she's finally escaped his grasp

"Certainly there is a similar element of being trapped," Milioti says of comparisons to Palm Springs' Sarah, who was forced to relive the same day over and over. "I would say that Sarah has a lot more agency than Hazel. And I think that's something that goes throughout the season. In my opinion, Hazel is someone who is deathly afraid to feel and Sarah was someone who felt so much that it could be an issue. And so I think for me that is probably why it feels so different to be inside of it, even though there were definitely times in the desert where I was like, 'Oh my god, I've been in this desert before!'"

Credit: JOHN P JOHNSON/HBO Max

Throughout her career, Milioti has built an impressive and diverse résumé, between winning a Grammy (and getting a Tony nomination) for Broadway's Once, starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, playing the titular mother in How I Met Your Mother, breaking our heart on Fargo, and fronting one of Black Mirror's most memorable episodes. But now she gets the chance to lead her own series.

"Cristin has always been a scene-stealer to me," says Lee of her star. "She has the ability to convey so much with just one look and can be both hilarious and heartbreaking without skipping a beat. She was also intrinsic in developing the character of Hazel over the season, always revealing new and unexpected layers that would inspire Alissa and I to rewrite and dig deeper. The spectrum of emotion that she brought to the character of Hazel was truly extraordinary."

Credit: HBO Max

But Milioti is quick to shout-out the "dream team" surrounding her. TV veteran Ray Romano stars as Hazel's widowed father, Herbert, who has become very close to his sex doll Diane ("Sizzling" is how Milioti describes Herbert and Diane's chemistry). "Working with Ray really exceeded my already high expectations," she says. Also onboard are The Undoing's Noma Dumezweni and Veep's Dan Bakkedahl as Gogol's underlings.

Credit: HBO Max

"I was drawn to how the story heightens reality and refocuses the prism by which we regard relationships and love," says Magnussen, who previously costarred with Milioti in Black Mirror's "USS Callister." "I was excited to work with a female-driven team of writers, directors, and stars like the amazing Cristin Milioti and Noma Dumezweni, as well as the most feminine of us all, Ray Romano. I loved exploring a character with so much power and all the fear that comes with a position like that."

Credit: HBO Max

As alluded to by Magnussen, Made for Love is a "sci-fi story told through a female point of view," according to Lee. "At first glimpse, it explores how modern day conveniences and futuristic technology affects intimacy," she says. "But, at the core, it's a story about divorce, heartbreak and a woman's path to freedom."

Credit: HBO Max

Made for Love premieres this spring on HBO Max.

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