How Peacock's Brave New World tackles the 'forever problem with people'
The adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, starring Jessica Brown Findlay, Alden Ehrenreich, and Harry Lloyd, dives into a struggle-free world where pleasure is valued above all else.
At its heart, Peacock's Brave New World chronicles a very relatable dilemma: “How hard is it to be happy, and what does that really mean?” says showrunner David Wiener. “It’s the forever problem with people.” And it’s a heavy question befitting the show’s source material.
An adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s prescient 1932 novel, the ambitious nine-episode series is set in New London, a bright and orgy-loving society that maintains peace with three rules: no privacy, no family, and no monogamy. Thanks to a readily available pharmaceutical called Soma, which quells pesky negative feelings, everyone is “happy.” Well, everyone except Bernard Marx (Game of Thrones’ Harry Lloyd), a counselor who is an Alpha+, the highest social class, and Beta+ scientist Lenina Crowe (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay). Despite the drugs, the two feel something is missing, which connects them in the premiere and alienates them from the rest of the populace. “They don’t have the words or tools to tackle it. It’s not like anything they’ve ever experienced, yet it’s unavoidable and it’s not going anywhere,” says Lloyd. That sense of dislocation is what convinced Brown Findlay to audition. “There was something in her that I have felt acutely in the past. There was a sort of searching and longing in her,” she says.
For Wiener, focusing on the pair’s internal struggles, instead of the speculative future aspect, helps distinguish it from prior adaptations. “It’s less about the Orwellian problems of how to overthrow the state or challenges that people have,” he says. “We come from the perspective of, it’s a utopian novel [and] the dystopia it really ultimately reveals is the dystopia inside us.” He continues, “When you start to surrender some of these things that cause you suffering, you actually wind up surrendering the fundamental parts of your humanity. What we tried to explore, especially [with] Lenina, is the value of those things.”
Lenina’s and Bernard’s existential crises intensify following a trip to the Savage Lands, a.k.a. what remains of the United States, which has been transformed into a theme park where New Londoners can gawk at the inhabitants and their divisive practices and values like monogamy, religion, and greed. There, Lenina and Bernard encounter the Soma-free John the Savage (Solo’s Alden Ehrenreich), who lives with his mother, Linda (Demi Moore), and accompanies the duo back home after saving them from a harrowing rebellion. “He has a really disruptive effect on the people of New London,” says Wiener of John’s natural emotional freedom.
John also complicates Bernard and Lenina’s burgeoning connection. “There’s a lot of unspoken, undeniable curiosity that they have about each other—and it starts from the very first moment they see each other,” says Brown Findlay. Ehrenreich adds, “You watch that love triangle unfold, and it’s a perfect venue for all kinds of conflicting, difficult, and challenging emotions to arise.”
Bernard and Lenina will have a hard time running away from these intrusive feelings. Peacock, meanwhile, hopes viewers will have a hard time resisting Brave New World.
Brave New World premieres July 15 on Peacock's launch day.
Brave New World