In Brief Take‘s extensive coverage of the series Brave New World, the plan wasn’t to go from an Alpha-Plus (the droll Harry Lloyd), to an Epsilon (Joseph Morgan), but here we are anyway. In fact, Morgan plays not just the Epsilon CJack60, a character not explored in the book, he also plays CJack57, (a great number of CJacks, actually), as well as a surprising character only revealed in the last episode of the series. We opened our phone call with the versatile Welsh-born actor by informing him that there’s a Brave New World poster in a bus terminal right outside of our window and that we enhanced it by adding his face to it, and in fact, adding a number of his faces, to stay within the spirit of the series. (He seemed to greatly appreciate it.)
The following is a really fun and not at all end of the line chat with the also kind of droll Joseph Morgan of Brave New World.
*Major spoilers ahead!*
Brief Take: Brave New World is such a cool show! What do you think of the layered reveal of this series?
Joseph Morgan: You know, it’s a luxury. Having come from a background of Network TV—at least more recently—in which everything is jammed into the 42-and-a-half minutes per episode on a seven day episode schedule, it’s a luxury to have a little breathing room in the episodes and to allow moments to evolve. That scene with Harry (Lloyd) and me, in the finale, that was a very late addition to the episode. It was something that David (Wiener) wrote really a few days before we shot it. It came out of feeling this arc needed closure between the two of them, and CJack needed a turning point in which he realized that the revolution was not necessarily the good thing in which he thought and that the violence was not necessarily the way. So for me, that was the best thing about filming in that way was having the luxury to let things come out of the work like that and that’s something that you don’t get with a tighter schedule.
BT: Was this series sold to you as ‘other than you, everyone gets to participate in orgies and lavish scenes and parties’?
JM: They were basically: “Clean up after everyone, mostly off-camera, but it’s going to be integral, the heart of the piece, if you will” Yeah. [laughs] I read the first two episodes, I kind of knew what I was getting myself into in terms of being an Epsilon and so on, and then I talked to the creator of the show, David Wiener. He told me an idea of the arc and where it was going to go, I knew that there was going to be a lot more for me in the very last episode, but that initially, until then, it was going to be like touching base with CJack every episode.
BT: What did you enjoy most about getting to play different characters in this series?
JM: I really enjoyed that element of it. Playing Elliot, the maker, the one who after which all of the CJacks were modelled, I really enjoyed playing that character, and then I really enjoyed kind of bringing it all together at the end. And it kind of leaves the door open, there’s a lot of potential now for CJack to grow. It’s like he’s only just come into his own and then there’s a whole world out there above the surface that he can explore, but those were my favourite points of filming.
BT: What do you like best about acting opposite yourself?
JM: It’s always a weird one because of course, you have someone else there on the day to stand in for you off-camera, and then you go and switch and have that same person stand in as the other role, but I was lucky on that day…when I killed myself, effectively, there was a guy, he was a stunt man because of the strangling, and he was really good, really solid actor, so it was actually relatively painless. [laughs] But it’s interesting, with those scenes and the same for big green screen sequences, there’s a little bit of you that’s like: “I can’t wait to see it when it’s put together. How is this going to be?” and acting with yourself, you’re trying to react to what you think that you did, on the other side of the camera. It’s an interesting experience and a new one for me.
BT: What did you like most about this ensemble and are these old or new friends?
JM: I was meeting everyone for the first time. It’s my first job that I’ve shot in the U.K. since I left. For 10 years, I’ve been shooting in America and Canada and places like Hungary, but I haven’t been back to shoot anything in the U.K. until Brave New World, so it was new faces. And what I liked best is that for me, Harry (Lloyd) and I basically bookended the series. I had a little bit with him in the very beginning and then in the end I had a lovely scene with him. In fact, I think that’s my favourite scene—that I did at least—in which CJack60 confronts Bernard in his office. That’s sort of a turning point for my character and that was my favourite part of it. Then there were some people—like Jessica Brown Findlay—I didn’t get to work with at all. She was a ways across the car park and she left for the day and I started work. But they cast it really well, across the board, I think that the acting was of a high standard.
BT: I thought this show was unlike anything I have ever seen. What did it feel like to you?
JM: Well it certainly felt like something that I had never seen. There’s a lot of dystopian drama out there and a lot of post-apocalyptic, so this was a vision of the future that I thought hadn’t been done. And that was so exciting to me, even reading the script was this is a world that I haven’t seen on screen before and I am excited to be a part of it. Yeah, it did and there was certainly buzz about it and it felt different and exciting.
BT: What do you think about the world that you are building on screen?
JM: Well, that’s the funny thing about New London, which is that on the surface it feels like everything works, and as they say: “everybody’s happy”. But it’s a superficial happiness and it feels like the layers and realize that there’s no depth to it, there’s no connection, which is something profoundly human. There’s no monogamy, so people are never able to form lasting relationships and experience any of that kind of depth. There’s also no privacy, you’re never quite yourself and it’s like you’re “on” the entire time. You’re aware that you can be watched at any time, so I think that you can never truly grieve.
BT: What do you bring to this series as a director yourself?
JM: Directing was a turning point for me, certainly, in terms of honing my acting, and that’s partly because I edit as well. And seeing my own performance on camera, seeing all the different takes really helped me hone in on: “What am I doing and what do I think that I am doing in this moment?”. What actually came across, what was translated by the camera? So there’s that, in terms of the nuances and having that technical awareness. Then there’s also very much that I like to work in tandem with the crew. I don’t like to work in a way in which you don’t even worry about that. You just do your job and we’ll take care of the rest. I like to know what are the camera moves and I like to know what are the setups and how everything is coming together, because it’s a ballet. In fact, I believe that this one of the most important relationships on set—other than of course actor/director—is the actor and the camera operator, because of course, both can complement the other. If you know what you’re doing, you can really use that to enhance the performance, if you will. That is definitely something that I took from directing.
BT: What does it feel like to watch this incredible series?
JM: [laughs] It was great, as I mentioned, to see it come together, because there’s a lot of these effects. And then it’s an interesting job for me because for the first eight episodes, I flew into town and did a couple of days and flew out. Like you said, I wasn’t a part of all the parties and the orgies and this very big aspect of the show for which I had nothing to do. And I was on my own very singular journey, a very kind of streamlined, blinkered view of the show, because I had read the script, but I didn’t see any of that other than strolling past the sets. It was very exciting for me to step back and see the whole thing and how, within that, my part worked.
BT: How do you feel that the series has heightened during our own time of uprising?
JM: Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because when we were making it, we had no idea that the world would take this turn. But it is interesting, certainly there’s a part of it that it’s lovely escapism, because it’s such a different view of the future, of a possible future. I’m also finding the parallel between the Soma and the ways that we placate ourselves very interesting. Of course pharmaceuticals, but also with social media and reality television and ways that we are placated or to ways in which we are pandered in order to keep us from taking to the streets. And it’s funny, isn’t it? With all of the Black Lives Matter protests recently, I feel like these protests were of course a long time coming. And there’s something about us being holed up as part of the pandemic that charged, that put a charge to it, that lit a fire, and it’s a very interesting time to be watching a show like this one.
BT: It’s interesting as well that though this society is broken, New London is ahead of our own society in terms of diversity.
JM: Yeah, I love that. That the prejudice comes through not through the prejudice with which we deal maybe in our world, but it draws a parallel to a different form of pecking order and prejudice. Yeah, it’s interesting, but you can draw parallels. I can go back to being on The Originals, that we were quite diverse on that show, but then there was definitely the feeling that the werewolves were separate to the vampires and they hate each other and there’s this [chuckles] war between those. But both—if you will—species are from all different races. Yeah, it’s interesting, it’s like an ultimate version of the prejudices that we face.
BT: How have you enjoyed the audience coming to this show and giving it a positive response?
JM: I’ve enjoyed it a lot, it’s a character that I really loved playing and I have a lot to say about him and I enjoy people watching it and seeing the show through. The responses that I get are probably quite biased because I get it through my social media, [laughs] so it’s favourable in terms of me and my performance, so it’s enjoyable in that way. But in general, I like people experiencing this world, into which we all put so much work and I’ve talked to Harry (Lloyd) and the others since, and to David (Wiener), the creator, and everybody feels pretty proud of it. And it’s nice when you work on a project and you feel like it’s going to be something special and it turns out that it is. [laughs] That’s really nice, because it doesn’t always happen like that.
BT: What does it feel like to be promoting this project, in boxes on a screen alongside your cast and creator?
JM: Yeah, it’s such a weird one, isn’t it? It took a bit of getting used to, doing the Comic-Con panel from my living room is bizarre. And I loved my experience of going to Comic-Con all those years and being part of that big panel and being able to feed off of the audience’s energy and all of that. Yeah, it’s a very strange thing. Thankfully, I have a terrific platform via my social media, I’ve been sharing a lot of little excerpts and photos and different things like that and trying to maintain a relationship with the audience and to make them feel a part of it and at least feel some of that excitement, but it’s a Brave New World, man. [laughs]
Brave New World airs Sundays at 9pm on Showcase