Showrunner Gillian Flynn revealed in today’s virtual TCA session that she is taking her version of Amazon’s Utopia in a slightly different direction from the British original. The David Kelly-written counterpart received many complaints of brutality and adult content. When asked how Flynn felt about depicting violence, she replied that it would not be a big focus for the American series.
“I’m more ‘less is more’ as far as violence goes,” she said. “I’m the person who loves that moment in Rosemary’s Baby where we’re only seeing part of the conversation whereas the whole audience is trying to look around the corner to see what’s happening, or obviously Jaws. I’m a big believer in that. I don’t want it for a cartoon effect or for shock value. I think we as an audience are past most of that as pure shock value. I want to use violence when it’s effective and appropriate.”
Flynn also noted that her adaptation will differ from the UK original in tone and feel. Her early fascination with 1970s conspiracy thrillers informed her initial ideation for the eight-episode series.
“I stood with that basic DNA and then went from there with my own interests,” she said. “I would say Dennis Kelly is very Britpop, kind of colorful and sleek with his story. I was inspired by the 1970s conspiracy thrillers, paranoia thrillers like The Parallax View and Marathon Man. In fact, when I was pitching this, I called it The Goonies meets Marathon Man. I took this idea of a group of ragtag, unlikely heroes who get caught in this incredibly dark conspiracy.”
Utopia is a twisted conspiracy thriller about saving the world, while trying to find your place in it. Inspired by the British series, the new Amazon Original comes from best-selling author and award-winning screenwriter Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects), who also serves as executive producer. Utopia centers on a group of comic fans who meet online and bond over their obsession with a seemingly fictional comic called, Utopia. Together, Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop), Ian (Dan Byrd), Samantha (Jessica Rothe), Wilson Wilson (Desmin Borges) and Grant (Javon “Wanna” Walton) unearth hidden meanings cloaked within its pages, predicting threats to humanity. They realize these are not just the makings of a conspiracy; they are very real dangers coming alive right now in their world. The high-stakes adventure brings the group face-to-face with the comic’s famed central character, Jessica Hyde (Sasha Lane), who joins them on their mission to save the world while harboring secrets of her own.
The series also stars John Cusack, Rainn Wilson, Farrah Mackenzie, Christopher Denham and Cory Michael Smith.
Alongside Flynn, executive producers include Jessica Rhoades (with whom Flynn collaborated on Sharp Objects), Sharon Levy, Sharon Hall, Toby Haynes, Karen Wilson, and Dennis Kelly. The series is a co-production between Endemol Shine North America, Kudos and Amazon Studios. Utopia will be available exclusively on Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories.