'Extrapolations': Meryl Streep, Diane Lane and more stars warn us of future climate disaster
Contagion writer-director Scott Z. Burns has assembled some of Hollywood's biggest stars for a new Apple TV+ anthology series
Scott Z. Burns has assembled some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Meryl Streep, Diane Lane, Kit Harrington, Tobey Maguire and Forest Whitaker (to name just a few), for the anthology series Extrapolations (on Apple TV+) chronicling the impacts of climate change.
Extrapolations is a series of eight interconnected stories of how climate change has impacted the lives of people across the world, through different decades into the future.
Harrington's character, Nick Bilton, is particularly consistent throughout the story as the CEO of a company called Alpha, that seemingly controls everything holograms to agriculture and water supply. Martha (Lane), works for Alpha, getting more responsibility at the company as time progresses.
“For me, it was a thrill," Lane told Yahoo Canada about being part of the series. "Scott Burns is the perfect man for the job, to be administering this amount of humanity to that amount of science, because the intersection of both, that's his wheelhouse."
"I felt very safe to say yes to him, and lucky to have the offer.”
Michael Gandolfini is Rowan Chopin, whose father, played by Edward Norton, is friends with Martha. Rowan and his father have conflicting views on trying to curb the effects of climate change.
“He has a really relatable and really large struggle, which is not wanting to lose your relationship with your father, or parent, ... but needing to go off and do … what needs to be done for you morally, and for you mentally and physically. Affecting the world and being a part of a positive change,” Gandolfini said.
“Rowan really believes in what he's doing and there comes a point, a very hard point when you grow up, where you start having to look at a parent and say, ‘No, you're wrong. This is what I believe in, this is who I am.’ ... I really related and was really just moved by the experience of that.”
Daveed Diggs is in the first episode of the series, a rabbi Marshall Zucker, who is trying to deal with the pressures of his family, while also managing these climate issues for his congregation.
“Despite the lofty goals of the series, the stories are actually very personal, and … very human,” Diggs said. “The way that [Marshall] is conflicted, I think is the way that so many of us are conflicted, except he happens to be a rabbi.”
While Diggs and his fellow co-stars praised Burns' thorough script, the project even got Hamilton actor Diggs to agree to a song and dance number in the series.
“I usually shy away from a musical number because of my background, but I loved it in this one, I thought it was so well placed,” he said. “I thought having this unexplained moment of like a dreamy sort of metaphor actually kind of forces us to engage a little more deeply with the material, because you have to come up with your own reasons for why he's thinking these things.”
“I just kind of loved it. I got to dance in a flooding synagogue. … They actually flooded it, it's not like fake water. Just figuring out how to rehearse and practice in water, there are some truly horrendous takes of that dance number where I fall several times.”
'This is not fantasy, this is researched, scientific hypotheses'
While climate experts and activists have been shouting from the rooftops about the urgent action needed on climate change, we've also seen some individuals lack understanding on why things like committing to net zero emissions are so important. For Extrapolations, this is an avenue for the public to see possible future consequences that could come from our lack of action.
“This is entertainment after all, we're not here to frighten people further away from informing themselves, but it's nice to have some of the blank spots filled," Lane said. “It is a cautionary tale and it's good to see the humanity in all of these science projections."
"This is a very unifying story. It brings all the continents into the same conversation. It's like we're Pangea again, we're all united in one grouped together continent.”
“This is not fantasy, this is researched, scientific hypotheses of really where we're going," Gandolfini added. “We've already been seeing these disasters occur and I think that the human element of it really brings it down to a relatability."
"Maybe you haven't been in the middle of a forest fire, but the human emotions that are assigned with it, you relate and you think about yourself in those human relationships, and then also in those global environments."
The actor added that while there is certainly an element of not exactly being able to show the future, there is also an element of people not wanting to envision the future, opting to "shut off" and "disconnect" from what the future is expected to look like.
“I understand that impulse is to keep us comfortable and safe, and we want that as humans, of course, but it's our duty to be a part of what is actually happening,” Gandolfini said. “Instead of looking at the future with fear and nihilism, and being too scared, just take a daily action.”
“Educate yourself, educate your friends and your family, and do what you can every day. And at the end of the day go, ‘What did I do to improve my behaviours and my habits that maybe are uncomfortable?’”
Diggs echoed Lane and Gandolfini's statements, highlighting that this could be an opportunity for entertainment and popular culture to help people latch on to climate change issues.
“That is one of the things that television, or that art in general, can do really well,” Diggs said. “If we can be entertained by something, it can be top of mind. … When we see something we really enjoy, it stays with us for a while.”
“I think to some degree, and it's not like this show is going to solve climate change, but it can be one tool in the toolbox of just a reference point for people to talk about, which is also really useful.”
For Lane, who has been a notably informed climate change activist, and having protested alongside fellow actor Jane Fonda, she believes we can still make a positive change.
“I think it's a bonding experience to say we are the caretakers of this planet that we've taken for granted,” Lane said. “How many billions of us are there now? If we can have as much negative impact, I'm convinced we could have a positive one.”