If you haven’t heard yet, NBC Universal’s streaming channel — Peacock — launched last month. The big rollout included the release of the original limited series Brave New World.
Based on the Aldous Huxley book of the same name, the story presents a utopian society where peace and stability are achieved thanks to the prohibition of things we take for granted like monogamy, privacy, money and family. AIs are part of this dystopian future along with a genetically engineered drug called Soma which is supposed to cure unhappiness. The 1932 classic has been required reading for high school students for decades.
This isn’t NBC’s first attempt to bring the acclaimed sci-fi novel to life. Peter Gallagher and Leonard Nimoy starred in a version that originally aired in 1998.
The cast assembled for this brand new adaptation is a who’s who of familiar faces: Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay; Demi Moore, Kylie Bunbury from Fox’s Pitch; Young Han Solo himself, Aiden Ehrenreich, The Originals’ Klaus Mikaelson aka Joseph Morgan and Hannah John-Kamen of Syfy’s Killjoys.
Nina Sosanya of HBO’s His Dark Materials and BBC America’s Killing Eve plays Mustafa Mond, a “controller” of the new world and its societal architect. She’s a human of unknown age, the last of a group that designed and built the world when the world they knew started to fail.
The British actress recently answered a few questions for TV Goodness via email. While she has no previous relationship to the book, she says she’s “a lover of science fiction, particularly novels.” So being part of this nine-episode series is a perfect fit. “It’s so interesting to see a book morph and mutate into another form, particularly one like Brave New World as it is such a classic.”
“But it’s also an odd read,” she admits. “[Showrunner] David Weiner’s adaptation takes the ideas and the philosophical questions in the novel and makes them dramatic and human. And funny.”
One of the most notable book-to-broadcast changes is Mustafa’s gender — Huxley’s character is male (spelled “Mustapha”); in this project, she’s female. “Mustapha in the novel is a product of thousands of years of assumed superiority,” Sosanya explains. “Our [Mustafa’s] arrogance comes from a more specific place — she’s been more or less alone for a couple of hundred years, she’s the only human around who has any knowledge of how the world used to be, including, we must assume, the gender balance of that past world.”
She feels Mustafa’s “total control comes from [the] experience of seeing how horribly wrong things can go. Socially. Environmentally. The concept of motherhood and nurturing therefore has different implications when we watch Mustapha as a woman as opposed to reading him as a man. But all that comes with the script. I didn’t have to play anything other than what was already there.”
Playing someone not-quite immortal, someone who’s essentially lived through two different incarnations, appealed to this veteran of sci-fi TV shows like Doctor Who and Good Omens “It was interesting to play someone who can only see every other human being around her as an intellectual toddler, who has no hope of understanding anything that she might reference or allude to. ‘There was once a thing called God.’ She hopelessly underestimates people, of course, as all dictators eventually do.”
Sosanya says one of her favorite parts of the Brave New World experience was a particular scene she filmed with Morgan.
“I really liked working with Joseph Morgan as Eliot in the beach scene. There was a chance to hint at the lives they might have led so many years ago, and it was great to play her as a vulnerable human for a moment. Also, it was the most beautiful day on the most beautiful beach! No CGI needed.”
For UK fans, there’s another way to enjoy Sosanya this month. She’s in a racy six-episode show on SkyTV called Little Birds. It’s “another extraordinary adaptation of a book, this time a series of short stories by Anais Nin, which were written in the 40s but published in the late 70s.”
The series is set in Tangier in 1955 and “follows the lives of four people struggling to find their own power sexually, politically personally,” Sosanya reveals. “It’s period, looks gorgeous, it’s funny and very provocative.”
One of the actress’ most famous projects will be back before you know it. In Love Actually, she plays Chief of Staff to Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister. The hit holiday movie continues to air every December. “It’s a hoot that I appear in people’s living rooms at Christmas. Although someone told me they put it on every year but don’t really watch it. How very dare they.”
All nine episodes of Brave New World are now streaming on Peacock TV.
[Update: the series was cancelled in October so there won’t be a second season.]
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