[WARNING: Mild Spoilers for Utopia Falls]
In these crazy quarantine days the need for escape is essential. If you’re anything like us, then you’ve been busy bingeing TV shows like Hulu’s Utopia Falls.
It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world but there’s a twist. It blends in a swirl of elements including music, dance, intrigue, angst, rebellion, friendship and young love. It then proceeds to wrap it all up in a pop culture history lesson that comes complete with Snoop Dogg’s voice.
Yes, the hip-hop icon is the voice of the future but you can call him The Archive.
The drama feels like a wild combination of Hunger Games melded with So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol. Hulu classifies Utopia Falls as its first ever “sci-fi hip-hop television series.”
When we asked cast member Phillip Lewitski (Apollo 4) how he describes his show to family and friends he says,“It’s a utopian society living under this shield away from the devastation and ruins of the outside world. There’s a music component that comes into play and it follows this group of teens as they rebel against the authority figures.”
This group of teens are drafted into an event that calls for them to compete using artistic weaponry, namely dancing, singing and playing instruments.
Lewitski’s character, Apollo, falls under the music category, which is a good thing considering the Canadian actor grew up playing the piano, violin and drums. He relishes working on a project that requires him to combine his acting and musical skills.
“It’s the first time in my career that I’ve had to implement both music and acting at the same time,” he says. “I had a good team around me of choreographers for the drum sequences and the piano pieces and stuff like that. I definitely had a good team backing me.”
He also logged a lot of training time to prepare for the performances. “A lot of rehearsals, especially for the drum sequences because the drum beats and the hits have to be exact. They have to match up exactly with the sounds they’re putting over it. So that in post-production everything matches up and looks right. I had to make sure that we were hitting the beats at the exact moments.”
On the acting side of things, Lewitski feels fortunate to embody a character that experiences some seriously dramatic beats. Halfway through the season, Apollo is dealt a blow that threatens his place in the competition.
“Apollo does go through a pretty traumatic thing. And when I first read the script I was nervous but excited for that shift in him,” he reveals. “It not only shifts [him] mentally but also physically and there’s a lot of different layers that you have to then put on and add to the character as an actor.”
The musician is forced to adjust to a new way of life. Against all odds, he rises to the occasion. Lewitski says he didn’t know about this particular twist until well into filming.
“We were only getting episodes as we were shooting,” he explains. We’d get episode one, two and three. We’d get them in little blocks and then we shoot that and just before we wrapped that up we’d get [episodes] five, six and seven.
I remember everyone on set knew what happened to me except for the actors,” he adds. “And the creator of the show did that on purpose. He didn’t want the events later on to affect us and how we were going to do things later in the season. So he was only giving us the episodes periodically on purpose.”
Since Utopia Falls’ February release, viewers have been tuning in and Lewitski has been receiving feedback from fans.
“I’ve gotten messages from people who have gone through similar things that Apollo has gone through. It pulls at the heart strings to hear some of their stories and to read through what they went through and how they persevered. They didn’t give up on dreams and their art because of something that happened to them or something they were born with.”
Along with a diverse cast — Lewitski himself comes from French, Ukrainian and Mohawk ancestry — Utopia Falls features a kickin’ soundtrack. Hip-hop music takes front and center. So who better to represent The Archive in vocal form than Snoop Dogg.
Originally, the actors “had our script supervisor shooting us the lines while we were filming and then we would just act off of that.”
It wasn’t until much later the cast found out the rapper/producer/TV host/actor/entrepreneur would provide the voiceover for the very thing that incites the teens to break the rules of song and dance in this reality. Lewitski feels Snoop’s voice adds much weight and texture to the series.
“He’s got such a distinct sound to his voice and instantly I think fans can recognize that. And just to know that we’ve got this icon on the show that’s trying to represent the history of hip-hop? I think it’s really cool to have someone from the early stages of hip-hop and the hip-hop revolution.
Outside of Utopia Falls, Lewitski is an author — when he was 19 he published a book called Inside My Head. He also guest starred during the 14th season of the CW’s Supernatural. In “Don’t Go In the Woods,” he’s literally in the first scene after the opening recap.
“It was such an amazing cast,” he says. “A lot of the time when you’re joining later on, people can sort of have this arrogance on set thinking they’re better or something like that. But Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, the second I was in the make-up chair getting ready to get my hair and make-up done they were just shaking my hand and welcoming me to the set and it was just a really great crew to work with.”
Vikings fans will be able to see him when the show returns with its final episodes ever. He couldn’t say much about the role he’s playing but he’s, of course, excited to be a part of HISTORY’s hit drama.
“It was cool. It was really amazing. They introduce a lot of new characters, me being one of them, So we all kind of flew in [to Ireland] together and were able to start our fresh new story. It was a lot of fun.”
Lewitski can currently be seen in Hulu’s Utopia Falls.. No word yet on whether the show will be back for a second season.
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