Apple TV+ once again launches into science fiction content today with "Silo," a small screen iteration of author Hugh Howey's New York Times bestselling "Silo" novels: "Wool" (2011), "Shift" (2013) and "Dust" (2013). The dystopian series centers around a subterranean habitat where the final threads of humankind have survived for hundreds of years after the planet became uninhabitable.
Academy Award winning actor/director Tim Robbins stars in "Silo" as Bernard, the silo's IT Director and a person of importance in manipulating the real truth behind this 144-level post-apocalyptic bunker.
Robbins is perhaps best known as the wrongly accused convict Andy Dufresne in the classic 1994 prison drama, "The Shawshank Redemption," as well as the 1988 sports comedy "Bull Durham," and 1990's shocking supernatural thriller, "Jacob's Ladder." But this is not Robbins' first mission into sci-fi fare, having also co-starred in 2000's "Mission to Mars," 2005's "War of the Worlds," and 2011's "Green Lantern." "Silo" does represent his first serious episodic series delving into that imaginative genre.
Space.com spoke to the acclaimed actor on his attraction to Yost's "Silo" adaptation, how its dark material reflects questionable policies enacted during the pandemic, and creating his mercurial character, Bernard.
Space.com: What resonated most with you about the Hugh Howey novels and this big-budget "Silo" adaptation?
Tim Robbins: Well, probably how relevant it was to recent history. From the isolation of the silo, to the infringement on a woman's bodily autonomy, and just the idea of the official narrative and anyone that deviates from that official narrative is suppressed. My job as the head of the IT in the silo is to make sure that there isn't a counter narrative. And I found that to be something that really resonated with what we all just recently experienced.
I also thought it was a great challenge to play a part that was a person in a position of power and what that entails. What is personally compromised when someone has to be the person that does things that may be counter to his idea of right and wrong, yet he has to do it because someone has to do it in this society?
Space.com: What is it about the sci-fi genre itself that allows for the projection of ideas and the dissemination of concepts in a way no other genre can?
Robbins: I think about Vonnegut's early work and Ray Bradbury, and I think about Asimov and allegories like "1984" and "Brave New World." Taking it into science fiction allows a certain truth to be told about real life and all of those authors have done it. You could also look at science fiction as being something that is a cautionary tale. Imagining an alternative reality to tell a story and really talk about today. Much like when Arthur Miller wrote "The Crucible," he was writing about the McCarthy Hearings. Oftentimes, authors have to do that in order to get their stories out, particularly in repressive societies. They have to figure out ways to tell a story about the current situation in a safe enough way that they don't get jailed or killed for it.
I don't think Hugh Howey faced those kinds of challenges, but what he did was create an amazing allegory about what truth is, what freedom is, and what happens in a society where truth is suppressed. But most importantly, how there's something in the human spirit, embodied in this story by Juliette [Rebecca Ferguson], that is irrepressible. The human heart finds its own truth. She wants to find out how her loved one died. And in her journey, as she peels layers off of the veneer, she starts to understand deeper truths about the silo. That that comes from a personal journey I think is really important. It's not an agenda, it's an accident of the heart.
Space.com: In composing your complex Head of IT character, how did you use the confines of the claustrophobic "Silo" sets to help craft that persona?
Robbins: Bernard is a character who is very much behind the scenes. I had to be very careful about being too full of any personality. Bernard is the one who's never seen. He's in a position of power but he's not out front because he's not comfortable there. There's something about him that has to be anonymous. So even though we're in this grand world, I had to play counter to that and be someone that was soft-spoken and intensely devoted to anonymity as a way to do his job.
Emmy-nominated Hollywood screenwriter and producer Graham Yost, ("Speed," "Justified," "Broken Arrow,") is the architect behind this absorbing 10-episode project adapted from the popular "Silo" books. The ensemble cast stars Rebecca Ferguson, Tim Robbins, Common, Will Patton, Harriet Walter, Chinaza Uche, Iain Glen, Avi Nash, David Oyelowo, and Rashida Jones.
"Silo" lands its first two episodes exclusively on Apple TV+ starting on May 5, 2023, then new weekly chapters each Friday.