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'Devs' explores the space between scientific discoveries

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'Devs' explores the space between scientific discoveries
Alex Garland created the new FX series "Devs" streaming exclusively on Hulu. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, March 5 (UPI) -- Ex Machina and Annihilation writer/director Alex Garland created a TV show about a machine that could affect not only the future, but also the past. Devs explores the very real implications of such technology and the company that created it.

"It was about the machine and then trying to imagine the company behind it," Garland told UPI. "In some ways, the whole thing is about the ethics of a machine like that or the consequences of a machine like that."

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In the show, Amaya CEO Forest (Nick Offerman) invites Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) to join his top-secret development ("Devs") team. Lily participates because she believes the company had something to do with her boyfriend's death.

"I think there are ethics in the tech community that are not controlled by our political systems and our government," Mizuno said in a separate interview. "It's a very strange time we're living in now. It's difficult to know who's in control of what."

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Garland keeps specific details about the machine vague in the early episodes. By midway through the eight episodes, the machine's capabilities become more clear as the characters debate its applications.

The time the characters spend processing their discoveries is as important to Garland as the discoveries themselves. Garland said he enjoyed filling the eight episodes of Devs with scenes of the characters processing their discoveries.

"You could do a 10-page scene in a TV show and that's just a 10-page scene," Garland said. "If that's a movie, you've used up 7 percent of the entire movie or more. It's just very liberating."

As Chan discovers the true nature of the machine, she views images that vary in clarity. Garland suggested the images become clearer as the Devs fine-tune the machine.

"When we first see the images, they're kind of like TVs in the old days, before they were digital," Garland said. "If you couldn't tune it correctly, you'd get this snowstorm of static. It sort of came from that, in a way."

Chan has enough programming experience to deal with the technology. Mizuno does not and tries to learn enough to be able to perform convincingly.

"I like to understand it to the best of my ability, but I'm not a scientist and I'm not Alex, who has the mind that he has," Mizuno said. "It's reading some books. It's watching some things on YouTube, but at the end of the day, for me it's always about what the character is going through."

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Devs takes place in a somewhat futuristic office. Encased in gold, a floating electromagnetic cube takes programmers to their stations. They can't transfer anything inside or out.

"Depending on the lighting, it would kind of pulsate in a particular way," Mizuno said. "It would look like the walls are breathing. So it was like you were inside this living organism."

Garland said he extrapolated the security protocols from real tech companies.

"One of the things was to do with vacuums because you can always tell if something's passing across a vacuum," Garland said. "So there'd be faraday cages and concrete and no cables and no USB ports, and also sometimes using vacuums around things. I thought that was kind of interesting."

Devs will be the first FX series to launch exclusively on Hulu, with new episodes streaming every Thursday. Garland said FX gave him creative freedom with the show's technology and its characters, unlike anything he'd experienced in film. He added that FX never questioned him.

"FX [never said], 'Oh, that's too complicated, oh, that's too morally ambiguous, oh, that's too unsympathetic,'" Garland said. "In film, there's the cliche: the lead character's not sympathetic enough. I never heard anything like that when I was working on this."

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Chan is the viewer's entree into Amaya, and Forest hired her for her individual way of thinking. Mizuno appreciated how Garland created a character unlike stereotypical women in science fiction.

"Typically, they can be very sexy, glossy, badass, sassy, everyone's best friend," Mizuno said. "Lily was none of those things. She was a real outsider. She didn't participate in groupthink and she did things for her own reasons. That's something I felt like I could relate to."

Devs premieres Thursday on FX on Hulu.

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