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'Extrapolations' star Daveed Diggs: People can crack climate change if they work together

Daveed Diggs' "Extrapolations" premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 5 | Daveed Diggs' "Extrapolations" premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, March 16 (UPI) -- Tony winner Daveed Diggs says he remains hopeful about the fate of humanity, even after starring in Snowpiercer and Extrapolations -- two science-fiction series with dire warnings about where the continued abuse of the planet could lead.

"I believe in people," Diggs told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

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"We're a pretty amazing organism we've developed into and, if we do decide to focus collectively on community, we can do some pretty incredible things. Figuring out how to do it is the trick," he added.

"Part of it is making it profitable to make conscious choices. We are very capable of examining ourselves and the choices that we make."

Premiering Friday on Apple TV+, Extrapolations was created by Scott Z. Burns -- a filmmaker whose credits include An Inconvenient Truth and Contagion.

The eight-part drama spans the globe over the course of decades and tells intersecting stories about how the decisions and actions of scientists, politicians and religious leaders impact others as the Earth is getting hotter.

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The ensemble cast includes Meryl Streep, Sienna Miller, Kit Harington, Edward Norton, Diane Lane, Tahar Rahim, Yara Shahidi, Matthew Rhys, Gemma Chan, David Schwimmer, Keri Russell, Marion Cotillard, Forest Whitaker, Indira Varma, Tobey Maguire, Heather Graham, Michael Gandolfini, Cherry Jones, Judd Hirsch and Neska Rose.

Diggs -- who is also known for his roles in Hamilton, Blindspotting and Central Park -- plays Rabbi Marshall Zucker, an American ex-patriot living in 2037 Israel in Extrapolations.

"Today, people get their energy from the sun. Humans have set foot on Mars. Cancer has been defeated and, yet, for every question answered another one appears," Zucker can be heard narrating the trailer for the series.

But one scene in the preview breaks down the international crisis at the center of the series and makes it more personal and relatable by showing Zucker finding out his mother (played by Leslie Uggams) is moving from Miami to her sister's home in Chicago.

"Thought you hated your sister?" Zucker asks her.

"It's too hot to hate people these days, Marshall," his mom, replies.

Diggs describes his character as a rabbi dealing with a crisis of faith brought on as he is helping a precocious girl get ready for her bat mitzvah.

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"I relate to him in the way that I think a lot of us probably relate to the major issue of this show, which is that so much of what Marshall's life has become is unconscious," he said.

"As someone who was an activist in his younger days, so much about his day-to-day is about him sort of ignoring the circumstances of his life. It's about him not paying attention to the politics involved with keeping the synagogue, letting the business people do the business."

After he filmed the part, Diggs realized this is how he personally relates to the issue of climate change.

"It's not that I don't believe in it," he said. "It's not that I think it doesn't exist, but I do make a lot of unconscious choices and, so, I think one of the things that the show gets to go for is to try and make those unconscious choices conscious and then some of them you can change."

Zucker doesn't have the skills or resources to make large-scale changes himself, so he does his best to care for the people he can.

"This is true of all the rabbis that I talked to in research for this too," Diggs said.

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"They really consider the synagogue as a gathering place for the community and, in that sense, what is good for the community is good for us. What do you need? How can we be involved? What we have is space and, if we do our jobs right, we have a safe space."

Zucker's synagogue, for instance, like many real-life synagogues, offers traditional Seder meals each year for the unhoused.

"It was a good reminder for me, as someone who hasn't been to temple in a long time, 'Oh, yeah, this is another function of this place that exists, what we think of as outside of the religion, but actually they are totally connected,'" Diggs said.

Zucker's relationship with his father (played by Peter Riegert) is strained at best because he wants to lead a synagogue far from his family's home.

"Marshall's particular political battles are in Israel and in the Middle East and that is the conflict that he is choosing to participate in and where he thinks he can be useful," Diggs said. "His dad is telling him, 'No, I got you this gig back in Miami and that's what you are doing.'"

Zucker's father then dies before they can resolve their issues.

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"They don't get to finish that discussion and I think it is those unresolved issues that lead to the disconnect between Marshall's faith and his activism," Diggs said.

Burns said in a featurette for the series that he has been looking for ways to inject the science he explored while working on the Oscar-winning 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth into narrative, dramatic stories.

"The shows that pretend that the climate is going to be the same in 10 or 15 years, those are the science-fiction shows because the climate is changing," Burns said.

"I hope people can find every emotion in it, including hope," he added about Extrapolations. "I think the way that you find comfort is in imagining yourself in the positions that our characters are in."

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