Gabrielle Dennis: 'Big Door Prize' ponders concepts of potential, destiny

Gabrielle Dennis and Chris O'Dowd star in the new comedy, "The Big Door Prize." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 5 | Gabrielle Dennis and Chris O'Dowd star in the new comedy, "The Big Door Prize." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, March 29 (UPI) -- The Game and Luke Cage alum Gabrielle Dennis told UPI in a recent Zoom interview that she hopes her new comedy series, The Big Door Prize, gets viewers thinking and talking about existential concepts such as potential and destiny.

"How do we improve? Do we need to improve? Should we question things? Is happiness already in your face?" Dennis asked rhetorically. "There are so many ways to interpret so many things in the show."


Premiering on Apple TV+ Wednesday, the screen adaptation of M.O. Walsh's novel follows Cass (Dennis) and Dusty (Chris O'Dowd), a couple whose happy marriage is turned upside-down by the arrival in their town grocery store of the mysterious Morpho machine, which supposedly determines what a person can achieve based on their Social Security numbers and handprints.

It isn't long before the locals are getting divorced, switching careers and taking up dangerous hobbies according to how they decipher the predictions, which are scant on detail and usually only a word or two long.


"The power of suggestion is very strong. There are people that are moved both positively and negatively," Dennis said.

"What I also found interesting is how easily -- I'm a self-admitted follower -- but, as a society, how easily we are led to follow even when it is from a mysterious entity. No one knows where [the machine] came from, what it's there for, but they are willing to give up information that is considered private."

The story is relatable because it challenges audiences to consider what they would do if they learned they were not living the life they could or if they had reached their potential and this is the best they could ever expect.

"I feel like there are a lot of things that people will see similarities in. It is a human experience-type of show and that's what I loved about it," she said.

While Cass' revealed potential is flattering and exciting, Dusty's sends him into a tailspin and this, of course, takes its toll on the relationship of the former high school sweethearts who married young.

"Dusty and Cass respond so polar opposite to this experience," Dennis said.

"It's hard for it not to spill over into the relationship because they have different ideas and different ways that they view it. It's like: 'Wait a minute! What are we doing here? Now we're asking questions that we weren't asking a week ago.'"


Dusty becomes depressed and clingy, which starts to suffocate Cass, who is trying to spread her wings a bit.

"Now that I am asking these questions, I feel this way and now I have bigger questions to ask. It just keeps growing and growing and where does it end?" Dennis said.

"By the end of the season, they are faced with a question just like the rest of the townspeople -- are you ready for...? Well, I don't want to say what it says, but there is a huge question at the end of the season."

Dennis wanted to play Cass because the character is reserved, but fun and inspirational at the same time.

"She's an adventurer. She likes to explore. She's done a lot in her life. She hasn't succeeded in any of it, but she's going to keep on trying," the actress said.

"She has this spirit, but we later learn, based on this relationship she has with her mother, Cass has kind of felt like she's lived in the shadows of people at certain times. So, it's her time to shine and she gets this affirmation from this machine."


As an Irish immigrant, Dusty has always regarded moving halfway across the world to start a new life as his grand adventure. He thinks of himself as a lucky man and he was perfectly happy with his choices and relationship until the arrival of the machine.

"He's able to play in his own accent," Dennis said of O'Dowd. "In being an immigrant on the show, he gets to bring another sense and sensibility, a perspective we wouldn't have if he was just playing an American and had an American accent. It added a little extra texture to the show."

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