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Chris O'Dowd: 'Big Door Prize' is the warm hug viewers need in 2024

Chris O'Dowd's "The Big Door Prize" kicks off its second season on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 5 | Chris O'Dowd's "The Big Door Prize" kicks off its second season on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, April 24 (UPI) -- The IT Crowd, State of the Union and Get Shorty alum Chris O'Dowd says Season 2 of his celebrated sci-fi comedy series, The Big Door Prize, will continue to deal with the fallout from the characters' existential crises in Season 1.

"We asked a lot of questions in Season 1. We've answered some questions. But we've opened up a whole can of worms. Really, [Season 2] is just about us trying to get the worms back in the can," the Emmy winner told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

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"We've really upended our lives and are going in different directions now. We're going to watch how that plays out and what fruit that bears."

With the new season premiering Wednesday on Apple TV+, the adaptation of M.O. Walsh's novel follows the good people of the small American town of Deerfield as they react to the arrival of the mysterious Morpho machine, which supposedly reveals the residents' true potential when they input their Social Security numbers and fingerprints.

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O'Dowd plays Dusty, a teacher who was perfectly happy with his life until the machine suggests this is the best he is capable of doing.

When his childhood sweetheart, Cass (Gabrielle Dennis), learns her destiny is to become "royalty," her imagination runs wild, her regrets about the past start to bubble up and unmet expectations strain their long marriage, prompting them to separate.

"They're going south quick," O'Dowd joked.

"We will see if we will grow together or grow apart through all of these huge changes. We've, obviously, bought into what the Morpho has told us," he said.

"Maybe it was some kind of subconscious change we wanted to make, and [the machine] was a catalyst for that, or maybe it does have some powers. I think throughout this season, we'll find out some more about the Morpho as it gives us a vision.

Also thrown into turmoil by the Morpho's power of suggestion are their daughter, Trina (Djouliet Amara), her boyfriend, Jacob (Sammy Fourlas), local restaurateur Giorgio (Josh Segarra), his new girlfriend, Nat (Mary Holland), and town priest Father Reuben (Damon Gupton).

The Morpho machine has a positive effect on Giorgio because it categorizes his potential in the single word, "superstar," according to Segarra, who is known for his roles in Scream VI, Arrow and Abbott Elementary.

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Not only is he now the gregarious host of the most popular eatery in town, but he also has found someone with whom to share his good fortune.

"Giorgio is a romantic, and now he is living out his true potential with Nat. He needed her. She loves his bald head. She loves his passion. She loves the way he is a dad to her daughter," Segarra said. "He needed all of that support."

Hilarious and heartfelt, the show about paths not taken also explores many people's need to believe in something and their willingness to accept others' perceptions of them over their own inner voices.

"That was a big draw to me" in the show. "It's an interesting time to be alive in the world, but also in our lives [specifically]," O'Dowd said of people in their 40s.

"This kind of middle-aged spread thing that goes on, where you are like, 'What? I could have done this other thing?' It also seems to be the age at which people will go into a different direction in their lives and maybe change political, religious or romantic leanings. You lose people along the way."

O'Dowd laughingly recalled a conversation he recently had with a friend who described people's 40s as a "sniper's alley" in which many people close to them drop out of their established lives and take off in unexpected directions.

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"There are going to be some fallen soldiers along the way," he quipped. "I do think the show has something interesting to say about that."

Segarra said he and O'Dowd frequently discuss the big, philosophical and often relatable questions the show ponders "outside of interview world," away from speaking with the press to promote their series.

"He said something to me last year that I always think about with our show where there is this affinity, this need for people to believe in something, to want to believe in something," Segarra said.

"It just gives them something, finally, to latch onto, to tell them it's all going to be OK when, in reality, that's to their detriment. You don't want to believe in fate. You don't want to believe that it's all going to be OK," he said, adding this can lead to people to feel like they don't have any control over their destinies.

"As Giorgio says, 'Here is where the now is!'"

O'Dowd praised Apple TV+ -- whose parent company sells millions of phones and computers a year -- for allowing this story to be told on its platform.

"I think it's fascinating that a tech company has made something where the premise does rely so much on that. It's pretty brave, really, and self-conscious to do so," he said with a chuckle. "Unless they are, somehow, hoodwinking us into going: 'It's normal to be this trusting. Be more trusting!'"

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With much of the current TV landscape set in post-apocalyptic worlds, the actor said, audiences seem to be enjoying the heart and humanity that are the hallmarks the of The Big Door Prize.

"I don't know if it was COVID-related, but warm-blooded characters and warm comedy did become something people wanted a little bit more of -- that area of comedy that feels like it is a bit of a hug," O'Dowd said, noting that the writer-producer of Schitt's Creek, David West Read, is at helm here.

"Now that you're kind of done with reruns of Friends, you've got to move on."

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