Dystopian drama Raised by Wolves raises a lot of questions in its sometimes perplexing story and action: Androids giving birth to humans; the creepiest screech you’ve ever heard not emanating from a bird; and a slowly unfolding backstory that offers few clear-cut answers on who the villains will be in this story about the creation of a new society after a war sparked by religious philosophies decimates Earth.
With Oscar nominee Ridley Scott executive producing the series and directing the first two episodes and Vikings alum Travis Fimmel starring, HBO Max’s new sci-fi series asks viewers to pardon its dust while world-building and imagine a robust future for its hardscrabble inhabitants.
The most fun part of the viewing experience of the early episodes is going into the story knowing as little as possible ahead of time, which is exactly exactly how Fimmel entered into the project when he signed on the dotted line.
“I thought I’d never do (a TV series) again,” Fimmel told Rotten Tomatoes. “I wasn’t interested. But Ridley… it’s all Ridley Scott. I never even read the script when I said yes. I just wanted to work with Ridley.”
Once he did read writer Aaron Guzikowski’s scripts, Fimmel was attracted to the chance to play the complicated Marcus, and “all the flaws that my character has… I always love a character that’s trying to do the right thing, or thinks he’s doing the right thing, but often it’s not the right thing.”
A big part of the motivation for those potentially questionable decisions made by Marcus, a child soldier who grew up with no family, involves a child. And it poses a challenge for Marcus that rivals anything Fimmel characters like Vikings’ Ragnar Lothbrok or Warcraft’s Anduin Lothar faced.
“I think his childhood was so different… he never got to experience anything good ever,” Fimmel said. “All he wanted to do is just survive. As a survivor, I think it can become very much about you, selfish, and you just trying to get through it. But when there’s a kid involved, it’s not just about you anymore. I’ve never had somebody like that I really had to take care of. I mean, you take care of people around you, but this is somebody that you love and really want to take care of. It helps a lot having children around, even as an actor, and having that relationship. Kids are so much cooler than anyone, and the kids in the show are just little legends.”
In addition to Fimmel, the Raised By Wolves cast also includes Amanda Collin (A Conspiracy of Faith), Abubakar Salim (Fortitude), Winta McGrath (Aloft), Niamh Algar (The Virtues), Jordan Loughran (The Infiltrator), Matias Varela (Narcos), Felix Jamieson (Game of Thrones), Ethan Hazzard (The Long Song), Aasiya Shah (Call the Midwife), and Ivy Wong (Star Wars: Rogue One).
Children – his own – were also a big part of Prisoners and The Red Road writer Guzikowski’s inspiration for the series.
“I have three young sons, and (I was) just thinking about them moving out into this world and their relationship with technology and my own relationship with technology, and just at what point will these things start to overlap, and I won’t be able to tell the difference anymore? Where it really becomes part of me and I become a part of it,” Guzikowski said. “A lot of it, I think, came from just my lifelong obsession with science fiction, but I think it was really this idea about raising children in this world of technology. And also, if we were to start a new world somewhere, with all the knowledge of what went wrong on Earth, what would we choose to do? What would we take with us and what would we try and leave behind? And are we even able to make that choice, or are we just stuck in these cycles as human beings?”
Scott, meanwhile, appreciates some of the good things technology can do – like the efficiency of Zoom in allowing pandemic-era interviews to happen, and the fancy bookcase background we used for our Zoom chat with the director – but points out the old school methods are sometimes still the best for storytelling, even when telling a story about the future.
“I draw, and I draw on paper. I film on paper before I get there, because the boards are very specific,” the Alien and The Martian director said. “They’re literally drawn like the film, because I can. And I evolve an exercise on paper so I can literally sit on a scene in which I’ve drawn and flipped through it, and literally I can see the scene. So right there, you’re getting ideas about evolution of where you can go next with this. It’s fascinating. Thank God for art school.”
Raised By Wolves premieres Thursday, September 3 on HBO Max.