Apple TV+ 'Hello Tomorrow!' with Billy Crudup dismantles consumerism of the American dream
"We can't all win the lottery and yet somewhere there is this sense that if you don't win the lottery ... you are, in fact, worthless," Billy Crudup says
In Hello Tomorrow! on Apple TV+, Billy Crudup's character Jack is selling a dream of a better life, with a fresh start in a lunar home on the moon.
While most people, at one time or another, would love an opportunity to escape their problems on earth, Jack is able to convince customers that he is the one who can provide that happiness, relief and dream life for them, no matter what.
Hello Tomorrow! is set in a 1950s, retro-future world, think of something like The Jetsons. Jack is a travelling salesman who leads a team selling timeshares for the BrightSide Lunar Residences. His team includes Shirley (Haneefah Wood) who is very much Jack's hard-working colleague, the only who really keeps the wheels of the operation turning day-to-day, but she's also cheating on her husband with coworker Eddie. Hank Azaria plays Eddie, an obsessive gambler who frantically has to make back his money in sales. There's also Herb, played by Canadian actor Dewshane Williams, who is ultimately there to work hard and get the job done, learning all he can from his mentor Jack.
Jack has an interesting personal story throughout the series. While more pieces of the puzzle are revealed about his business, Jack also unexpectedly reconnects with his son, who he hasn't seen in 20 years. But there's one problem, his son Joey (Nicholas Podany) has no idea that Jack is actually his father, and ends up taking a job working on his sales team.
'I saw my father go through this kind of way of living'
For Crudup, the actor was able to tap into his own father's way of life for this role.
“I feel protective of this kind of disorganized, fantastical life that is both lived materially by buying and selling things, that you hope will provide some relief for people and the banality of their lives, and this sense of yourself as purposeless,” Crudup said. “I saw my father go through this kind of way of living and for me, I felt protective of that kind of person being cast aside as one thing or another, ... as a con artist, as a hustler and a gambler, and a crook and a phony and a fake.”
Crudup highlighted that, much like Jack, his father was "optimistic at every turn."
“You could be bailing him out of jail, and he would be like 'that never happened, don't worry about it, it'll be fine down the road,'" Crudup said. “That positive attitude, I think, was covering up this agony that he had, that he didn't know who he was in the world.”
“That gave me great empathy for him. [My dad] passed away in 2005, I didn't get to share it with him, but I did ache for him while playing the part. That living up to your expectations is one thing as an adult, but living up to the expectations that your children have of you, as these mythological figures, can be a lifelong pursuit.”
'We can't all win the lottery'
As you may expect, not everything is as it seems in Hello Tomorrow! Creators Amit Bhalla and Lucas Jansen push the audience to really question this notion of the "American dream," and the consequences that can come from that sort of aspiration.
“I think Amit and Lucas are challenging the viewers to understand and appreciate the breadth of humanity, and the way in which America and the American dream, in particular, can shape the psyche of people who feel as though they have to live up to potential which is beyond everyone's means," Crudup said. "We can't all win the lottery and yet somewhere there is this sense that if you don't win the lottery, if you don't invent the pet rock, that you are, in fact, worthless and a failure."
One thing that doesn't waver in Hello Tomorrow!, brilliantly executed by Crudup, is Jack's unwavering commitment to selling a dream, that dreams can come true.
“I think to Jack's way of thinking, what's the alternative?” Crudup said. “He will fight tooth and nail to hold on to his sense of truth.”
“Facts are irrelevant. I mean, we've seen plenty of people in the popular consciousness who facts are irrelevant. The truth, the feeling of reality, the hope for humanity is in the belief system. If you say it enough, if you convince yourself you run harder than anyone else, if you grind it out, then perhaps eventually, someday, the truth that's in your mind, maybe it's a fantasy in your mind, will become a reality, for better or worse.”
What's interesting about Hello Tomorrow! is the way creators Bhalla and Jansen are able to establish a level of imperfection early on. In this world there are hovering cars, people go to work with jetpacks and there's a popcorn container that pops the kernels in your hand. It may seem "perfect" but in the early moments, a hovering van with an animated bird delivering packages malfunctions and kills a woman. It's an enticing way the creators met the concepts of a hopeful dream world with the harshness of reality.
“Hello, Tomorrow! is basically first born in kind of mid-century American corporate advertisements of new dishwashers and better cleaning products, and white picket fences,” Bhalla explained. “This is a show about dreamers, we're going to set it in a dream ... and suddenly it needs to meet reality.”
“That meant the robots don't work that great actually. … Even a small mistake in a machine might lead to massive human consequences and that seems to be a potent image to start the show with. Also, because of conversations about self-driving cars, because of conversations about delivery and consumerism, we felt that the audience might say, oh man this show's actually talking a little bit about all the stuff we're dealing with today.”
Hank Azaria, Haneefah Wood and Dewshane Williams round out the dream
While Crudup gives a riveting performance as Jack, the supporting cast for Hello Tomorrow! really help to build different dimensions of this quest for the American dream.
When it comes to character development, Hank Azaria is a documented legend, for both his on camera roles, like the series Brockmire, and voice roles on animated projects like The Simpsons. For Hello Tomorrow!, the actor worked on leaning into the character's cynicism, paired with the dialogue and jargon of the series.
“It was a Guys and Dolls ... kind of language, so in that way, it's not so much about character, but the mechanics of how am I going to make this sound like a human being is saying it,” Azaria said.
“For me it was a character thing, getting in touch with that genuine, cynical, negative Mets fan side of myself that I could relate to Eddie. Not to mention, he's an addict. He's a compulsive, obsessive human being. I definitely relate to that."
For Haneefah Wood, Shirley's the only woman on the team and the actor praised how the character is fully realized and dynamic, like the men.
“I think it was a very different concept that I hadn't seen before on TV, especially right now,” Wood said about what interested about Hello Tomorrow! “I think my character being so complex and the fact that she was having this extra marital affair, absolutely made me want to do the role because I feel like that's special.”
“We don't really talk about the women doing those things ... and I felt like it was necessary. Also the words, the writing to me is impeccable.”
It's that kind of character building that Dewshane Williams was also really attracted to, while also believing in its home on Apple TV+.
“It was apparent to me that the creators had thought about character building,” Williams said. “I love that because for me as an actor, it’s challenging to explore the depths of the human condition.”
“But then the other thing was, Apple has established itself as a player that only puts out quality. Going back to one of Steve Jobs’ mantras for success was ‘don't sell crap,’ and I feel like Apple TV+ has been able to create content and shows and movies that actually mean something. They're trying to create quality and so I knew that if I had the opportunity to work on a show like this, I would be in the best position to do my job.”