Empathy And VR: NBC's 'Reverie' Press Roundtable From New York Comic Con 2017

Reverie Cast At New York Comic Con 2017
NEW YORK COMIC CON — "Reverie" — Pictured: (l-r) Tom Szentgyorgi and Mickey Fisher, Executive Producers; Kathryn Morris, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Sarah Shahi, Jessica Lu, Dennis Haysbert — (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC)

Reverie is one of NBC's biggest new shows, scheduled to debut early next year during midseason. It's a science-fiction psychological drama starring Sarah Shahi as Mara Kindt, a former hostage negotiator who has been tasked to rescue people trapped in a virtual reality simulation of their memories.

The VR technology that lets them enter their memories is cutting edge and unpredictable. The company that makes it is hoping to bring it to mass market, but can't if there are flaws or glitches that trap users in virtual reality. The future of the company is riding on the Reverie tech, and Mara has her own tragedy to deal with while she tries to help her subjects come to terms with theirs.

This is one of the more ambitious shows this season. It's not another cop show or another soldier show. It's about tragedy, loss, and empathy. It's about the desire to escape from the trauma and sadness of life into a dream world, and the need to connect with humanity and emotion. NBC flew out the cast and showrunners to New York Comic Con to preview the show.

Sarah Shahi for Reverie at New York Comic Con 2017

Series lead Sarah Shahi said of her character:

"Mara Kindt is character is plagued by emotion. She's haunted by her dead niece. She's going down that rabbit hole of crazy almost every day. This character is struggling not to let her emotions control her.

I liked playing this imperfect person, and traveling to places beyond this world. At the end of day — special effects and cool technology aside — if you get too immersed in that world, you become disconnected. What's most important is this life, this moment, the person next to you, and making that connection, and the trouble you could get into."

Sendhil Ramamurthy for Reverie at New York Comic Con 2017

Sendhil Ramamurthy, who you may recognize from another NBC property, Heroes, said of his character:

"I play Paul Hammond, the Chief Oneirologist. My job is to study dreams, and to build the dream within Reverie. My character uses social media feeds, pictures from your Facebook or your Instagram to build the world you want in Reverie. If you lost a loved one and your happiest memory is spending time in Tokyo, I'll use pictures from your feed to fill out the world in the program. Jessica Lu's character fills the rest in. But if you stay in that world too long, your physical body deteriorates and you could end up dying. That's the issue we're running into and that's why Mara is brought into the company, to bring them out.

Some of us are in the dark about what's really going on. My character is just an employee. There's palace intrigue within the company. There's an emotional core to each case. There's something that everybody in their real life can relate to. It is grounded in real life. It is not 'Heroes'. It's not people flying and time travel. There's the psychological thriller aspect. There's a long story arc that goes through the whole season. The show and the Reverie program is about wish fulfilment, and it raises real questions. Is it always a good thing to be able to get what you want all the time?

Jessica Lu and Kathryn Morris for Reverie at New York Comic Con 2017

Jessica Lu plays Alexis Barrett, the genius savant who invented the Reverie tech ad harbours secrets of her own. Lu said:

"I'm the brains behind it all. She's very hard and driven, and doesn't seem to care about the people trapped in Reverie, but you see you the soft side of her at the end of pilot. She operates the way she does because of what she's working for."

Kathryn Morris plays Monica Shaw, a bureaucrat from the Department of Defence who has taken an interest in the Reverie tech and what it might be used for. Morris said:

"I thought this show is a beautiful execution of a psychological thriller within this emotional landscape in the world of virtual reality. It's not like a typical Sci Fi show where the emotions come later. It's a tangible take on the power of virtual reality. And nobody does it better than Amblin. My character lives in a grey area of Light and Dark in the way the government uses things for their own purposes."

Dennis Haysbert for Reverie at New York Comic Con

Dennis Haysbert plays Charlie Ventana, a former police chief who became the head of security for Reverie. Charlie is the father figure on the team who has to keep everyone from falling apart or becoming overwhelmed or make a mistake. Haysbert said of the character:

"When I first ask Mara for her help, I have to bear in mind she has her demons and it's a calculated risk to bring her in. I have to stay on top of it all. With Jessica Lu's character Alexis Barrett, I have to make sure she stays in the real world because she tends to hide behind her technology. Then I have to run interference with Monica Shaw, who's played by Kathryn Morris, and I have to watch that the government doesn't try to come in and take things over. He wears a lot of hats here. He's the analogue guy in a digital universe."

Series creator and executive producer Mickey Fisher explained how the show's concept came about:

"How do you tell a weekly mystery that isn't with a doctor or lawyer? I had this idea about a Virtual Reality company that had a program that allowed you to design the world of your dreams, and it was so good that people started getting stuck in it. The mystery is 'Who is this person? Why are they stuck? How are we going to get them out of there?' Mr. Haysbert's character provides the mechanism for that by finding a former hostage negotiator who can go in and make that human connection to bring them out."

Series co-executive producer Tom Szentgyorgi discussed the main idea the series poses:

"It's a show about the distance between 'want' and 'need'. Fantasy is what you think you want. 'I want to be rich.' 'I want to be young.' 'I want to be famous.' But 'need' is what you actually require. Mara helps people make that walk from what fantasy, which is what they want, to what they need, which may not be their fantasy.

Reverie is set to premiere in March 2018 on NBC.

About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.