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Amazon Prime's 'Utopia' Might Hit a Little Close to Home
September 25, 2020  | By Mike Hughes
 


Gillian Flynn is now at a blessed stage of her career.

"I can make up anything right now," she told the Television Critics Association (TCA) recently. The proof is Utopia, the wildly distinctive series that arrives Friday on Amazon Prime.

Earlier, Flynn was confined to non-fiction, including a decade at Entertainment Weekly. Her novels – including the mega-seller Gone Girl – were steeped in the hard choices of almost-normal lives.

But underneath those gritty tales was a fantasy writer, waiting to emerge. "My dad raised me on EC Comics, and we'd talk about Ray Bradbury," said Flynn, 49.

She wrote one comic-book story (for the Dark Horse Presents anthology) in 2015. Now she's adapted a British mini-series, producing and writing all nine episodes about comic buffs who are plunged into an imaginary-but-true world.

The series has an almost-giddy start at a comic convention, turf that some of the actors are familiar with.

Ashleigh LaThrop – who calls herself "a massive fan of anime" – went to one fest strictly as a fan. "It was probably one of the most fun experiences I've ever had. I spent probably four hours watching these expert-level people play a master version of Dungeons and Dragons."

John Cusack went to some as a celebrity. "It's a weird thing if you can sort of hang out with the guy who played Freddy Krueger (and) Chewbacca, William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Pam Grier. That's a good room…a cool, weird world."

Such a convention is at the core when the story begins. Young lovers have made a discovery, unaware of its value: The Utopia graphic novel – the long-rumored sequel to Dystopia. Many readers feel the first one foretold real-life doom, and the second might have solutions. Soon, zestful buffs converge, desperate to get it.

Some of the actors will be familiar. Dan Byrd was a teen star in Aliens in America and Cougar Town; Desmin Borges co-starred in You're the Worst; and LaThrop has had recurring roles in The Handmaid's Tale, The 100, and The Kominsky Method.

Eventually, their search takes them to Cusack, Rainn Wilson (top), and more. Before that, things turn very violent. "Gillian's favorite joke on set," Byrd said, "was to threaten to kill us off if we misbehaved."

There's a deep, dark side to this – as with many graphic novels. Things felt darker after the filming when the real-life pandemic started to look like the fictional dystopia.

"It was kind of disturbing and surreal, to see it come so close to life," said actor Christopher Denham.

Graphic novels can be like that – but they can also concoct escapes. And right now, Flynn can make up anything.

 
 
 
 
 
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