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Behind the Creation of 'Devs'
March 5, 2020  | By Mike Hughes

Here is the precise opposite of typecasting: In Devs, Nick Offerman plays someone who masters the wispy world of computer dimensions.

Yes, that Nick Offerman – the hands-on, work-with-wood guy. "My character is an incredibly creative genius, so that required some heavy leaning on my classical training," he joked in January to the Television Critics Association. "I did a lot of homework; I spoke with my cast members, who are much smarter than me."

Actually, Offerman seems thoroughly smart, but not drawn to alternate realities. His world has things that are tangible, three-dimensional, and sometimes handmade.

He has built boats, furniture, and more. He and Amy Poehler produce and host Making It, a crafting competition. His three books include some woodworking references.

In one, he describes himself as "your average meat, potatoes, and corn-fed American male." He advises the reader to make a canoe or at least paddle one. (He's done both.) That could, he wrote, lead to "a hobby (that) keeps you out of the hair of your significant other."

Now, this hands-on guy is in other worlds. Devs, said Alison Pill (Katie), "is an exploration of quantum mechanics, quantum computing, of determinism, of questions about the nature of reality."

It's exotic stuff all wrapped in human drama and mystery from writer Alex Garland. He previously drew an Oscar nomination for Ex Machina (2014) as well as other nominations for directing that film and writing Annihilation, 28 Days Later, and Never Let Me Go.

"Maybe Devs is just made perfectly for me," said John Landgraf, the CEO of FX (which produced Devs), "but it's one of my favorite things FX has ever done. I just think Alex Garland is a genius." He's created an eight-part look at tech possibilities. "I'm an optimist, I think, by nature," Garland said. "But I do think…technological advances are happening at a rate that we are not able to keep up with."

We meet Sergei (Karl Glusman), a young programmer who's excited to work with a tech company run by Forest (Offerman), a solemn genius whose company has the name – and giant statue – of his late daughter. Then something happens; Sergei's girlfriend (Sonoya Mizuno), a savvy techie, searches for answers.

All of this is "science fiction that is barely fiction," said Pill, who plays a top executive.

Mizuno had a chance to visit the non-fiction equivalent. "Alex and I spent an afternoon at the Google quantum computing labs in Santa Barbara…. We walked around their quantum computers, which…are not dissimilar to the computers they were working with."

There, people conversed in tech-English. "It was like they were talking a foreign language," Mizuno said. "You could maybe understand an 'and' or a 'but.'"

Offerman knows the feeling. The role, he said, requires him to "insert myself into it as though I could remotely come up with even the most basic of programming, let alone get into the realm of quantum computing."

So he's chosen the right career, he said. "That's the fun thing about being an actor…. They can make you look like you can drive a car with great accuracy."

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