Published: Sunday, 03 November 2019 | Written by Christiane Elin
SciFi Vision recently participated in several press roundtables for Apple TV+’s epic series See.
Our final roundtable included one of See’s lead characters, Alfre Woodard, as Paris, an elder, advisor, and midwife who ranks high within the Alkenny’s hierarchy. Paris is like family to Jason Momoa’s lead character, Baba Voss. Paris is a trusted resource for Baba and his family. Her friendship and loyalty help them hide the secret that could change the whole world of See.
Yadira Guevara-Prip plays the Alkenny tribes’ dual characters, Bow Lion and The Shadow. Bow Lion is the daughter of The Dreamer, who stands with Baba Voss on the battlefield. The Shadow is a mysterious figure who moves in silence and can’t be detected unless she wants to be. She is playful almost like a nymph or fairy. Yadira’s dual role helps to build the folklore and tales that have spanned generations since the world was left blind.
Steven Knight is the writer, creator and executive producer of See. He’s created a world that is set six hundred years in the future and has a world population of only two million people. Survivors have adapted after being hit by a virus that left them blind. The world has adapted to its lack of sight and the Earth has healed itself.
With the nudging of the executive producer, Jenno Topping, Steven’s concept of the world of See has come to life.
QUESTION: Can you tell us more about your backstory, either about your roles in the community, or your dynamic together?
ALFRE WOODARD: I think you find out more about all of us as we go forward, but we're not really interested in backstory, because we're just going forward so strongly. Maybe eventually we will, but once we start, and once those babies come out, we're going forward.
QUESTION: But they definitely share something as two characters.
YADIRA GUEVARA-PRIP: Well, we each have a have a power, and Paris is a presage. She has a sense of the world...And my power is something - I don’t know how much I can say. [laughs]
JENNO TOPPING: You can say.
YADIRA GUEVARA-PRIP: I can say. Okay. The shadow is something that is passed on from generation to generation. It is a secret, obviously, and people of the village don't know who the shadow is or if there is one. And [to me] there is a kind of connection between Paris and Bow Lion, in that we have these kind of secret mysterious powers.
So, in that scene of the second episode, where we're kind of dancing around each other, it's like there's a sense of each other like in X-Men when they all walk in...But yeah, there’s certainly that sense of each other.
QUESTION: [With the show] we think the future speaks of the world of today, and how much do you think it's hope for life? Because we always think we could start over -
STEVEN KNIGHT: I always hope that no matter when something is set, whether it's in the past or the future, that actually, it's also about what's happening now and all the madness and all the things that are going on. One of the issues that I hope people get from it is that the world is healed. Without the dominance of humanity, the world has gotten better, and it's now back to what it should be, and it’s whole, and it's healthy.
And the question that the series, long term, will ask, is, is it better or worse [for] human beings? And even in terms of how human beings are to each other. I mean, the only person that we see who is raised continuing that sort of human dominance thing is someone who has electricity, because they’ve got the last bit of the technology. The people without it are sort of taking a deep breath; this is what it is. This is the world now. That's how we're going to proceed.
So, yeah. I think it's hopeful [of what] the future might be like.
ALFRE WOODARD: I was just going to say, also, what's great, is everything is a myth at that point. So, it's not that we don't have things; we have no recollection [of them].
YADIRA GUEVARA-PRIP: And the rhythm is different.
QUESTION: How many seasons do you have planned out?
JENNO TOPPING:In [Steve’s] head, he has a very big brain, and it's a very big concept and can go, honestly, forever. Right now, we're getting ready to do the second season. The way the money people work, is they only let you do usually one at a time. [laughs] That's what we're focusing on.
SCIFI VISION: It’s quite a jump in time period from those first three episodes...[All of a sudden] they’re grown up. I just kind of wanted to talk about a little bit of the scale of it and the the stories and the timeline and where there's a lot of cliffhangers in episode three. So, I just kind of want to know, is it going to slow down some?
STEVEN KNIGHT: No. Never slow down. Never slow down.
SCIFI VISION: Like with the children, because they're learning and they're developing, and also, I know a lot of it's about blindness, but they're supposed to be saving it, and they're the ones that can see. So, you know, how -
STEVEN KNIGHT: Are they saving it or are they destroying it? I mean, in terms of passage of time within the story, once they are grown up, then it's their story. But in terms of the pace of the show, that will never slow down, and it shouldn’t.
JENNO TOPPING: Steve is very committed to that.
SCIFI VISION: There’s a lot of locations in it.
STEVEN KNIGHT: Yes.
QUESTION: How much more expansive does it get in your mind or even coming into season two, because we learned so much on the Alkenny tribe, and also Queen Kane, but there must be many other tribes or other specific -
STEVEN KNIGHT: You know, [there’re] endless possibilities, if you like, and just exploring how different human beings and different tribes have developed will be the fun of it.
JENNO TOPPING: And what about different countries? Like what's happened in the rest of the world?
ALFRE WOODARD: For this the season you will get an awareness of other tribes that are very specific, as we go through, as we travel.
STEVEN KNIGHT: Absolutely.
QUESTION: As a writer why did you choose taking away vision? Why not hearing, why not -
STEVEN KNIGHT: I don’t know where the idea came from for this thing. Well, all of the ideas that I have for original things, I don't know where they come from. As I said, it's probably from the same place where dreams come from. When I write I tend to try and switch everything else off and just see what happens and just let it come from wherever it comes from.
But the idea of not having [sight], I mean, what interests me about this, is that, without getting too deep into philosophy, Rene Descartes, the philosopher, said, “I think therefore I am. That's all we know.” In other words, the only thing any of us really knows for sure is that I am here. That's what I know. And you know that you're here, if you are. [laughs] So, that's all you know.
And everything else is messages being given to us by our senses, and it’s vibrations, and it's light, and what we're seeing isn't actually what's out there, maybe. All of that stuff. So, the most profound source of information is our eyes, and if that messenger is taken away, then that's the most profound change. So, that’s what I wanted to take out.
QUESTION: I was wondering, because with no sight of course, ethnicity ceases to be a problem. And there seems to be a lot of parity between men and women in this world. But what were the things that you think that humankind will never get over? Because there’s still war, religion, or power because of money or whatever.
STEVEN KNIGHT: I mean ambition, greed, kindness, hatred, love, they're not going to go anywhere. But I think, accidentally, there are things like the identification of other people by the color of their skin is gone. That's great.
So, we're looking at society that has had something taken away and has restored itself in other ways. I hope it's a question about humanity. It's not about blindness; it's about human beings in a really stressful situation who happened to be blind.
ALFRE WOODARD: People talk about tribing up now, and “tribal” is being used as a as a derogatory concept. But when you're tribing up, out of practicality, out of shared concerns and dreams and hopes, those tribes are actually very positive things. We’re tribing not out of a look, out of a position, out of a geographical situation. So, tribing up is great, because that's how we build together. That's how we survive.
YADIRA GUEVARA-PRIP: And on the question of survivalists, that's where the lines kind of dissolve, like, how are we going to build this home together? How are we going to survive together as a family? How are we going to survive this weather, the storm? How are we going to survive, you know, this force of the Pion Army coming coming towards us? How are we going to survive together? And, there's something so beautiful about it. That is what remains of the human spirit and of all life of trees and animals and plants. There is that sense of striving towards more of it. The sense of survival is so deeply embedded in us, that any sense that you take away, it doesn't quite matter, that is what remains and that is what unites us. I think that's one of the most beautiful parts of the story. It's what remains of humankind and of all life.
QUESTION: But also with the people who can see, you're challenging the status quo. Do you think that that's the part where it relates to the world we are in now?
STEVEN KNIGHT: I think as well as everything else, it's also allegorical. I think part of the story is every generation believes that the generation before knew nothing. This is about a generational conflict. One hopes that the generation that is coming up after us is smarter than we are and have been and will fix the mess that we have created. But then, on the other side, is the ability to see going to actually make things worse?
QUESTION: What's your favorite piece of the lore, like world building?
ALFRE WOODARD: Lore?
QUESTION: Like world building, be it the knotted messages or a piece of a clothing or -
ALFRE WOODARD: It was really annoying, but every aspect of design. Trish Summerville -
JENNO TOPPING: Caroline [Hanania].
ALFRE WOODARD: Caroline, and [Nico Lapage], they're all brilliant, and, you know, the things that I couldn’t imagine when we got to the places, it was like tasting ice cream for the first time. Whoa, look at this! I mean, the structures, everything, only with the tools that they could [use] was just the most remarkably beautiful things I’ve seen. I love that we could only wear what we could grow and weave [and hunt]. I'm allergic to wool so I had to wear a lot of roadkill around, and it was so annoying, but it was so freeing, because I didn’t have to have on Spanx. [laughs]
YADIRA GUEVARA-PRIP: Also, the authenticity of the survival that I really love is in the costumes. It's in like, how do we survive together? Something we as animals have inside of us, you know, instinctively, is how to survive. We have that instinct, and the way that we hunt and the way that we fight is such a visceral experience for all animals, but the way that we do it as humans who are blind, is really, really interesting.
It's also one of the things that jumped off the page as soon as I read it in that first episode, the rock wall fight, and just how it all came together with the costumes and with the set, just how it breathes, that the story feels very true. That's one of the things that I loved most about it.
QUESTION: And was Paris a shadow when she was younger?
ALFRE WOODARD: No
QUESTION: It almost seemed like she was being trained by Paris.
ALFRE WOODARD: Well, it’s a different spiritual quality, presaging and shadowing.