“It’s a big mystery show.” We speak to the creators and cast of new dystopia series Silo

“My idea is that we fucked the life over upstairs and then this is the consequence downstairs…” Rebecca Ferguson says we ask about her new series Silo, which follows the lives of 10,000 people living in a vast underground facility due to – well, we’re not sure why and neither are they.

Ferguson plays Juliet, an engineer who lives on the lowest level of the Silo but who takes a new job as the Silo’s sheriff after a terrible incident makes her want to move to the upper floors and take an interest in the secrets of the facility. “Juliet has been kind of comfortable until a moment when things go a bit awry,” Ferguson explains. “She’s offered another position and she has to step outside of an environment that she feels comfortable in and she has to start facing something bigger than herself. 

“That egocentric, small mindedness of ‘what you’ve done to me’ and the injustice becomes larger and that’s a very cool journey that slowly has to take form.”

The series is based on Hugh Howey’s New York Times bestselling trilogy of dystopian novels and is created by Band of Brothers’ Emmy-nominated screenwriter Graham Yost, who also serves as showrunner.

For Yost, it’s the big mysteries of why the people are in the Silo and what happened to force them underground is what attracted him to the project: “It’s a big mystery show, but it’s a different kind of mystery show in that it’s just the basic premise of ‘who built the Silo? Why? What happened out there?’ And I love the fact that our way through it is just people pulling out a thread trying to figure out a small mystery. They’re just trying to figure out one thing and that leads to more knowledge and more of the truth being revealed.”

Speaking of mysteries, the character holding the key to a lot of secrets is Bernard, the Head of IT, (played by Tim Robbins). “Silo is a highly controlled society, where due to the fears of those that run the Silo, there’s a certain amount of repression and a tight control of information and certainly the censorship that goes along with a tight control of information,” Robbins explains. 

Bernard (played by Tim Robbins) holds the key to a lot of secrets in the Silo.

Now, it may seem a little strange that the Head of IT would have so much power, but in a contained environment where everything from air, to food, to even having a baby has to be monitored, well, data is king.

“In his mind, he is in charge of the entire Silo,” Robbins nods. “In that the entire Silo in his mind depends on its computerised system for survival. Without a functioning computer system, the generator wouldn’t work. The food wouldn’t be grown. Society would fail if IT fails. So there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on him to maintain the efficiency of its computer systems. He carries a heavy burden of responsibility for the lives of 10,000 people and his journey through the first season is full of challenges and surprises.”

Hugh Howey’s book series actually began back in 2011 with the short story ‘Wool’, though a few of the book’s themes feel more relevant than ever. “Some of what I wrote was really speculative,” Howey says, “and the idea of gathering data on people, of seeing the world through our screens, these concepts have gotten stronger, and the fascination hasn’t waned. It’s gotten more intense. As reality catches up to science fiction, we become more interested in these types of stories. They’re not as fanciful anymore, they’re more immediate.”

“I think we’re at a very crucial time right now and it will ultimately be up to the people to decide what kind of future they want,” Robbins adds. “I would say the last three years have not been a good indication that the people are going to stand up for themselves and determine the future that they want. However, that does not make me lose hope. I think the last few years have also been illuminating in many ways to many people. Now they can see what the challenges are based on the behaviour of governments and authority figures in the last three years and people really just have to look at that and decide: is that the future we want? 

“If it’s not the future we want, we have to start taking action to make sure that that is not the future we get. That involves everything from the way that you spend your money to the way that you live your life. We can choose to find ways to find unity I think people are becoming more and more aware of what they can do. To stave off what could very well become an authoritarian state. So all I can say is shop locally, support your local merchants, use cash. Peace!”

“I think we’re at a very crucial time right now,” says Tim Robbins, and it will ultimately be up to the people to decide what kind of future they want.”

Indeed, the Silo is in an authoritarian society (all based on a series of rules known as The Pact) but that doesn’t mean everyone follows the status quo… “There are characters in Silo who represent both sides,” Yost explains. “People who are like ‘no, we just got to follow The Pact’ and others are going ‘maybe there’s a better way?’.”

“I think your personality is going to send you down one of those paths,” Howey adds. “You’re either going to be curious and open minded or you are going to calcify your opinions and just crawl into a smaller hole.”

Juliet’s certainly chooses the curious side and her journey to discovering the secrets of the Silo starts from a very personal (and mysterious) tragedy which slowly but surely leads to bigger things as the series progresses. “What generates Juliet to activate is anger. Because anger is basically fear,” Ferguson tells us. “The fear of being lonely, the fear of what is out there, the fear of who you actually are. But she’s suppressed it down so much that the anger, the rebelliousness, that youthful facade is what motivates her to move forward.

“Then gradually, she finds out things and the unravelling of the truth is opening her up for the realisation of love and to be loved and accept bits of herself that she hasn’t ever looked at. I think her anger and injustice is what drives her forward. And everything changes and unravels after the things she finds out.”

Juliet (Rebecca Ferguson) slowly starts to unravel the truth…

Ferguson herself also lands on the questioning side. Not only does she play the lead character in the series, she’s also on-board as an executive producer, a role that she “had to Google” at first, but took seriously after realising the positive affects the job could have for the safety on set. “The offer of the producer role came later. It was the fact that I started questioning things. I wanted to understand more and Graham Yost is such a good showrunner and he said: “Why don’t you come onboard as an exec?” I don’t want to produce. I really couldn’t care less. I want to make sure that I’m on a set that is humane, diverse. I want it to be kind, I want good scripts. I want people to be heard. And I have the power to influence that. And that makes me happy.

“I have a couple of times been on set where it’s been horrible and in those situations, I didn’t feel that I had the power or the voice or know how to use it. I didn’t know my powers and the consequence would probably be that I would be sent home. Gradually with age and years of knowing this business, I don’t give a fuck of the consequence and I mean that in the most humble way. I want equality and I need it. Which means there’s no question on a set that I’m on. I want everyone to feel safe. It shouldn’t be so difficult!”

It’s clear that the Silo books and TV series are as all-emcompassing as the Silo itself; a deep-burrowing myriad of themes, political intrigue, personal trauma and mysteries. The books’ adaptation has been a long time coming (there have been plenty of attempts to adapt the series in the past, with even Ridley Scott attached to produce at one point) but now it’s here, the books’ author can’t wait for you to explore everything that the Silo has to offer. “I can’t wait!” he enthuses. “The readers, the fans who were there from the beginning… they’ve wanted an adaptation and I’ve told them it’ll never happen. Getting to actually give it to them and let them dive into this is going to be the biggest thrill for me. 

“I’m also excited [that] there’s going be so many people who’ve never read the books and who are going to get to explore this world. Having a conversation with them is going to be a lot of fun.”

We have to agree!  

Silo will comprise 10 episodes and will premiere with the first two episodes on 5 May, followed by one new episode weekly, every Friday through June 30, 2023 on Apple TV+.

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