Billy Crudup believes in what he’s selling. In this case, it’s a new show (Hello Tomorrow!, which just premiered on Apple TV+) about a traveling salesman wrestling with regret while hawking lunar timeshares.
This guy, Jack, is a merchant of hope for the hopeless in a time of supposedly great innovation that might just be a boom of hollow convenience. Sound familiar? Though the show takes place in a world giving 1950s vibes with a heaping load of jet-packs and robot-dog-in every-yard futurism, there’s a lot of sameness to our relationship with invention and our longing for something real to look forward to, even if both might be contrivances of commerce. So, is Jack a flawed but ultimately good man trying to sprinkle a little hope into people’s lives or is he something else? The show is worth watching to explore your own thoughts on it (and whether you view hope as a commodity to be protected or a fantasy to be indulged), but here are a few from Crudup that seem to veer in one direction more than the other.
Why this setting, why the futurism angle?
I guess it felt, to me when I read it, that the writers were suggesting that the past, present, and future, when they’re all based upon the same idea, are all going to be the same thing. It doesn’t matter. The gadgets are going to change, but daily life will be the same. The struggles of relationships will be the same. Living with your mistakes will be the same. Trying to find optimism will be the same. Overcooking your food will be the same. Traveling will still be a pain in the ass. There’s just no end to the sameness of living and the suffering of life in some ways if it’s all based upon thinking of the future. And when you have a premise where your whole belief system is based upon a better tomorrow, sometimes that can take you away from the value of today.
Do we still live in a society where there’s a better version of tomorrow? Is that belief still alive and well?
Or is it a different belief system that goes along with it? I would imagine if the world starts to function in a way that delivers on its promises, we might have a different experience of living and we might alter our belief systems. But fundamentally, I feel like all of those things are created by human beings and human beings seem to share. One central characteristic is that we’re all flawed, that we make mistakes and misjudgments. We sometimes don’t think through things properly and take chances on things that are a wild gamble. And so I would imagine any world that we create is going to continue to have those kinds of flaws.
I’m not a very religious person, and maybe I’m looking too deeply into it, but I saw a metaphor for heaven as far as living on the moon.
Are you kidding me, man? You’re preaching to the converted here. That’s how I imagine Jack; as a preacher, as an evangelist, and what he is selling is hope. That is heaven. And to me, it wasn’t so different from religion in the same way that when you go to Sunday church service, you put $20 in the tithe and they fill your heart with hope. They absolve you of your transgressions. They paint a picture of utopia to come, and that’s enough to get you through the week. And in some ways, whatever the belief system is, it doesn’t matter. It’s your investment in it that matters. And for Jack, what he’s invested in is capitalism and consumerism and that’s religion for him.
One thing I love about the show is that some people live their life with that hope hanging in the balance and they’re happier because of it. And for some people, that hope leads them down a dark path. I’m curious how you look at it. Because obviously there’s the commerce side of it, but in terms of weaponizing people’s hope, is it a fully bad thing or can it be a good thing?
I guess it depends upon the price, right? If it doesn’t cost you too much… I think that’s Jack’s constant question: “What’s the right price point for hope? And how much can I reach as a salesman or as an evangelist for hope to sell to the most profound and uplifting story? What’s the greatest story that I could tell somebody?” And I think for many people it would be that you can leave your troubles behind and that there’s a place that is sort of metaphorical, a physical haven for you and for him. It’s a place called the Brightside. But to the question of whether it is ethically, morally reprehensible or a challenge? I think that’s one we continue to ask. We see this time and time again in parishioners who have felt betrayed because their pastor has misled them in some way. And so the journey then of forgiveness and understanding and hope has to start. But the demoralizing experience of putting your faith in something that in itself is being negotiated amongst humans, it’s sometimes a recipe for disaster.
I mean, there’s so much nuance. We all think we want the full truth and we all think we want full hope, but we really want something in the middle.
Agree. Where’s that sweet spot?
Where being content isn’t giving up, where being satisfied isn’t showing a lack of ambition. If we could live in the present moment in a way that we can see things for what they are, it seems to me there’s an increased probability that you’ll be able to take in the joys.
Whether he’s good or bad is open for debate, but he is definitely running, he’s definitely trying to just survive. Is that part of the appeal?
Most definitely. Well, only because (series co-creators) Amit Bhalla and Lucas Jansen have done a brilliant job of making sure that his life catches up to him in the first five minutes. They can put him right on the railroad tracks running away, and here comes the steam engine right towards him. The appeal for me was really the belief that selling hope was a valuable way to spend your time. And that in fact, you could make people’s lives better by telling them a story is essentially what Jack is doing. And, yes, he gives them a product on the side, and whether it’s the timeshare on the moon or the veggi-dice that he sells them, it’s attached to a story of a better promise. And I think that’s the part that really appealed to me. His conviction with the blinders on. The running is still a feature of the same kind of belief system. He is exploiting the best of his potential for the good of humanity.
Do you think you need to believe in the product that you’re selling or in the benefit that you’re giving to be a good salesman?
I think it’s a hundred percent crucial.
That could apply to being an actor too.
That is what we do. The most interesting acting comes from authenticity. I mean, listen, there’s some acting where the style and the craftsmanship is just a thrill to watch. The authenticity is irrelevant. But for me, I grew up watching people like Al Pacino and Robert Duvall and Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep and Paul Newman, and they were wielding authenticity and truth. They were selling us this story by getting into these characters. And in a way that wasn’t the tradition before. There was the great movie, Giant, where you get to see this moment between Rock Hudson and James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor, and you’ve got Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor performing this stylized kind of way that was just about to go by the wayside with James Dean, who is introducing realism with behavior and stuff. And that really was the moment where authenticity became a commodity for actors. And the crucial thing about authenticity is that you have to believe it yourself. So you do a lot of work. That’s where the sort of method acting came from. You do a lot of work to try to convince yourself to find that right voice. And so for me, there is a great parallel between the two.
I feel like the relationship to chaos is also interesting between this character and your character on The Morning Show. Because Cory is entertained by the chaos at times. And this character definitely feels like it’s sort of a thing chasing him around a corner. That’s just my armchair analysis.
No, no, you make a great point. I think it’s the alternate side of both coins. I think Cory is looking for chaos because he has power and he knows how to exploit chaos. Chaos puts everybody else on their heels, but the person in power actually becomes even more powerful when people are struggling. I think Jack is cozy with chaos because he’s constantly creating it, but I don’t think he likes the destabilized nature of the people around him. I think what he’s ultimately hoping to do is have that massive (group of) customers who are kind of chasing him — “Where’s my timeshare?” — to be like a group of parishioners sitting quietly and hopefully, uplifted by his speeches about the benefits of lunar living.
I’ll close with the gimme question. Not necessarily, “would you want to live on the moon?” I guess the more now thing is Mars. Do you want to go live on Mars, Billy Crudup?
Nah, I’m cool. I’m good. I’m going to let other people figure that out. I feel like there are still some things to solve around here.
‘Hello Tomorrow!’ just premiered on Apple TV with new episodes launching every Friday