Be careful what you wish for. That could certainly be the tagline for Reverie, debuting at 10 p.m. Wednesday, May 30.
The psychological thriller focuses on the Reverie program, which uses a client's social media to create a virtual-reality dream world.
Unfortunately, some prefer the virtual world to reality, and Charlie, head of security for Onira-tech, recruits his former co-worker, Mara Kint, to enter these dream scenarios and entice these clients out before they die in the real world.
Reverie stars Sarah Shahi, Dennis Haysbert, Kathryn Morris, Sendhil Ramamurthy and Jessica Lu.
Ramamurthy, best known as Dr. Mohinder Suresh on Heroes, plays Paul Hammond, the groundbreaking architect of Reverie's dream world. Like all other involved with Onira-tech, Paul has his issues with which he hopes Reverie can help.
Ramamurthy talks about the Reverie program and its good and bad sides, his character, Paul, and how the show examines technological advances during a freewheeling interview with TV Fanatic:
Explain the Reverie program. Is it entertainment or therapy or something else?
All of the above. It's what you want to use it for.
If you've lost a loved one, and you haven't been able to get over that loss, my character takes your social media, your Instagram, your Snapchat, all that, and uses your memories to build out this dream world.
Then you can then go into our program and be in a world that is completely recognizable to you because it's based and built on your memories. My character is the architect of that whole dream world. That's what Paul's whole role in the Reverie program is. That way, it can be kind of therapeutic.
Or, if you want to be James Bond for the day, you can do that. And that can just be a fun thing for you to do. The applications for it are pretty much limitless, which is what makes it so exciting.
On the other hand, the downside of it is this world that we build for you is so compelling, so real to people that some of them don't want to come out.
That's an issue because the program is short-term. It's not meant for you to be in there for days and days and weeks. Your body in the real world is decaying, and going into a coma, and you're dying, basically.
That's the issue. We need Mara Kint, Sarah Shahi's character, to go in and bring some of these people out who are not wanting to come out. We can't force anybody out of Reverie. They have to choose to come out.
Tell me about your character, Paul Hammond.
He's the architect of the dream world. That's his role on the show. It's one of those things where he can build out this world for you, and it has certainly set things that need to be done.
What I really found cool about the character is that Paul, on his own, really pushes the limits of the program. This is his jam, his baby right here, building out these worlds and pushing the limits of it.
One of the things I found fascinating and cool about the character is he's always trying to take it one step further, and that's not always a good thing.
There are certain things that need to be left alone. Too much technology is not always a good thing. That's one of the themes: "Is it great we can do all of these things all the time?"
It's an important question, certainly in the real world that we live in. Is all this stuff good? Like self-driving cars. Those scare the hell out of me. I'm not getting in a self-driving car. Is too much technology a good thing or a bad thing? That's one of the questions raised on the show.
Reverie seems to be a cautionary tale of what could happen in the near future if we're not careful. Do you agree?
Absolutely. There's no question that that's one of the themes of the show.
The stuff we do on the show you can't actually do right now, but I don't think it's too far off into the future. I really don't. In 10 years, it's not out of the realm of possibility that a program like Reverie could exist. You've already got the Oculus Rift and similar things that you can hook up to our brains.
This is certainly one of the questions that we raise on the show. I don't think we can actually answer it, but we certainly put forward a couple of outcomes which come from too much technology and what could happen.
That's another thing that drew me to the show. It's so topical. You cannot open a magazine or a newspaper these days without reading about virtual reality and A.I. It's very much in the zeitgeist, and I'm very happy that this show came along right now.
That's the reason why this show came along right now. Mickey Fisher was playing around with one of these virtual-reality things, and that's how he got the idea for the show. It's hugely topical, and hopefully, that's what the audience latches onto and will check it out.
On the pilot, Paul seemed to be the conscience of Onira-Tech. Is that the case?
It's kind of the push and pull for Paul.
He definitely does feel a moral responsibility for the program, because he is the architect of that dream world and he worries about what happens to these people. Is there something about the program that is making the people stay in? It's something he worries about and is very conscious of.
On the other hand, Paul is so curious, and he wants to push the program. So there's this dichotomy of him that is really attractive to me as an actor. Paul does push the boundaries of the program, but he pushes them with himself in the program, and I found that very compelling as an actor.
We get into that in the first season, and, fingers crossed for a second season, we'll get into it even more, because of the cliffhanger that the season ends on very much leads to, as the season goes on, the logical next step what Reverie can be, and some of the downsides of Reverie.
So, yeah, he's both. He has the morality issue in his head. Is this right? Should we be doing this? The other half of him is let's push the limits, let's see what we can do, let's go forward. He's torn. Those are always the best characters to play when there's that dilemma.
Everyone on Reverie has secrets. What's Paul's secret?
That's one of the cool things about the show, is that we find out the back stories of our main characters. We find out what makes them tick, what drew them to Reverie, what makes them do what they do. We see the characters in the Reverie.
Paul's a pretty positive guy on the outside, very positive, smiling a lot. He's a happy guy on the outside. That's masking some things that have gone on in his personal life, which we'll touch on throughout the first season.
He suffered from panic attacks and suffered from depression. Reverie, for him, was a way to address some of those issues, such as his upbringing and his relationship with his father. His relationship with his parents and what happens, we see that through one of Paul's reveries, which was a really cool episode. I had a great time shooting it.
Could you give an overview of what's to come this season?
We're going to see Reverie as a whole. What is Reverie all about? We'll find out about the different applications for Reverie through the clients that come to Reverie with whatever issues they happen to be having, as well as our main characters going into the Reverie as well.
You'll see aspirational versions of Reverie, where Reverie is a completely positive thing for people. You'll see versions where you'll wonder "Huh. Was that such a great idea?"
It's very much about why people go into Reverie. What is it that would drive somebody to go and do this, to want to be in this situation? What is it in their background, or what they're experiencing in the real world, that makes them want to walk into this.
Some of it is positive. Some of it is negative. You'll see a bunch of different aspects of what would drive people to go into Reverie.
Whoever is in Reverie, you will connect emotionally to why they had to resort to this to address whatever issue they happened to be having. That's the crux of this show: why are these people in this program in the first place? Why is this the path they chose to address this?
How did you get involved with Reverie?
Reverie was the second or third script I read during last pilot season. I read it, and I just loved it. It was very much about what was in the news and in the world, at that time and in this time. I thought, "That's interesting." When something's in the zeitgeist, that's always good for a TV show.
Then I read Paul, and I connected with him on a level that I didn't with the scripts which I'd had at that time.
It was the second meeting I went on. I met Mickey Fisher, the creator of the series, and the folks at Dreamworks, and we had just a really great meeting.
I really enjoyed where they saw Paul going. I liked the fact that he had these things in his background that he was using Reverie to address. That was really the hook for me, that he's not the happy-go-lucky guy that he presents, that veneer hides something inside him that is troubling for him and that he has a hard time dealing with.
The other draw was that Sarah Shahi had already been cast, and I've known Sarah for years and years. We were on USA Network together, when she was doing Fairly Legal, and I was doing Covert Affairs. We'd see each other at upfronts and press events, and we've just been friends for a long time.
To get the opportunity to work with her, and I'd say 90 percent of my scenes are with her, was a real draw.
Then I'd already seen Extant, Mickey's show on CBS, and I'd really enjoyed that show. Extant was very much a sci-fi show.
Reverie has its sci-fi aspects, but at its heart, it's a psychological thriller, and I've never been a part of a psychological thriller before. I love movies and TV shows that are psychological thrillers. It was a new thing for me to explore.
One final question. Fill in the blank. If you love blank, you'll love Reverie.
If you love emotional drama, you'll love Reverie.
Let me explain that now. I did not know, even when I signed on for the show, just how emotional these episodes would be. I really didn't. There was ugly crying in some of these episodes. They pack a real emotional punch.
That's one of the things, on shows that I've done in the past when things catch you by surprise when you know what's going to happen, that's always a good thing.
I really was not expecting this show to be as emotional as it was. These cases that people were going into Reverie for, I wasn't expecting them to be as emotional as they are. It's a real rollercoaster ride.
It was like a This is Us-type ugly cry and I wasn't expected that. The two shows couldn't be more different. But there's an emotional core to some of the episodes that kind of reminded me of the stuff that happens on those kinds of shows.
I was totally surprised by that and wasn't expecting it. When I read it, I didn't really see that it would be that, and that's been the biggest pleasant surprise for me, after seeing more of the episodes.
Reverie debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday, May 30.
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.