There's no denying that COVID-19 has done a lot to our regularly scheduled entertainment.
Shows have been postponed, series finales have been delayed, and there have been many curious casualties that have fallen under the Coronavirus ax.
But there is also a silver lining, in that we get to see some programming this fall that would have either aired earlier or not at all on US broadcast.
neXt is one of those shows that got juggled around. The limited series was originally scheduled to run during the summer, but with a full series ready to go and other shows only slowly getting back to business, it was saved for fall, and folks, I think you're going to like it.
The FOX original follows a Silicon Valley pioneer named Paul LeBlanc, who built a fortune and legacy on the world-changing innovations he dreamed up. Ignoring and alienating those around him with his passion for work, LeBlanc runs into some credibility issues when he screams that the sky is falling with one of his own creations.
It's a powerful artificial intelligence similar to Alexa or Google Nest called neXt, and LeBlanc thinks it's hellbent on destroying humanity.
How fun is that?
There's a lot more to the story, of course, but to get you pumped, we had the chance to chat with Michael Mosley, who has a recurring arc on the series as a fellow named CM.
There are a lot of places you might have seen Mosley before, notably on Netflix two series, Ozark and Seven Seconds. Like everyone else, he's interested in getting back to work, whatever that might look like for those in his profession.
"I'm just looking forward to getting back on set," Mosley said. "I love what I get to do for a living. You know what I mean? Putting on other people's pants and getting to play pretend all day and crack up with some folks. I just love being on set, so I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be different. It's going to be interesting.
"I have some friends that do that temperature gun to your forehead every morning and after lunch. And every three days, everyone gets a test. The NBA seems to have figured it out, with their little bubble. So I think if we could make little production bubbles, hopefully, we can get back to telling stories again."
Mosley admits that it's kind of cool, in spite of what's going on with the world at large, that neXt will air in the fall to what almost seems like a captive audience. Like me, he and the cast have seen five episodes, and they all liked it.
"We've all kind of Zoomed together, and we were really pumped for the thing, so I'm optimistic. I think it's a fun show, and it moves fast," he said.
Mosley almost missed out on this opportunity. After shooting a pilot for Showtime, he was on hold until they knew its fate. When it seemed the pilot wouldn't get the green light, Michael was allowed to test for other roles in the second position, meaning if the pilot got picked up, he'd still be on board.
But he liked the script for neXt. "It was like something I hadn't read before, and it was like something I hadn't really done before, like kind of a sci-fi thriller, like the classic ticking and cliffhangers and racing against time.
"And I just thought it was a cool show, but I didn't know if they were going to have any interest in me or anything because I had this other thing that was kind of stringing me along. But then they finally released me from the other pilot on a Friday afternoon, and by that evening, they called up, and they were like, 'We want you to play C.M. And I was like, 'Great.'
"So I kind of lucked out. It was cool."
Mosley shared some of the details about his character with me. "C.M. is the guy who's got a shady past. He pay have been affiliated with some alt-right kind of fringe-y bad guys. And there's something that happened that, as the season progresses, you'll find out what his past kind of entails, but he's now kind of paying penance by doing community service with his cyber crime unit at the FBI.
"And so, he's just a questionable guy. You don't really know where his loyalties lie, I don't think, until at the end, we start to figure it out. And he and Gina come from diametrically opposed backgrounds, but as soon as AI escapes from Pandora's box, all that political stuff kind of goes out the window, and it's more about us all being safe in the world and saving each other."
When asked if the character's grey areas are what he found appealing, Mosley wondered what that meant. Pointing to previous characters who were painted to look less than appealing (such as the preacher on Ozark), in comparison, CM isn't a villain, but he's not a saint, either."
"So yeah, it's funny. I don't know what I like about it. Sometimes it's not even what I like about a character, or it's just like sometimes you read something, and you just think, 'Oh, I got to pitch for this guy.'
"And it's just something in your head. You're like, 'I think I know this guy.' or I have a pitch for him. Does that make sense? It's just something kind of something kind of effortless. You're just like, 'Oh, I think I know how I would do this.' You know?"
If you have an Amazon or Google device, you know that you can have a peculiar relationship with the things, and Mosley is no different. "I have an Alexa," he said. "I brought her with me on the shoot to Chicago, because I was like "it's going to be me and you, girl. Let's get through this."
Being as close as he is with his particular device, he also admits that filming neXt made him think a bit about their purpose in and effect on our lives.
"It's kind of strange. Right? I think we're in some kind of existential adolescence with regards to all these devices. To me, it all happened quite fast. I mean, how long have we had these iPhones, 10, 25 years now? I don't know. It's kind of changed everything, and we kind of question of it.
"But the idea of going without it, we don't even entertain that at all. It's very strange. So much information is happening so quickly, and we're so connected to each other. We have so much access to each other all the time, 24 hours a day. It's a very strange existence.
"I've found that I'm trying to click on the 'Do Not Disturb,' or miss somebody, I put it on Airplane. Or if I'm at a restaurant and somebody gets up and goes to the bathroom, I was like, 'Don't pull out your phone and start scrolling through crap. Just sit there with your thoughts for a second.' You know what I mean? I'm trying to do that."
Still, it's hard to deny there are benefits to our interconnectivity. "How interesting would it have been if we had had Twitter during a hostage crisis or something? Or if people had a microphone to reach out in these moments in history, it would be really wild. So it's a very love/hate kind of thing."
It was Mosley's role on Pan Am as Ted Vanderway, opposite Margot Robbie that first landed Mosely on my radar. Interestingly, that show has skyrocketed up the IMDB charts this week, so it seems like others might be discovering the canceled gem, too.
He laughed, "You and my mom liked that show. We didn't get a lot of people watching that one, but it was every little kid's dream being on that thing because Mike Vogel, who played our captain, he knew how to fly planes. So we went to these flight simulators at LaGuardia, and it was really cool. It was every little kid's dream. A lot of this stuff is playful to me. It's like cops and robbers."
Many of our regular TV Fanatic readers know Mosley from his role on Criminal Minds as Everett Lynch, who wound up being the very last unsub on that popular and long-running CBS series.
"That was cool. I had heard the show was coming to a close, and then they called up, and they were like, 'It's a possible recurring.'
"And then [Everett] got away, and I was like, 'Well, they got to get me.' And I thought, 'I think they're going to let me ride this thing out.' It was a lot of fun. Those folks over there are all so sweet. I had done a movie with Paget Brewster years ago, so I knew her, so it was good to reconnect."
Mosley mused that he doesn't think he's ever had the opportunity to play a hero. "Villains are so much fun because they get the best lines," he said. He also got to play a supervillain in the DC Universe original, Titans. "I was a super-villain, which was very strange, running around in your pajamas, shooting fireballs out of your hands."
Even as a regular joe, Mason Young, on Ozark, his character was far from heroic, even though he was a pastor.
"Yeah, he spun out. He kind of relied on his faith really heavily, and when he started to question it, he had nothing; he lost all his footing. And also, that preacher got screwed over by the Byrdes pretty heavily, so I don't know. Those two are gangsters in that show.
"But I liked playing Pastor Mason, and that was another good group of people, obviously. When the pastor turfs out at the end of episode seven in season two, the writer called me when I went back to set at the beginning of the season.
"He said, 'So, listen, you're not going to make it past episode seven, and we're going to kill you in a really cool way.' And I was like, 'Great.' And it turned out that I got to do so much work with Jason and Laura.
"I remember at one point, Laura Linney was doing this whole speech to me, and I was just watching her, and then the director called, 'Cut.' And came over to me, and he goes, 'I don't think you'd be smiling at her right now. I don't think that you ...' And I was like, 'Was I smiling? I completely forgot.'
"I was just watching America's Laura Linney do a monologue, and I was just so happy to be in the ring with her, I forgot to be a crazy man," Mosley laughed.
He enjoys all kinds of roles, considering them all part of the sandbox that he gets to play in with his profession. "It's all playful. They're all different sandboxes. I like to do comedy. And if I've been doing comedy for a while, then I like it when somebody gives me something serious to do. And then, I did this movie Sister Amy, that was a period piece that went to Sundance, and this guy was like a total boob and so much fun. And now, CM is this brooding, mysterious kind of character. I don't know. I just like playing them all. I just like to work."
Philosophically, Mosley has his process for getting in touch with all of the various characters that he plays, connecting viscerally to the humanity in each of them.
"I think you definitely have to get in there and settle and try to go as deep as you can. And that doesn't mean crying or wringing your hands. It could just be staring a hole through the person. I mean, whatever it is, and I like to try different things, so that the editor can have different things to play with, not like completely out of continuity, but just to give him different levels.
"Like, how hot is he in this moment? Or does he laugh for some reason in this thing? I don't know. It's fun to keep it really organic. So the magic of it is when the actors surprise themselves, and the director, and then the audience is surprised, then we're all surprised."
While Mosley believes he's most often recognized after his multiple season arc on Ozark, he still gets nods for his role as Fish on Seven Seconds (for which Regina King won an Emmy) and, of course, the killer, Michael Boudreau, on Castle.
"That's crazy because I would do seasons of a show, and nobody would recognize me from it. But then I did three or four episodes of Castle, chasing down Nathan Fillion, and that was the thing people recognized me for. So it's crazy.
"But lately, it seems to be Ozark, I think. There are some Pan Am fans, die-hards out there. There are a couple of those fans. That was a fun show."
Mosley laughed, "That poor Margot Robbie, she can't catch a break now. I feel so bad for her. Hopefully, she'll stick to it, and she'll get some work one of these days."
In 2015, Mosley optioned a book about a killer from his hometown named Jerry Mark. Through interviews, it appeared that he had a great passion for the story.
"That's still in the works, he said. "We're moving the ball forward on that currently. I don't know what I'm allowed to say with regards to it, so I'm not going to say much, but we definitely have a lot of heads in the huddle, and we've got a company, which maybe has some muscle. But this is stuff is all so ephemeral. It could just disappear. But no, we're still in on it. I may have aged out of playing Jerry, I'm not sure.
"I'm from Cedar Falls, Iowa, and I went to Cedar Falls High School. And this guy, Jerry Mark, grew up in my hometown. In 1975, he drove his motorcycle from Berkeley, California, to my hometown, Cedar Falls, Iowa, and murdered his brother, his brother's wife and their two children in their bed. And he got on his motorcycle and drove home.
"It was a really creepy kind of story from my town, and it was kind of a like local campfire scary story. This guy ... we lived the same life, but he went one way, and I went a different way. And so, I was always fascinated by this horrible crime and what caused it and what made the guy.
"This guy, Jerry Mark, he was a Peace Corps volunteer, and he was a lawyer, and he was a conscientious objector to the war. He's just a really interesting, peaceful guy. And then one day, he snapped. And so, yeah. We're working on trying to turn it into a series, like a limited series.
"It's a period piece, takes place in Iowa, 1975, but juxtapose it to Berkeley and has these simple Iowa folks, with their hands in the dirt, and then you've got the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Black Panthers. You know what I mean? So it's like these two completely different worlds and how they collide.
It sounds like it has the potential to be an amazing series, and with the passion Mosley has for the subject, he sounds like he's the right person to bring it to life.
We'll surely keep our eyes on that and what becomes of it, but in the meantime, be sure to tune into neXt on Fox. Mosley has laid out why you should take a look.
"Because, listen, it's heady, and it's a lot of stuff that you're looking at and existentially questioning right now anyways, but it's also fun. It moves quick, and there are cliffhangers at the end of every episode.
"It's fun, it's a fun, stressful ride. I think that John Slattery is hilarious. He's really funny because you don't know if he's losing his noodle or not," he laughed.
"But yeah, I think it's a fun show. I don't think I've ever gotten five episodes of something before, and we were all really surprised and excited. We think people will like this thing."
neXt premieres tonight on FOX at 9/8c. We'll have a full review of the premiere right after it airs, so come on back for a full discussion.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.