Solos is a marked departure from David Weil’s debut Amazon Prime TV series. The writer-director’s previous production for the streamer, the Al Pacino-starring Hunters, was a violent, revisionist take on the hunt for Nazis in 1970s America.
Solos, by contrast, is a tender, modern day exploration of what it is to be human and the universal connections we share. Billed as a dramatic anthology series, Solos follows seven individual stories that explore the wonderful, heartbreaking and humorous aspects of what makes us human, albeit through a sci-fi perspective.
Ahead of Solos’ May 21 launch, TechRadar sat down with Weil to discuss why Solos is the thematically relevant TV show that viewers need right now. We also found out what inspired the series and how Solos’ stories were elevated by its all-star cast.
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The world we live in
The idea for Solos’ collection of short stories, albeit one with a loose narrative running throughout, Weil explains, stems from his memories of family members sharing emotive tales with him.
“I fell in love with storytelling through my grandmother recounting a story around her kitchen table,” he says. “Or my brother telling me a ghost story while we were camping up in Massachusetts. They were the kinds of stories told by one person in one environment. Because of the pandemic, I felt, as so many of us did, loneliness and solitude and, based on that, a desire for connection and hope. Those two ideas merged together and became Solos.”
That ‘one person, one environment’ approach to storytelling is evident throughout Solos’ separate narratives.
Set in the present day or near future, each tale examines universal themes such as belonging, fear of the unknown, finding purpose and death through a sci-fi lens. Topics including time travel, space exploration and cloning act as a base for each episode’s plot, while also providing a distinctive aesthetic to their story’s environments.
Finding the right production designer to bring each episode’s set to life, then, was vital. Locations had to feel warm or cold, lived-in or brand-new, well lit or dark, and natural or manufactured based on their instalment’s main idea. Step forward Ruth Ammon, whose work on other anthology productions, including Dirty John, gave rise to each of Solos’ unique locales.
“When Ruth and I discussed what each environment needed, we knew they had to tell their own stories,” Weil says. “I love sets that are incredibly dense, where there's so much storytelling populating it, that they really tell a tale of a life well lived. So, for the story concerning Sasha [starring Orange is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba], it was really important that you could feel the different pockets of her home. ‘Where was her sofa situated?’, or ‘Where did she erect that wall five years ago?’, so every part of that set told the story and the evolution of living inside this fictional home.”
From stage to screen
Aduba is far from the only recognizable name in Solos’ stellar cast. Legendary actors Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren, plus the likes of the MCU’s Anthony Mackie and Interstellar’s Anne Hathaway, also star in the series - and Weil still finds it difficult to wrap his head around working with such esteemed talent.
“It's a dream come true,” he explains. “It's very surreal for me to look at the incredible actors we have on board and be like ‘Oh my, they're saying the words I wrote’. All of them bring their humanity to Solos, so it was a pleasure to hear that they were interested in doing something as challenging and unique as this.”
The challenge that Weil refers to is based on the show’s format. Its final episode aside, which features Freeman and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, Solos’ individual tales star a single actor. Some stories, such as Hathaway’s, require their actor to embody the roles of multiple characters, but they’re still the only star on the screen.
For Weil, that creative decision was not only born out of the series’ title, but his desire to use an often underused literary device - the monologue, which has its roots in Ancient Greece and Italy - as each episode’s driving force.
“I've always loved monologues,” Weil muses. “But you never really get the opportunity to do a 15 to 30-page, uninterrupted story with one person in one room. I’ve wanted to explore the possibility of doing that for a long time, whether it was through film or TV, so having our incredible writers and actors bring all of themselves and their humanity to Solos was a joy.”
The ties that bind
Solos’ premise is one that currently hits close to home. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to millions of people feeling isolated from family and friends for over a year, losing loved ones and struggling to make ends meet. It’s unsurprising, then, that scientists are predicting a mental health timebomb in the wake of the pandemic as people begin, or continue, to notice a downturn in their mental wellbeing.
Weil, whose wedding was pushed back due to the pandemic, says creating Solos was his way of cathartically dealing with the current situation, but understands that some people don’t have the luxury of channeling their energies into creative endeavors. In those instances, he believes people should seek professional help if they’re struggling mentally.
Weil, though, thinks that audiences will gain some comfort from Solos. Despite its fictitious tales, he hopes that the series, as a whole, will serve as a reminder of the universal connections that we share as humans and, ultimately, who and what are the most important people and things in our lives.
“Solos became these love letters to different human experiences,” he said. “I started writing them as a way to connect with my family back in New York [amid the pandemic], who I hadn’t seen in months. I hope people allow themselves 30 minutes to go along with each ride and, at the end, reflect on their own lives and relationships. After the past year, I think people are tuning into their feelings more, so I think they’re primed for a very human experience like Solos.”
Solos launches exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, May 21.
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