Severance explores a dark new take on achieving the perfect work-life balance. The nine-part thriller, airing on Apple TV+ from February 18, is directed by Hollywood star Ben Stiller and centers on Lumon Industries, which has a policy whereby employees can undergo a surgical procedure to ‘sever’ their work memories from their home ones so that the two don’t impact on each other.
Parks & Recreations’ Adam Scott heads the cast as Lumon worker Mark, who has been ‘severed’ so that he can forget his personal grief while in the office. The drama, which also stars Christopher Walken and Patricia Arquette, sees Mark becoming unsettled, however, when freshly severed new employee Helly (Man Seeking Woman’s Britt Lower) challenges the status quo. Meanwhile, on the outside, Mark is troubled by revelations about a former colleague. Can he work out what is really going on at Lumon?
We caught up with Adam Scott and Ben Stiller to find out more about Severance…
'Severance' has such an intriguing premise. What is your take on Mark and what he experiences?
Adam Scott: “It was important to us that it felt like one guy, not two characters, it's different sides of the same person. They are in very different circumstances and their minds are quite different. But neither at the beginning wants to change. They're both settled. But the apple cart being tossed over is uncomfortable for both sides of Mark and they set off on journeys. On its surface, it's a workplace comedy when you enter the story, but there's something else lurking underneath, and cracking open the mystery is a lot of fun!"
And what drew you to 'Severance' Ben?
Ben Stiller: “As a director, I was drawn to it because I thought it was a fascinating script. This story had drama and weird humour coming out of the humanity of the characters in this strangely inhuman environment."
Do you think people will relate to the idea of trying to separate their work and home lives?
Ben Stiller: “Yes, hopefully, it's an experience that’s universal and that people can identify with this idea of wanting to cut off when they go to work. Wouldn't it be great if you could just flip a switch and not have to feel pain or boredom?”
Adam Scott: “Separating your life and work and taking all the thoughtful moments out can be dangerous though… but it's something we're all feeling right now. This show takes that feeling to another level with a solution.”
Did you do any research into whether ‘severance’ technology could really be possible?
Ben Stiller: “It didn't seem outlandish to me, it seemed an interesting, semi-science fiction premise. I just saw that [billionaire businessman] Elon Musk is actually promoting a new company [involving brain chips]. So it's not that crazy. And we consulted with a neurosurgeon and doctors to talk about what this reality would be, so it could happen.”
You worked together on 2013’s 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty', what was it like teaming up again?
Ben Stiller: “I never thought about acting in it because Adam came into my mind. He’s dream casting because he’s perfected the comedic sense but there’s a deeper level going on that I knew he could also bring. He was the guy!”
Adam Scott: “And Ben's vision and the visuals of the show are unbelievable. He really went to a whole new level for television, just being on the sets was incredible with the overall tone and look. It's unlike anything else that's out there!”
When can I watch 'Severance'?
The first two episodes of Severance will air on Friday, Feb. 8 on Apple TV+ and new episodes will then air weekly.
Get the What to Watch Newsletter
The latest updates, reviews and unmissable series to watch and more!
Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.
Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.
Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.
In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.