Billy Crudup Talks ‘Hello Tomorrow!’ & Why He Loves ‘Almost Famous’
Feb 17, 2023
The Apple TV+ original half-hour dramedy series Hello Tomorrow! is set in a retro-future world where Jack Billings (Billy Crudup) leads a team of door-to-door salesmen that sell timeshares on the moon. At BrightSide Lunar Residences, the goal is selling hope to as many people as possible, but being good at their jobs means that their growing customer base becomes increasingly demanding, wanting what they’ve paid for and been promised.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Crudup (who’s also an executive producer) talked about the personal connection he felt to this material, the nostalgia people have for the past, his favorite aspect of the show’s retro-future, how he views Jack, and how exciting and terrifying a possible second season could be. He also talked about why Almost Famous will always hold a special place in his heart.
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Collider: I have to say that I am absolutely obsessed and in love with the vibe of this show and its whole retro-future world. I want to steal the wardrobe for myself.
BILLY CRUDUP: We all had the same feeling when they were designing it. It was one discovery after the next, of something that you never wanted to get out of.
Image via Apple TV+
You’ve spoken about how your dad was a salesman and that you had never really seen that spirit put on the page before this show. When you read this, did you immediately make that connection? Did it feel like somehow fate had created a show for you?
CRUDUP: It’s the kind of thing that happens somewhat intuitively, where you don’t have the a well-articulated reason why you’re drawn to the material. And then, over a period of time of exploring it, you begin to go, “Oh, now I know why I was drawn to it. That voice is the voice of my father,” in my mind, imaginatively. Obviously, (creators) Amit [Bhalla] and Lucas [Jansen] had somebody else in mind, but collectively, we came together and created somebody who is a little bit from my imagination, a little bit from their imagination, and somebody altogether original and very familiar. This is a great archetype in America, the salesman and what the salesman represents about the way that America has been sold for a long time. It’s about, “Go to the new world, and leave your troubles behind. It’s the land of bounty, and anything is possible.” What we discover is that, sure, there is a lot that’s possible, but there are also a lot of difficulties. You can’t ever really get away from the vicissitudes of living.
Have any of the other characters you’ve played been unintentionally personal, in the way this one ended up being?
CRUDUP: That’s interesting. When I did a movie called Waking the Dead, there was something about that character. Me and my buddy were desperately clinging to utopian ideals. It’s this idea where I know that there’s a future for all of us, and I know that I can add to the progress by working, politically, to create a better infrastructure for everybody. There was something about the idealism, at that time, that felt very close to something that I had once believed.
Image via Apple TV+
Why do you think it is that people have this odd fascination with the past, and have this nostalgia and love for it, but also don’t want to give up their technology and all the modern amenities of the future, at the same time?
CRUDUP: If we could answer that question . . . It’s like, why do you keep going back for Thanksgiving dinner when you know the family is going to fight and it’s going to be a total nightmare? Somehow during that period of time between, the agony of it has receded and the magic of coming together in this tradition makes you think, “Maybe this will be the time that it works. Maybe this will live up to that Norman Rockwell ideal of Thanksgiving that my mom always wanted.” That does seem to be a human experience, in some ways. It also seems to be an American experience, more specifically. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we haven’t become too easy with the idea of being content.
I love that there’s this blend of past and future in this. We get to see hovering cars, but they’re old school cars. What is your favorite aspect of that blend of past and future, with this show?
CRUDUP: I think you nailed it, it’s the cars. They represent something very acute. It’s that World’s Fair. It’s that Tomorrowland notion of, “If we can imagine it, then we can build it and we can invent a better future for all of us.” The cars are not any faster than the cars today, they just hover. Potholes have made hover cars the best thing imaginable. It’s fascinating to think of what things would really improve the quality of our life. We have jet airplanes. We have [smart phones], where we can teleport ourselves to the other side of the planet. How much more do we need before we know that it’s probably not going to be these things that create a sense of well-being and purpose?
Image via DreamWorks Pictures
You’ve done so many great projects and played so many memorable characters, but my favorite project of yours will always be Almost Famous. As someone who loves music, who always wanted to get published in Rolling Stone, and who was as young as Cameron Crowe when I started photographing concerts, I literally cried the first time I got a picture I’d taken of a rock musician published in Rolling Stone magazine. Does that movie mean as much to you as it does to other people? Is that a project, a character, and an experience that will always hold a special place in your heart?
CRUDUP: Of course! Can you imagine, if that wasn’t true? Everybody who was a part of that holds that film in high esteem, and for no other reason than Cameron Crowe is a wonderful human being. To be able to spend six months with him, he built this magical recreation of his childhood. It was a perfect example of what happens to our memories. He made that rather risky lifestyle seem downright folksy, and that’s because of the way it sat with him, in his memory. That’s the way he carried all of those artifacts with him. So, yeah, I think that will always be with me. I went and saw the musical (on Broadway) just before it closed, and I sat next to Cameron. It was a bit of an acid trip, seeing a bit of your former life played out in front of you, but it was also really magical because it brought back so many of those great memories.
How do you view Jack? Do you see him as a dreamer? Do you see him as delusional? Is he a bit of both of those things?
CRUDUP: I see him as a believer. He’s a preacher and he likes to spread the good word of hope through capitalism and dreaming of a better tomorrow to satisfy the agony of today. The purpose he has in life is to promote that vision by selling people things that he thinks will brighten their day just enough. That’s a regular feature of our lives, in a lot of different ways. With everything from subscription television to going to church, it’s a way of giving a little bit of money for a good story and the promise of understanding what could fill our days. It gives a sense of hope and optimism when sometimes life feels hard. So, I think Jack is a firm believer. I don’t think he’s delusional. I think he’s committed to that faith.
Image via Apple TV+
Without spoilers, how do you feel about where things are left for him for these characters at the end of the season? Do you just have so many questions about where things could go next?
CRUDUP: It’s terrifying, where it’s about to go. I am nauseous at the idea of how we’re going to piece it together. Amit and Lucas have started talking about some potential things, and they’re just such brilliant writers and great minds and wonderful people, that the ideas they were coming up with filled me with joy. I think Jack is going to have to manage all of his dreams coming true.
Hello Tomorrow! is available to stream at Apple TV+.
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