‘Extrapolations’: Scott Z. Burns Talks His Star-Studded Series, The Prescience Of ‘Contagion’ & ‘Dune: The Sisterhood’ [Bingeworthy Podcast]
Mar 15, 2023
In today’s episode of Bingeworthy, our TV and streaming podcast, host Mike DeAngelo ponders Earth’s future while discussing the new Apple TV+ series, “Extrapolations.” The show is created by Scott Z. Burns (“The Report,” “Contagion”) and explores eight different stories between the years of 2037 and 2070 as humanity deals with the chaotic rising costs of climate change and the fight to survive. The show premieres its first three episodes on March 17, and stars Sienna Miller, Kit Harrington, Forest Whitaker, Tobey Maguire, Meryl Streep, Matthew Rhys, Diane Lane, David Schwimmer, Daveed Diggs, Eiza González, Marion Cotillard, and more.
READ MORE: ‘Extrapolations’ Review: Apple TV+’s Star-Studded Mini-Series Offers A Terrifying Vision of The Future
Joining Bingeworthy to discuss the show is writer, director, and showrunner Scott Z. Burns. During the chat, Burns discussed the personal experiences that led to his anger over climate change and how humans capitalize on it for profit.
“I have a lot of different emotions about [climate change],” Burns said. “When I was in my 20s, I went to Alaska, and I worked as an oil spill volunteer after the Exxon Valdez spill, and I worked in a center cleaning otters. You know, otters are the most adorable thing you could ever imagine, and I thought this is a good thing that I’m doing, right? But then, I realized that the otter center had been created by Exxon, and they march journalists through there every day. And a lot of those otters didn’t come from areas that were oiled. They were just there to do this performative thing, and I think my anger started then. Which is that – we know what needs to be done. We know that some of the narratives that have been put in front of us about how hard that will be are false. And so, there are times when it’s easier as a writer to channel my anger about that, but I also know that there’s an immense possibility, and there’s plenty that is changing and going in a great direction.”
The show is a multi-generational journey towards humanity, either working together to fight climate change or allowing corporations to work towards increasing their profits. Season 1 is a remarkably contained arc that could be perfectly well suited as a single season; however, if Apple TV+ wants more, Burns definitely has more ideas in mind.
“’Extrapolations’ is one possible future,” Burns teased. “And the reason why Dorothy Fortenberry and I sort of pasted it out the way we did with these different intervals was we left some blanks to fill in. And if I were given another season, I would love to extrapolate another season, another future, and look at other stories and other characters. So, there was some thought behind leaving that door open if anybody wants me to go through it.”
Burns’ predictions seem especially frightening and prescient considering how spot-on he and Steven Soderbergh were with their predictions for a potential viral pandemic in “Contagion.” During the interview, Burns noted his lack of surprise when it came to how COVID-19 initially began and that the real horror came afterward.
“I understood that we could anticipate more viruses coming out of nature. We even talked about bio-error and could they come out of a lab. So, I’m not surprised that it happened,” Burns said. “The question was always when not if. Obviously, I had no idea it was going to happen that soon after the movie. I think, for me, the thing I couldn’t have anticipated was how completely messed up the response of our government would be. I thought that a dangerous disease that was killing people would make everyone put away their little toys and their politics and come together on the side of science and make really sound policy. And it was heartbreaking to watch that. I don’t think the scientists I know anticipated that either.”
Burns was, at one point, serving as a creative executive producer on HBO Max’s “Dune: The Sisterhood,” which recently lost its director and a lead actor due to potential creative differences and was put on hiatus. The series is supposed to take place thousands of years before the events of Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” feature films and follows the rise of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood through the stories of a few different women in the Harkonnen house. While discussing future projects, Burns seemed hopeful that the series would ultimately go into production in the near future, but he’s no longer involved and would never have taken a showrunner role, to begin with.
“I had a really interesting role, which was – you know, when we began to talk about the show, and it became, ‘Dune: The Sisterhood,’ I said, ‘The first thing I want to do is disqualify myself as showrunner.’ Because, obviously, I’m not a part of a sisterhood,” he said. “Also, I was working on ‘Extrapolations,’ and that was in first position. So, I was always there sort of in service to the ideas and the overall nature of the show, and I remain very, very passionate about that. You know, it’s a tough one to crack. People have been working on trying to do a ‘Dune’ show for 20 years, but I think we’re getting really close, and I’m certainly not giving up hope, and, fortunately, neither are our friends at HBO.”
The first three episodes of “Extrapolations” are streaming Friday, March 17, on Apple TV+, with new episodes premiering each week. You can listen to the full interview with Scott Z. Burns below:
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