Harriet Walter Talks Dark Sci-Fi Drama Silo on Apple TV+

May 5, 2023

It’s “from rags to riches” in reverse for Dame Harriet Walter these days. In Succession, the acclaimed British actress turned heads as elegant Lady Caroline Collingwood, the second wife of Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and mother to everybody’s favorite rich-kids troika, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin). Now, in Apple TV+’s new dystopian drama, Silo, Walter’s character, Martha, is an agoraphobic loner clad in old frocks, one of thousands living in a silo years after a seemingly cataclysmic environmental disaster.

The new series’ dank setting is nothing for any character to lift a Succession-like champagne flute to, but the show itself may very well be. It offers plenty to ponder. Showrunner Graham Yost (Justified) adapted this endeavor from Hugh Howey’s Kindle stories. This is the tale of the last 10,000 people on Earth and their mile-deep home protecting them from the toxic world outside. Nobody knows when or why the silo was built and anybody who attempts to find out faces dire consequences.

An excellent Rebecca Ferguson (Dune, Mission: Impossible—Fallout) headlines the ensemble cast as Juliette, a determined engineer seeking answers about a murder. Her quest to uncover the truth has catastrophic ripple effects. In addition to Ferguson and Walter, the series stars Common, Chinaza Uche, Avi Nash, David Oyelowo, Rashida Jones, and Tim Robbins. Harriet Walter shared more about her role and the series itself with MovieWeb.

A Far Cry from Lady Caroline Collingwood

MovieWeb: Great to see you in Silo. We loved what you brought to Succession with your character, but in Silo, Martha is so vastly different.

Harriet Walter: It’s a contrast. A big contrast. What stood out for me here was being a character who has a past but has kind of curtailed that and gone into retreat.

MW: Right. While everybody is confined to the massive silo, Martha, who is an engineer, never leaves her quarters.

Walter: The larger scheme of the whole story appealed to me; that metaphoric/allegoric kind of dystopian territory that the series goes into. I was attracted to that in terms of what it would stimulate in the audience’s imagination […] about comparing this created world and the world that they’re actually in. That was particularly true during the pandemic, especially in people’s imaginations. People were suddenly shocked about what might happen in the world that was out of their control, and how quickly they would build that as a sort of normality in their lives, very quickly adapting.

Walter: Silo wasn’t designed that way. Nobody foresaw the pandemic when they were writing and creating this series, but I think that added another layer to it. What really attracted me to Silo was partly, simply the writing. It suggested some very interesting kind of dynamics, and some complexity in the character… that this character was not all you see. She was not going to reveal everything about herself. She had some hidden depths that would be up to me to plug into.

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MW: We have a superior cast here. What are your thoughts working with them?

Walter: For the most part, I really only interacted with Rebecca’s character, Juliette. Martha occasionally meets another character, but it was pretty much exclusively Juliette for the first six or episodes. That certainty became a parallel where Juliette was my kind of outlet, my heart. She was my outlet and my incoming information about what the rest of the silo world was like.

Walter: There was one scene where we have her meeting with the mayor, which was an opportunity to play with somebody who not only in real life was a contemporary, but who also within the story was a contemporary who would know about my character’s background and asks about my marriage, which nobody else would do. Martha was unique because every time she interacts with somebody new, there’s a slightly new piece of information you find out about her.

Tapping into the Show’s Deeper Message

Apple TV+

MW: As the episodes go on, viewers learn more about the inner politics of the silo. What do you feel audiences will be most surprised about with the series?

Walter: I think if people are expecting sort of sci-fi drama or unrecognizable, weird costumes, and the people have evolved into a new language we’d evolved into, that’s not Silo. They may be surprised that we’re very recognizable and speaking contemporary language, and wearing clothes that are, well, all patched up and look weird because they’re recycled. I don’t think anybody was concerned to make this world into a sort of Star Trek futuristic thing.

Walter: So, if people are thinking they’re watching something that happens 200 years hence, they would expect that. But our environment is very old, you know, and people in the silo don’t know what the world looks like. We must go to picture books to understand what happened before.

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MW: What do you hope viewers really take away from the experience?

Walter: Well, I would say, seeing where the world could go if we went in a certain direction, that people will be galvanized to putting the brakes on that. You know, if we’re going to destroy the planet, do we want to live underground? I don’t think so. And to get people, even more than they do now, to realize that if you ask disturbing but right questions, that that will rock the boat in the right way. You can unseat the bad guys. You can actually penetrate the wall of lies by making proper inquiries and proper investigations and joining together.

MW: Very good point. And very timely.

Harriet Walter: We just mustn’t be complacent. This is a show that makes people feel there is stuff you can do and that you can be brave. Because […] would you like to end up like this? There’s that kind of motivation. We are brave and we can be brave.

Silo premieres on Apple TV+ on May 5.

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