Peacock sci-fi series ‘Mrs. Davis’ premieres at SXSW

Sage Dunlap, Associate Life&Arts Editor

Created by Tara Hernandez (“The Big Bang Theory,” “Young Sheldon”) and Damon Lindelof (“Watchmen,” “Lost”), the sci-fi television show “Mrs. Davis” premiered at South by Southwest Tuesday. The series follows Simone (Betty Gilpin), a nun battling the world’s most powerful artificial intelligence creation named Mrs. Davis. 

The Daily Texan attended the red carpet ahead of the premiere to speak with the creators and stars of the Peacock series.

The Daily Texan: How did you settle on the name Mrs. Davis for the show’s artificial intelligence?

Tara Hernandez: Mrs. Davis was my first and second grade teacher. She was so influential in my early education because she made the experience so personal. (In) a class of 30, 40 students, I felt like she was just teaching me. When you have AI that can really personalize the user experience, we batted around (if she) should behave like a mom or a teacher … and Mrs. Davis was the first name that came to mind.

DT: The trailer references a journey to find The Holy Grail. Was Monty Python a big inspiration for the show?

Damon Lindelof: One of our executive producers, the director of the pilot and other episodes, is Owen Harris. He directed episodes of Black Mirror, and … we’re constantly referring to “San Junipero” and “Striking Vipers.” (In my) very first meeting with Owen, we started talking about Monty Python and … leaning into something completely and totally absurd, deadpan humor presented straight and the fundamental idea of trolling religious institutions but at the same time kind of revering them — (it) is a very delicate balance.

DT: You started the show in 2020, but since then, conversations about AI have been much more prominent in mainstream media. Did public concern about the role of AI shape the course of the show at all?

DL: We had a number of writers on the show who were actively engaged in not just researching, but making algorithmic artificial intelligences. We were talking about it all the time. We would vacillate between being super excited about what these technologies were capable of, particularly art that AI was starting to make. But we were simultaneously really worried about what these things were going to be used for, and how reliant we’re going to become on them. We’re still pretty worried, even more so now than we were when we started making the show. Things I was anxious about two years ago are now creating mainstream anxiety. 

DT: What tone did you try to take with the character of Simone?

Betty Gilpin: While she is sarcastic, rude and spiky, she also is a woman of faith, which sort of, against all odds, cracks her open as a person. There’s a vulnerability there. I think (audiences) will see many, many sides to her, which is always the best.

DT: Groups of nuns in all blue habits have been seen all over the festival promoting the show. Can you tell me the story behind Simone’s signature blue uniform?

TH: That was a really amazing collaboration with our costume designer named Susie Coulthard, who came into the show and had a real distinct vision — we wanted to do something iconic. Obviously, we’ve seen the black and white nun (uniform) quite a bit, and it has been done successfully. So, she came in and said, “I really want to go blue.” One of the coolest parts about Simone’s attire is that what looks like a dress is actually pants — that was a Susie and Betty collaboration. They wanted Simone to be able to ride a horse and ride a motorcycle, so she’s got the whole ensemble that’s secretly a jumpsuit — it’s very cool.