After serving as a writer on The Big Bang Theory and its spinoff Young Sheldon, Tara Hernandez makes her debut as showrunner with Mrs. Davis, which premieres the first four episodes Thursday on Peacock.
The absurdist comedy follows Betty Gilpin’s hero nun Simone on a quest to find the Holy Grail in the hopes of destroying the all-knowing algorithm — known as Mrs. Davis — currently controlling everyone’s lives. For Hernandez, who co-created the series with Damon Lindelof (Watchmen, The Leftovers), getting a rare shot at running her own show also meant incorporating some of her passions, including a love of the Fast and Furious movies.
“You get the opportunity to do it, and it’s like, ‘Alright, I’m going to go full force and give this everything that I love,” she shares. “From a hero in Simone that I just think is absolutely amazing and on the backs of other amazing female leads that I’ve grown up with, getting to a do a heist episode that isn’t unlike a Fast movie, or getting to do something at sea and doing a sea monster episode… this was just because the show could hold so many things. It really got to be this cornucopia of delight.”
The show explores our relationship with both religion and technology, also posing big questions about death and the afterlife, which is familiar territory for Lindelof. He co-created Lost (alongside J.J. Abrams and Jeffrey Lieber), which followed a group of plane crash survivors who died at different points on their purgatory-type island well as The Leftovers (with Tom Perrotta), a haunting drama about the aftereffects of a global event in which 140 million people vanished without a trace.
Lindelof acknowledges the common thread in his works, also noting that it’s really a universal theme. “I have said everything that I have to say that’s even remotely interesting about the afterlife, but I do feel that this is the primary fixation of what it is to be a human being on the planet,” he shares.
“I always feel a hunger for more books and movies and television shows to reflect our interior spiritual being, a lot of which is dominated by this question of, ‘Is this it? Do I get these 75 years on the planet? Maybe more if I’m lucky, maybe less if I’m unlucky? And if I’m unlucky, is it because of something that I did karmically in a past life?’ And so beginning to struggle and try to reconcile with how finite our lives are, and are the people that we have to say goodbye to, are we ever going to see them again? I’m not the only one having that experience,” he explains.
“I keep getting drawn to this conversation because I’m preoccupied with: What does it all mean, and why do we have these constructs of afterlife that have shifted from the dawn of civilization till now? Where will we be 1,000 years from now? Will we be less believers than we are now, or will we have some whole new religion that’s based around tech that we can’t even imagine?”
Ray Kurzweil’s 2009 documentary Transcendent Man, in which Kurzweil theorizes that the line between human and artificial intelligence will be blurred sometime in the future, left a huge impression on Lindelof.
“It ends with him being asked, ‘Do you think that there is heaven?’ and he says, ‘Not yet,’” the Mrs. Davis EP shares. “The concept being, Is Mark Zuckerberg building heaven because the Metaverse is starting to sound a lot like our construct of heaven? So maybe if the afterlife doesn’t exist, are we supposed to build it? And does that mean it’s no longer a supernatural construct, but a technological one? If you and I and Tara can be hooked up to machines that perpetuate our physical bodies, and meanwhile, our minds are living inside of the Metaverse, we now are in the matrix. And did we have that idea because of the movie The Matrix?”
After all those existential questions, it’s “time for another edible,” he quips.