Warning: This article contains minor spoilers for the first three episodes of Hello Tomorrow! It was somewhere in Santa Fe on the set of the 1998 Western drama The Hi-Lo Country when Billy Crudup found himself looking up at the night sky. He’d stepped away from the overbearing lights of the film set, and, faced with an ever-expansive blanket of stars above him, a boom mic operator pointed out planets in our galaxy. “That’s Mars, that’s Venus. That’s Jupiter, Saturn,’ he told me. And I was like, ‘How the hell do you know that?” Crudup recalls to StyleCaster.

The Emmy-winning actor was gazing at what’s known as the ecliptic plane, the imaginary line on which Earth orbits the sun. “All of a sudden, I understood how I was standing with respect to the solar system and my mind expanded,” he says. From then on, “whenever I look up the moon, I think of the ways in which human beings have been able to understand their environment and stand on the shoulders of giants—and what a beautiful thing that is.”

Compared to his character, Jack Billings, in Apple TV+’s new retro-futuristic dramedy, Hello Tomorrow! it’s more philosophical but no less romantic. As a traveling salesman peddling residential units for a lunar colony called Brightside, Jack looks at the moon and sees dollars, of course, but also optimism, “human opportunity, a place to plant yourself and leave your troubles behind.” As he tells his colleagues in episode one: “We’re not just selling. We’re changing lives.” And later: “What’s life without a dream to make it go down easy?”

All of this comes with the caveat that if things seem too good to be true, they probably are. Hello Tomorrow! is as much a sci-fi critique of capitalism as it is an unflattering portrayal of the American dream. As cracks in the Brightside façade start to show and the web of Jack’s deceit, however well-intentioned, comes into full view, audiences confront one of the great Machiavellian dilemmas: whether the ends can ever justify the means. The only person that can see through Jack to his core is his straight-shooting mother, Barbara, played by Jacki Weaver, who watches on as Jack tries to forge a relationship with his estranged son, Joey (Nicholas Podany), of 18 years.

This show is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, maybe outside of The Jetsons. What made you want to sign on not only as an actor but as an executive producer?

I don’t even remember asking to be an executive producer, I just found out I was an executive producer at one point, which is a wonderful thing, to be sure. But what made me want to get involved was when I read the first two episodes. They filled the script with all the iconography of these robots and these gadgets and stuff. You really got a sense of what the world was that they were trying to create.

Next to that were pages of beautiful dialogue about these characters that felt so familiar to me. These are human beings living through the same kind of human experience that I feel the people in the 50s—in the 1850s and the 1750s and the 2550s—will always be living. That felt so ingenious to me. I finished the script, called my agent and said, ‘Yes. I don’t need to talk to anybody over there. I don’t need to talk to the director, the producers, or whatever, yes, yes, yes.’ And they’re like, ‘Okay, slow down there, tough guy.’ That effort of writing something and being so thoughtful about a piece of storytelling; they cared enough about it to create a gorgeous script.

Billy Crudup, Nicholas Podany, Haneefah Wood. Image: AppleTV+/Hello Tomorrow

I want to talk about these gadgets because there are some fun ones: hovercars, robot bartenders, automated dog walkers. Which ones would you like to exist in real life?

Well, we already have Roombas.

What about the self-popping popcorn?

That’s the one that always gets me! The bottomless popcorn thing is a genius device. But I was seeing earlier this morning on the news that in Japan, there’s a robot now that is a self-driving delivery vehicle that has animated eyes on the front. So, all of this is happening right now.

What I love is that the technology in this show is shown to be fallible, sometimes comedically and others morbidly. Are you interested in or afraid of technology?

I’m very interested in technology and I think the reason it’s flawed is that technology is created by humans—and humans are profoundly flawed. I think with AI—I obviously don’t know enough to really speak about it—but I would imagine there’s something fundamentally flawed about that as well. Because the human condition is: how do we, day after day, overcome our flaws so that we can keep enough hope to keep us dreaming for a better tomorrow?

Billy Crudup. Hello Tomorrow

Billy Crudup. Image: AppleTV+/Hello Tomorrow

That leads me to my next question. Your character Jack is literally selling timeshares on the moon but he’s also selling, figuratively, optimism, which audiences find out very quickly is based on a lie. Do the ends justify the means in his mind?

I compare it to subscription TV. You pay a fee and they’re promising great storytelling. And maybe it’s just OK. If you get the price point right, maybe it fills the consumer with enough joy or optimism, or imaginative thinking that it’s worth the price. I do believe there is some reality to Jack’s Brightside, but I don’t know if it’s the one he’s selling. Like every good story, there’s a thread of truth in there.

The human condition is: how do we, day after day, overcome our flaws so that we can keep enough hope in us to keep us dreaming for a better tomorrow?

Can we talk about this smile you do and how it changes to suit who your character is speaking with?

I think it’s all about what he thinks they need. Jack has a great ability to read people and try to figure out how to meet them where they are. People who have signed up to hear about timeshares on the moon want a big toothy smile. They want to make sure that it’s safe, it’s exciting and it’s affordable and it’s thrilling. You want somebody who’s going to comfort you on something so exotic.

In Jack’s mind, that’s what this community needs. It might be different if he was at Madison Square Garden and he knew that there was a bunch of skeptical New Yorkers looking at him, there might not be as big a smile there, you know? With Nick’s character, Joey, there’s another thing that’s happening. Jack’s desperate to make up for past mistakes. There’s a real authenticity and his way of being that he hopes will begin to build trust with Joey in a way that they can have a relationship.

Hello Tomorrow! is available to stream on AppleTV+, with new episodes dropping each Friday.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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