'Severance': Tramell Tillman on the Season 1 Finale and Theories About Milchick (Exclusive)

The actor opens up to ET about playing the supervisor on Lumon Industries’ severed floor. Warning: spoilers for season 1.

After Showtime’s Yellowjackets, Severance on Apple TV+ is the latest puzzle box series to capture the fascination of critics and fans alike. And after eight episodes, season 1 of the workplace thriller from creator and writer Dan Erickson and director and executive producer Ben Stiller has come to a shocking close with a finale that left Tramell Tillman screaming. “I said to myself, ‘I know they’re not going to end the season like this. There’s no way,’” the breakout star who plays Seth Milchick recalls to ET about reading the script for “The We We Are.” 

He adds, “I was ready to flip tables, but it was so fun.”

Now that season 1 has concluded, Tillman opens up about playing the supervisor of the severed floor at the mysterious Lumon Industries, reflects on key moments for his character, and talks about what he hopes to see for Milchick in season 2. Warning: spoilers for the first nine episodes. 

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As mentioned, Milchick works as a supervisor on the severed floor, where various employees, including Adam Scott’s Mark Scout, have undergone the severance procedure, which divides a person’s workplace and home life memories. 

“He’s a guy who has everything under control and he takes joy in that,” Tillman says of his character, who very much “knows as much as he’s supposed to know” as middle management and “truly believes in the Lumon principles and believes that what he’s doing as a whole is for the better making of humanity.”

While normally operated under strict protocol handed down by the icy Harmony Cobel (Patricia Arquette), procedures in the Macrodata Refinement division quickly fall apart after the unexpected departure of Petey (Yul Vazquez) and the arrival of a newly severed employee, Helly (Britt Lower). “She is a big deal, right?” Tillman says, noting that “there’s a lot riding on the success of this recruitment and her integration process. On top of that, we have one of the members of the severed floor who has gone missing. We have no idea where he is.” 

However, Helly quickly retaliates against her “inner” persona confined to the Lumon compound. And it’s not long before Mark and his coworkers -- Dylan (Zach Cherry) and Irving (John Turturro) -- start to realize there may be more going on than they were trained to believe. “When Holly gets integrated, chaos ensues,” Tillman says of the team’s running around the floor, finding the baby goats in one room, meeting other employees in the Optics & Design division, the discovery of the self-help book written by Mark’s brother-in-law, Ricken (Michael Chernus). 

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(As an employee who is not severed, Milchick knows who the employees are inside and outside the office, including the revelation that Helly is actually the daughter of Jame Eagan (Michael Siberry), the current CEO of Lumon Industries. While not revealed until the finale, this is something Tillman was aware of from the very beginning. “I didn’t want to play it up,” he says, before pointing out there’s a moment in episode two (“Half Loop”) where you see them together before she gets severed. 

“I want to respect her position and who she is, but I didn’t want to make it seem like, ‘Oh my god, this royalty before me,’” he continues, noting that during the melon bar scene, audiences can see that Milchick knows everything about them and is forced to play along as the MDR team shares fantasies about who they are on the outside.)

Not only that, but Cobel has started going rogue, by conducting her own experiments with Ms. Casey (Dichen Lachman) and Mark, who are revealed to be a previously married couple before a car accident left Mark believing his wife, named Gemma on the outside, is dead. “She’s doing this experiment here and it’s gone way too far and she’s crossing boundaries,” Tillman says. 

In order for him to regain control, “the disciplinary has got to put his food down. And so, he takes risks because he’s got to save his own ass.” 

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As a result, Milchick is pushed to his limits and forced to do things he wouldn’t normally do. “But from the moment he steps outside of his controlled space and tries to do things that are unorthodox, that’s when chaos ensues for him,” Tillman says. “And so, we see this guy who has it all together – and is very sharp – unravel a bit as the season goes on.” 

Those actions are seen in episodes six (“Hide and Seek”) and seven (“Defiant Jazz”), when Milchick activates the overtime contingency to awaken Dylan’s innie while he’s at home in order to find out where he hid the infographic card he stole from O&D and rewards Helly with a “Music Dance Experience” for reaching 75 percent on her data refinement file despite only scoring a 73. 

When it comes to the latter, which has resulted in memes of Milchick’s dancing taking over Twitter, Tillman says it was actually a stressful moment for his character. “He’s breaking the rule of MDE to inhabit this moment of fun,” he says, while explaining that Milchick – as well as the MDR team – needs this chance to let go of everything that’s happened so far. “It brought a lot of joy to everyone because this is the moment where Milchick gets to let loose a little bit.” 

But of course, the office dance ends poorly when Dylan, who is upset to learn that he has a child after being woken up, attacks and bites Milchick. “When Dylan goes and takes a bite of my arm, I’m like, ‘Dude, what are you doing?? Like, I’m doing this for you. You know, this is supposed to be fun, man. Like, why are you doing me like that?’” Tillman says of the shocking moment that leaves Milchick feeling hurt and vulnerable for the first time. 

(As for those dancing GIFs floating around the internet, the actor says it’s such a delight to see. “There’s a part of me that’s like, ‘Oh my gosh. Your work is everywhere.’ But to know that people are gravitating to it and really respond to it positively is so great,” he shares.)

In the penultimate episode (“What’s for Dinner?”), a lot of the chaos comes to a head as the MDR team learns how to activate the overtime contingency and devise a plan to wake up Helly, Irving and Mark after work so that they can find help as Cobel’s withholding of details about Helly’s retaliation, including her suicide attempt, from the board and her meddling with Ms. Casey leads to her dismissal. 

And of course, Milchick, who doesn’t seem entirely upset by the news, is the one who has to send Cobel packing. “I think he had some feelings about it because I believe Cobel to be Milchick’s mentor. He looks up to Cobel and appreciated who she is,” Tillman says, revealing that he thinks Cobel was the one who recruited Milchick to Lumon Industries. “So, there’s a lot of respect there. But then it goes back to the fact that it’s either you or me because Cobel was doing things that were totally outside of the way it’s supposed to be. She’s not abiding by the rules here and she’s creating a mess.”  

But any conflict between the two is temporarily suspended as the two have to deal with the fallout from the finale, when Dylan awakens his coworkers in the season 1 finale much to their surprise. Once the two realize what’s happening, Cobel heads to the Lumon Industries’ event, where Helly is being honored for severing her brain, to prevent her from speaking out and Milchick tries to break into the security room to stop Dylan.  

While Mark and Irving are both racing to find people they trust to tell about their experiences, Milchick is most worried about Helly. “To know how much of a loose cannon her innie is, I mean she could totally disrupt everything,” Tillman says. “So, as we see, Milchick is willing to put anything and everything on the line. So what does Milchick do? He spills information about Dylan’s family. Not only does he have one kid, but he’s got two others.” 

The actor adds, “So, it’s high stakes.” 

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Of course, what happens next remains to be seen. “What’s so beautiful about the way it ends is that we don’t know what happens with anybody,” Tillman says of the way the episode is written. 

With the series renewed for season 2, there’s a lot left to explore when it comes to Milchick. When it comes to what happens next, “there’s been some chatter about it, but it’s all very preliminary,” Tillman says, adding, “I really am interested in seeing where we pick up, you know, because we drop off at such a high moment. So, I’m really intrigued to see where it goes from there.”

While he waits to see what Erickson and the rest of the writers come up with, Tillman hopes to learn more about what Milchick is like outside the office in season 2. “I had a lot of big questions about Milchick’s upbringing. We don’t see much of anything about his past and how he came to Lumon,” he says. “So, I am interested in getting the answers to those questions and we’ll see if that surfaces in the future.” 

However, one thing he does know for sure, Milchick is a human. “There are a lot of people who think he’s a robot,” Tillman says, acknowledging the fans’ many, many theories about the series with a laugh. “It’s like, ‘OK, so that’s out there.’” 

Severance season 1 is now streaming on Apple TV+.