The 'Severance' Cast on Ben Stiller's Secret Cameo and Hopes for Season 2 (Exclusive)
Now that season 1 of Severance, the Apple TV+ puzzle box series from creator and writer Dan Erickson and director and executive producer Ben Stiller, has come to a shocking yet satisfying end, the cast and creative team has opened up to ET about spoilers, including Stiller’s secret cameo, and hopes for season 2.
In the workplace thriller, Adam Scott plays Mark Scout, an employee at the mysterious biotech company, Lumon Industries, that has undergone a controversial surgical procedure, which divides a person’s workplace and home life memories and results in separate lives led by the innies, those inside the office, and outies, those at home and beyond.
“I certainly understand why my character in the show wants to do this -- it's just so that he doesn't have to feel anything for eight hours a day,” Scott told ET about Mark’s decision to become “severed,” which is a way to spare himself the grief he still suffers from after his wife Gemma died in a car accident.
But after the unexpected departure of Petey (Yul Vazquez), the leader of Mark’s department and the arrival of a new recruit, Helly (Britt Lower), the balance in office is quickly thrown into chaos, much to the chagrin and concern of supervisor of the severed floor, Seth Milchick (Tramell Tillman), and his boss Harmony Cobel (Patricia Arquette).
“It’s an amazing part. It’s got a lot of heavy lifting to do, this character and it was fun to do it,” Vazquez said of his character, who has the severed procedure reversed and tries to recruit Mark’s outie to do the same thing before dying to complications from the surgery.
And it’s not long before Mark and the other members of the Macrodata Refinement division -- Dylan (Zach Cherry) and Irving (John Turturro) -- start to realize there’s way more going on than they were led to believe.
“You see a lot through the eyes of my character, Helly, who’s asking, ‘What the hell is going on here,’ while the audience is asking the same question,” Lower said. “But I think Dan as a writer does a good job of planting these Easter eggs and then answering them as you move along the series.”
While there were several revelations throughout season 1, it wasn’t until the last two episodes that several big questions were finally answered and major theories were confirmed, including the fact that Helly is actually the severed daughter of current CEO of Lumon Industries, Jame Eagan (Michael Siberry), and a descendent of founder and cult-like leader Kier Eagan.
“I’m looking forward to discovering what Helly and outie Helly have to learn from one another,” Lower said, acknowledging that she’s now in a bit of weird love triangle after Helly kissed Mark before the two set out on their mission to have their innies expose the truth to the outside world. “I think there are a lot of emotional paths to discover in season two and that’s for sure a really intricate one.”
Among the more unsettling -- and standout -- scenes near the end was the waffle party Dylan received as a reward for meeting his quota. Taking place in the Perpetuity Wing, which houses the history of Lumon and its founder, Dylan’s meal is followed by an erotic performance by masked dancers as he watches from Kier Eagan’s bed.
“It was a very strange day,” Cherry said of filming the scene. “It was late at night. It was in a kind of creepy Victorian era house. All those dancers had to dance with their huge paper mache heads on and be able to see each other and hit their marks exactly. I just had to sit in bed. So, for me, it was easy. But it was very surreal.”
He added, “Eating waffles was certainly more pleasant.”
In addition to the Helly reveal, it turns out that Gemma is still alive and is the same person as Ms. Casey (Dichen Lachman), the wellness counselor on the severed floor who has spent time with several members of the MDR division, including Mark.
“Ben told me on Skype reluctantly, like, ‘Well, you know she’s a bigger character. Anyway, she’s his wife,’” Lachman recalled about first learning of her character’s big twist. “I mean, I think he was trying not to tell me because I think it was still such a big secret.”
And when it came to finally reading the scripts for the episodes, which also sees Ms. Casey being sent to the “testing floor” by Harmony after failing to recognize Mark as her husband, Lachman couldn’t put them down. “I was crying and laughing,” she shared. “And to see it all come to life is such an incredible experience.”
Of all the shockers, Jen Tullock, who plays Mark’s sister Devon and is married to self-help author Ricken Hale played by Michael Chernus, said the “Ms. Casey twist had really kicked me in the pants.”
In the finale, Mark’s innie also confronts her and reveals everything that’s going on inside Lumon in hopes that she’ll help him escape. “For Devon, it’s interesting ‘cause she has a sort of a satellite storyline,” Tullock said of being removed from the events at the office, while also interacting with Mark and Harmony, who pretended to be pediatric nurse named Mrs. Selvig.
While Mark’s innie actually makes contact with someone from the outside world, the finale ends before seeing what happens to Helly, whose outie is being honored at a gala for undergoing the severance procedure, and Irving, who races to find Burt Goodman (Christopher Walken), the leader of the Optics and Design division who Irving has a growing attraction to before he’s forced to retire.
When it comes to that unexpected relationship, Turturro revealed that it was his idea to cast Walken as Burt. “I suggested we hire Chris ‘cause I love Chris. I’ve worked with him five times before and I admired him,” the actor shared. “I just loved working with him because he’s so unpredictable and plays with you. So, I care about Chris and I didn’t really have to act that out, to be very honest with you. It’s all there.”
As for the finale itself, Stiller said “it was always designed that way.”
“We figured even if we didn’t get picked up for a second season we would have made it anyway. I don’t know if anybody would have seen it but we definitely needed to keep going with the story,” he said of continuing the series, which was officially renewed days before the finale debuted.
Moving forward, Erickson wants “to expand the world a little bit.”
Following the finale, which lets audiences finally see a bit of Helly and Irving’s outer lives, “that’s a world that we’re just beginning to explore,” the writer continued. “So, it’s really exciting and humbling that we get to keep doing it for a whole other season.”
Of course, that expansion will be done in a strategic way. “It’s hopefully going to be the kind of show where you feel satisfied enough that you get answers to things that you’re wondering about for a long time but then new questions come up,” Stiller said. “But I want it to be something where people really feel as they’re going through that they’re in a world where they’re not feeling like things are just being thrown at them for no reason.”
And hopefully that’ll mean audiences finally get an explanation about the baby goats. “Hopefully we’ll see more goats,” Tillman suggested, before adding, “I’m really excited about where it’s going. I don’t have all the information but I’m really eager to find out.”
“I think the questions about Lumon in season two will bleed from the audiences’ feelings about that into the characters’ feelings about that,” Tullock offered. “I think we’re going to get a lot more answers as far as the history and the big why of Lumon.”
If there’s one person who seems to know, it’s Arquette. “They told me some stuff and I said don’t tell me anything because I don’t want people asking me and I don’t want to know,” she said. “I don’t want to accidentally slip and give a spoiler.”
Although most of the cast is curious about the ins and outs of Lumon, Lachman hopes that she’ll get to share more screen time with the rest of the ensemble cast. “I wish to have more challenges and to work with all these incredible actors, who I am, whether I was in the show or not, just huge fans of their work. And what they’ve done with their characters on this show is just incredible.”
And maybe in season 2, that’ll include Stiller, who everyone would like to see appear on screen in future episodes. “I would love that, personally,” Cherry said. “It would be awesome to get to do a scene with him.”
“That would be fantastic to take him to the breakroom,” Tillman said, referring to the place where employees go to be punished by Milchick. “Hopefully it doesn’t go there.”
Even Stiller is into the idea. “It would be fun to be a part of this world. We’re thinking about it a lot. We spent a lot of today talking about it,” he shared, referring to Erickson. “He’s a handsome man. You may as well, when you have that mug,” the creator added, making note of his handsome looks.
But it turns out the director had a secret cameo in episode eight. “There's a little Easter egg of a voice. If you’re paying close attention, it’s Ben's,” Lower revealed. “He does the voice,” Lachman confirmed, referring to the moment when Helly hits her quota and her computer shows a video of an animated Kier Eagan congratulating her. “That’s him,” she said.
Severance season 1 is now streaming on Apple TV+.
Reporting by Denny Directo, Rachel Smith and Stacy Lambe
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