“It reminds me of that Sex and the City episode where Kristen Johnston’s character falls out the window,” director Gregg Araki tells me when I meet up with him for coffee on a recent snowy day in New York. “Remember it snows the next day and Carrie and Miranda have that giant fight at the funeral?”
I was supposed to be talking to Araki about his new television show, Now Apocalypse, premiering March 10 on Starz. The 10-episode series is a candy-colored sex comedy that follows a group of friends through an exaggerated Arakian version of L.A. Oh, and there are aliens, lizard people, and cow mutilations. But instead of extraterrestrials, I am talking with Araki about one of our favorite episodes of Sex and the City—and that’s what he loves about television.
“You talk about these shows like they are literally like friends of yours,” he explains. “That’s what’s so cool about TV. The idea that these people become their friends, it’s just so cool to make 10 episodes of a show and to have that relationship continue for weeks.”
Araki is a pioneer of queer cinema, making a name for himself in the indie scene of the ’90s with The Living End, The Doom Generation, and then the critically acclaimed Mysterious Skin in 2004. In recent years he moved onto directing episodes of popular shows like Riverdale, 13 Reasons Why, and Heathers.
“After directing a bunch of other episodic shows, it was sort of like going to television school. I learned so much doing it. I look at all these showrunners I worked with, they are all awesome, but it is such a hard job I didn’t think I could ever do it.”
I also spoke with two of the stars of Now Apocalypse, Avan Jogia and Kelli Berglund, who play best friends Ulysses and Carly. Over the course of the first few episodes, Ulysses, a stoner coasting through life, sees lizard people and hooks up with hottie Gabriel (played by Tyler Posey). Carly is trying to make it as a legitimate actress by day, but by night she is a kinky cam girl.
“It’s, like, an intergalactic, incredible, beautiful, across-time-and-space story,” says Jogia. “And there are short intervals on the show, so we’ve got a limited time to create that kind of magic. It’s a crazy show, but at the center of it, all these characters have heart. Even if it’s insane and out of the world, it’s all grounded in relationships, love, and connection.”
Araki’s films are known for their mix of sci-fi elements and sexuality, and his first television series is no different. He thinks America needs a show like Now Apocalypse.
“We’ve definitely made so much progress in the 20-25 years and thats why it’s so important for the show to come out right now. There are so many horrible, terrible people out there right now that are trying to drag people back into the dark ages,” Araki says, referring to the current administration. “The idea of a show like this that is so feminist, so sex positive, and queer representative can be a beacon of hope at this time.”
Even though Now Apocalypse is set in a heightened fantasy world, Araki thinks it’s still relatable to viewers: “Thats exactly the point of the show. I’m not interested in reality,” he tells me as we finish our coffee.
“Not to diss Looking, but it was always too real for me. I’m more interested in a heightened world. The people are prettier, the lighting is better, the colors are brighter. Everything is notched up.”
Now Apocalypse premieres Sunday, March 10 on Starz.