Surface interview: Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Oliver Jackson-Cohen talk chemistry on-set

A nail-biting thriller hit Apple TV+ this week.

On July 29, the streaming service released the first three episodes of Surface. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Oliver Jackson-Cohen portray Sophie and James, a pair of protagonists whose lives are a dense web of mysteries. Ahead of the show’s official release, Mbatha-Raw and Jackson-Cohen sat down with ComingSoon to discuss their latest project.

“Located in upscale San Francisco, Sophie is a woman who has suffered a traumatic head injury that has left her with extreme memory loss, believed to be the result of a suicide attempt,” reads the synopsis. “As Sophie embarks on a quest to put the pieces of her life back together with the help of her husband and friends, she begins to question whether the truth she’s being told is actually the truth she’s been living .”

You can watch the entire interview here below.

The only sure thing in the series is that nothing is as it seems at first. Gugu, how did you approach Sophie’s constant search for her true identity?

Gugu Mbatha-Raw: It was really interesting because it’s the first time I’ve ever played a character who really doesn’t know anything about himself. Normally when you build a character as an actor, you create a backstory, you create all these things to flesh out your character, but really Sophie’s is a blank slate. It was really funny to me because she kind of looks to everyone around her husband, James played by Oliver, to fill in all the gaps for her. Naturally, as the season progresses, she gets more information from the outside world and from her friends and people she doesn’t really know. But yes, it was a big challenge, I think. As we get to the end of the series, obviously she goes on this huge journey and she’s really so much more empowered. So yeah, it was really satisfying.

Oliver, do you believe that people can assume different identities throughout their lives?

Oliver Jackson-Cohen: I think we do. I think we’re constantly evolving, and not because we’re becoming different people, but it’s a lot, hopefully, that we’re all striving to be a better kind of people, or whatever. With James, on our show, it becomes more about what is it that he’s holding onto and what is he hiding and why is he hiding and what is the cost to the marriage? What does it cost him? That was the kind of fun part to play with. I don’t think he necessarily changes as a person, but I think it’s about what information unfolds or is uncovered in each episode that changes people’s perspective on him and them and each character. Like you said, I think it’s the kind of show that nothing is ever what it seems, when you think you know one thing, it’s suddenly switched and something else comes at you. It’s deliciously stressful.

I was just curious how you built your husband-wife chemistry as Sophie and James? Did you hang out a lot on set?

Mbatha-Raw: I mean, it’s not difficult. Oliver is such a brilliant actor and so warm and incredibly generous. We knew each other before, we’ve had mutual friends, so there was already a shorthand there. Two Brits, there was a cultural understanding, but I also think that was all in the writing. I have to say, you know, Veronica [West] wrote this incredibly dynamic relationship. There is so much tension under the surface. And working with Sam Miller, I feel like we really collaborated together as a team. When you work with amazing artists and people who really care about the material, it makes everything so much easier.

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