Director Steven Soderbergh has never really been a fan of orthodoxy, and his idiosyncratic approach to his own work was on full display Sunday night when he launched his latest project, sci-fi series Command Z, at the Metrograph in New York. The Michael Cera-starring dystopian narrative, inspired by Kurt Andersen’s book Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History, was shown as part of a “secret screening” for members of the downtown theater.  

Soderbergh followed the screening with a Q&A with Florida Representative Maxwell Frost, the first Gen Z congressman, explaining to the audience, “I don’t really want to talk about the show,” and instead quizzing Frost about how he stays hopeful. “How do we convince people to not give up?” Soderbergh asked Frost, who in turn discussed his path to politics and his work organizing. 

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Though maybe not exactly what the gathered cinephiles came for, the discussion was indeed related to Soderbergh’s latest directorial effort, which debuts Monday at his website Extension765.com. The series, which runs about 90 minutes, follows a trio of people (JJ Maley, Roy Wood, Jr. and Chloe Radcliffe) in a not-so-distant future. These three, stuck in a dank room and all wearing blue jumpsuits, are summoned by the AI noggin of deceased billionaire Kerning Fealty (Cera) to embark on a project to go back in time to July 17, 2023 — the day Command Z launches — and influence other titans of industry so they won’t make world-dooming decisions. 

To do so, Kerning’s employees must go through a wormhole that is activated by drinking a strange substance and staring into a washing machine while the theme from the movie Mahogany plays. Once connected to the past, they use nanobots delivered via hand sanitizer to hook into the brains of people who can possibly convince their targets to make choices that will improve the planet. Various recognizable faces turn up in these scenarios. Liev Schreiber, for instance, is there as a greedy finance bro whose only friend is his dog, while Succession‘s Zoë Winters appears as a liberal politician contemplating nuclear power. The installments were written by executive producers Andersen and Simpsons writer Larry Doyle, as well as others including actors Wood and Radcliffe.

The missions tackle different doomsday situations, among them climate change, Wall Street greed and social media obsession. (Soderbergh, who directs all the episodes, cheekily ends each by encouraging audiences to seek out other media about these topics, including Soylent Green and The Social Network.) 

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter after the post-screening discussion, Frost said he thought he was going to be interviewing Soderbergh about Command Z. “And then before we were here talking, he was like, ‘I want to interview you,’” Frost said. But, he thought it all worked out. “At the end, I felt like this conversation, even though I talked about my life, was about the show,” he added. “It was about the change. It was about how everyday people can be involved in this fight.” 

Frost packed the appearance into an already busy weekend, in part because of his personal arts focus, which he said will be the subject of the next bill he’s introducing. “This is right up my alley, bridging the gap between cool and consciousness,” he said. (The episode of the series he connected most with was the one that features Winters as a politician.) 

Meanwhile, for the always busy Soderbergh, Command Z marks the third project he’s released this year as a director. His series Full Circle is currently streaming on Max, while Magic Mike’s Last Dance was released in theaters earlier this year. 

Source: Hollywood

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