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Dark Matter


Joel Edgerton stars as a man taken to an alternative version of his life in Dark Matter

Chicago physics professor Jason Dessen (Joel Edgerton, The Boys in the Boat) is a man living a decent life. At home he has a beautiful wife, Daniela (Jennifer Connelly, Top Gun: Maverick), and their 16-year-old son Charlie (Oakes Fegley, Pete’s Dragon ). At work, he is perhaps not winning awards for scientific discoveries, but he is shaping the minds of tomorrow. It isn’t until Jason is kidnapped and faced with another reality — one that he, under different circumstances, constructed himself — that he is forced to ask the question, “Are you happy?”

Dark Matter on Apple TV+. Pictured: Joel Edgerton as Jason Dessen.
Apple TV+

It was this and other existential questions that inspired Blake Crouch to write his novel, on which the series exploring the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is based. “As I was writing the book, I was in my late 30s — old enough to look back and see some of the paths I had taken and not taken,” says Crouch, who also serves as showrunner on the TV series. “The book became this weird form of self-therapy, which I think is something that exists for a lot of writers, whether intentionally or subconsciously. We write about what’s in our heart and for Dark Matter, it is, ‘Are you happy in your life? If you’re not, go find the next door and the world that you want to exist in.’ ”

Dark Matter on Apple TV+. Pictured: Jennifer Connelly plays Daniela, wife of Joel Edgerton’s physics professor Jason Dessen.
Apple TV+

The conundrum about what constitutes happiness also intrigued Edgerton, who not just stars but is also an executive producer on the thriller. “I’m constantly trying to answer the question of, ‘What are the perfect ingredients that lead to contentment?’” he says. “This show, I thought, was a great exploration of that. On one hand I play a version of a character who feels unhappy because he hasn’t pursued his goals in life, and life has sort of flat lined. On the other hand, you have a version of the character who did pursue his goals and neither of them are happy.”

Dark Matter on Apple TV+. Pictured: Joel Edgerton as Jason Dessen and Jennifer Connelly as his wife Daniela.
Apple TV+

In either Jason’s case, picturing what could have been is no longer hypothetical. One night, on his way home from the local bar, Jason I is kidnapped and drugged. When he wakes up, he is surrounded by people hailing his genius, relieved that he has made a safe return. Scrambling to find out what they are talking about, Jason discovers that in the world he now exists in, he has built a black box that introduces its passengers to endless options of life paths — and the man who brought him there by force is a Jason that wants to hijack his life.

Dark Matter on Apple TV+. Pictured: Oakes Fegley as Jason’s son, Charlie.

What makes the lead character so unique, to Crouch, is that Jason is every man. “His superpower is his intelligence and it’s also his vulnerability,” says Crouch. “He’s not an action hero. He is not this guy who’s running around jumping off of things. He’s one of us. One of the early choices we made is to really lean heavily into the idea that we should see ourselves in him.” Even when Jason II makes his appearance, the idea was to keep the gap between hero and antagonist small. “Jason II is sort of the bad guy, but I think you need to give Jason II a chance,” says Crouch. “He’s not so bad once you get to know him.”

Dark Matter on Apple TV+. Pictured: Joel Edgerton’s Jason Dessen faces an alternate reality.
Apple TV+

In the case of both Jason Dessens, their behaviour is a result of nurture, not nature. “I believe that in becoming a husband and a parent, you’re no longer the most important person in your life. There’s a selflessness that you have to adopt if you want to be successful at being a good family man,” says Edgerton. “Those things add a certain level of accommodation and empathy and goodness to you. Jason I has been loaded up with responsibility, whether he likes it or not, and he’s made sacrifices on an epic scale. Jason II hasn’t had to do that. He’s got a swagger that allows him to be like, ‘I’m the most important dude in the room,’ but he’s going to learn that that’s not the best way of operating now.”

As each of the Jasons struggle in their new environments, Crouch thanks his lucky stars that they had Edgerton to inhabit them. “He’s such a nuanced, thoughtful and human actor,” says Crouch. “We knew we needed that going in, but you don’t really know you have it until you see it, right in front of you. I remember the first day of filming, watching this scene, and I was like, ‘We’re going to be just fine.’” It also helped to have Academy Award-winner Connelly as his love interest, in all her iterations as Daniela. “She joined and it was magic,” says Crouch. “Like we were saying about Joel, the role you’ve seen it is incredibly demanding on many levels, so we needed somebody who could land that and inhabit that. That’s the reason she’s so beloved and appreciated — she’s amazing.”

Dark Matter, streaming Wednesdays on Apple TV+

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