In Conversation with Avan and Kelli
from Now Apocalypse

Gregg Araki’s latest series, Now Apocalypse, premiered on Starz earlier this month and everyone’s talking about it. Starring Avan Jogia, Kelli Berglund, Beau Mirchoff, and Roxane Mesquida, the show follows these four characters as they navigate love, sex, and fame. Sounds normal enough? Think again.

Despite being set in modern times, the show gives of a retro, ‘80s vibe complete with alien sightings. It’s set in the vibrant city of Los Angeles where the characters tackle exploring their sexuality, identity, and everything any twenty-something goes through, but there is an added element of supernatural in there, which not only confuses the characters but also the viewers.

“I play Ulysses, who’s sort of navigating the world of dating apps,” says actor Avan Jogia. “He’s trying to find somebody to kind of love while also being stoned and paranoid. He thinks that there might be aliens in the dating scene and it turns out he might be right. He’s a bit of a trip.”

A recurring scene in the first episode is of Jogia’s character having the same dream where it ends right before he’s about to see if there really are aliens or not. He ends up in places he doesn’t remember getting to and he loses patches of his memory. It could be all the weed he’s smoking, but it could also be something much darker than that. While he vents to his friend Carly Carlson, played by Kelli Berglund, he also opts to record himself on video talking about it.

“I think that’s something everyone is going through,” Jogia says. “This whole recording and categorizing and journaling. It’s such a thing that we’re used to seeing – somebody sitting in a room and talking to themselves. That’s something where twenty years ago, that person would have been crazy. So I think that’s really interesting. And he’s journaling and using that as a device to work out what’s going on in his life and I think that’s a very common way of doing things nowadays.”

Another millennial aspect of his character is his use of dating apps. Uly meets a guy online, played by Tyler Posey, who is a little sketchy since he keeps ghosting him. While Jogia hasn’t personally been on dating apps himself, he finds that the exploration of this has been more realistic on the show than in others.

He explains, “Everyone has different intentions on the app. Some people are looking for love, some people are looking for hookups, and everything in between. It can be a confusing space, and this is one of the first shows that sort of deals with it in a way where it’s not a gimmick. It’s dealing with it like it’s a part of our reality rather than this thing that’s going to go away.”

Carly isn’t on the dating apps, but she’s going through relationship and personal issues herself. Chatting about her character, Berglund describes her as someone who is a much more amplified version of herself. She says, “The main thing with her is that she’s so unapologetic in everything that she does and I love that Uly turns to her as his advice guru, basically. On the surface it looks like she kind of has her whole act together because of her confidence.”

Something else that show is very unapologetic about is sex. It’s a recurring topic, theme, and conversation that occurs throughout each episode, but not in a perverse or forceful way. Rather, it feels organic and relatable. Berglund’s character is trying to break into acting but hasn’t had her break yet. To make money on the side, she turns to be a cam girl, something she’s kept hidden so far from those around her.

“It does shine a positive light on sex workers and sex positivity, which I appreciate a lot,” Berglund says. “A lot of this show is that whatever you are and whatever your actions are or your decisions, it’s normal and you’re allowed to be that. In the show, Carly’s doing outrageous things and she’s making crazy decisions, but Uly’s always there to be like okay, girl, do your thing, I guess. And I think that’s important to show – surround yourself with people like that.”

Karley Sciortino, who co-wrote this show with Araki, is the founder of Slutever, a website focusing on sex and sexuality. She is also the host of the Viceland documentary series, Slutever, as well as the online sex and relationship columnist for Vogue. Given her work, Jogia believes she is the reason why the show has done such a good job on being realistic about topics such as sex and relationships.

He explains, “The show doesn’t talk down to young people. It just explains dating as best as it can in this world. I think that’s got a lot to do with Karley Sciortino. She’s just got such a good handle for all her research that she’s been doing and talking about sex for a long time, and I’m talking about sex in the future, sort of where we are and where we’re heading, communications, and how people are hooking up and getting together.”

Another big part of the show is self-discovery, which Berglund’s character goes through quite a lot. “She kind of goes through this transformation throughout all ten episodes,” Berglund says of Carly. “She’s not really taking life into her own hands. She’s working somewhere that she hates and she knows that the acting thing is just not working out for her. Her relationship is not really working out for her. So it’s really a moment of realization that something needs to change. Funny enough, she discovers that and helps herself through camming and it’s very unconventional but that’s where she finds it. By the end, she’s sort of independent woman who isn’t relying on trying to be famous or trying to have a perfect relationship or trying to have a career. She’s really kind of comfortable with herself and the decisions that she’s making.”

Berglund comes from a Disney Channel background, similar to Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and Demi Lovato. Having reached a certain age, she’s stepping away from appealing to the younger generations and more toward her own age range. She reflects, “I’m older now, obviously, and I started doing Disney when I was 15. It was a wonderful opportunity for what it was and the age range I was in. This is the most I’ve ever been able to really take a role and absorb it and do what I want with it and have fun with it and really invest myself with it. And I knew, reading all ten scripts, that this is crazy. People are going to die. People are not ready for this. As an actor, it was a big challenge, but it was so exciting, which I hope that fans of mine understand and see how much I loved this character.”

Jogia, himself, started out on Nickelodeon, playing Beck on Victorious. He’s recently been in  Zombieland 2, which he is currently filming. Speaking on that experience, he says, “It’s been such a cool thing to get on board with. The cast is so cool and I can’t wait for people to see what they’ve done with this. They started the zombie trend back in ‘09. It’s been ten years and there are some really cool elements they’re adding to it. I play this character called Berkley and he’s sort of a trip. He’s sort of a free millennial and definitely an interesting guy. It’s a big character, too, which I love. I’m so lucky to be able to down-to-earth guys in movies, but I also get the opportunities where people are letting me play big, crazy characters. I feel very lucky to have such versatility in my parts.”

He also has a poetry book coming out this Fall called Mixed Feelings, which is about being mixed race. Jogia’s father is British Indian and his mother is English and German. “I’ve been interviewing people who are mixed race and it started with my own race, but it’s actually kind of evolved to more races and a lot more people than in the start,” he describes. “In an increasingly racially polarized world, I thought that mixed people have an interesting perspective that might be worth looking at it. I want it to be like a beacon that mixed people can rally around and start having conversations about racial nuance. I think that there’s such a lack of conversation about racial nuance and the differences between different types of people and how people of color exist not only in the states but around the world.”

Initially, the poems were about other people, but then Jogia’s editor encouraged him to write about his own experiences as well. “I went back and wrote a bunch of poetry about my own life – growing up in low-income housing, government housing, growing up in Canada, growing up in a mixed-race household and some of the differences. Not really concentrating on the challenges, but concentrating more on the celebration of that. It’s been a really cool journey. I’ve always loved poetry and I’ve always done it as a hobby and every one of my hobbies, I start making it a part of my life. Acting was in the beginning, so I became an actor. Now we’re adding poetry to that.”

You can watch Now Apocalypse on the Starz.com now.

Words by Naureen Nashid

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