The law says corporations are people too. At least today, corporate “people” still have to follow the same laws as the rest of us. Syfy’s new series, Incorporated, looks ahead to a future in which corporations make the law.
Ben (Sean Teale) goes to work for Spiga under Elizabeth Krauss (Julia Ormond), the mother of his wife Laura (Allison Miller). Krauss has Julian (Dennis Haysbert) as muscle to torture and interrogate any employees who disobey. Ben is undercover though. He’s infiltrating Spiga from the inside, and looking for an old friend, Elena (Denyse Tontz) who disappeared in the Red Zone, which is outside of the comfy, corporate-ruled Green Zone.
There’s a lot to discover about Incorporated and the show will dole out new information and drama every week. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon executive produce Incorporated for creators David and Alex Pastor.
We spoke with Teale and showrunner Ted Humphrey and uncovered 11 things you should know about Incorporated.
Even though it’s set in the year 2074, Incorporated may not seem so far-fetched if you’re reading this on an Apple computer, iPhone, or tablet. Incorporated isn’t getting political by any means, but it may make you think twice about agreeing to the next terms and conditions.
“First and foremost [we are] telling people an exciting story, giving people something that’s entertaining, something that hopefully will hook them and they’ll come back to,” Humphrey said. “Then while you’re doing that, hopefully you’re making them think a little bit about the state of the world and where we could be headed.”
Some of the cool gadgets featured on Incorporated include Laura’s virtual trainer, whom she sees running ahead of her in her visor, and screens that hover in the air holographically instead of being confined to glass. Humphrey said we’ll never see Star Wars–type interplanetary hyperspeed, but rather more advanced versions of Siri/Alexa or tablet screens.
“Whether they’re holograms in the air or not, I don’t know, but I think [screens] are going to become more and more integrated into our world,” Humphrey said. “This idea [is] that anything becomes a screen. What is a picture frame 95 percent of the time becomes a screen when you want it to. I think we’ll start to see things like that.”
Ben has to play the part at Spiga, so we slowly see him reveal his true intentions. Then in episode five, everything starts to go downhill.
“You’re going to watch Ben play this horrendous game of whack-a-mole where he smacks one mole problem down and then three more sprout up,” Teale said. “There’s murder, there’s intrigue. It gets out of hand. There’s a very evident shift in my persona or in the story when we filmed episode five. Just a lot of big moments. I get Tasered multiple times. There is nudity from me.”
It seems like marrying Laura was just a way for Ben to work his way up in Spiga, but nothing is that simple on Incorporated.
“I think that’s one of the biggest struggles in the series,” Teale said. “Arguably Ben and Laura are the most compatible thing in his life. Any moment of joy, and moment of love that he feels with her, any enjoyable experience he has with this incredibly grounded and giving and open person is instantly followed by a pang of guilt or sadness because he’s lying to her. I think you’ll see across the series how deep their care for each other runs.”
In order to establish how the world got to this point and what led Ben to working for Spiga, Incorporated has flashbacks for the first few episodes. The main flashback story is Ben looking for Elena and after episode five, Incorporated is fully caught up.
“In season one, it focuses more on present after that,” Humphrey said. “Which is not to say we could not find a use going forward into season two, for example, for the flashback device. We certainly could and perhaps we will.”
It’s not quite Game of Thrones, but basic cable has gotten a lot edgier. It started with FX showing gore and nudity on The Shield and Nip/Tuck, but lately Mr. Robot has been allowed to say the F-word, albeit with the sound removed for broadcast. On Incorporated, you’ll also see (but not hear) characters us real language, and you’ll definitely see the bloody results of torture and cage fighting.
“It’s very freeing to be able to have that freedom that cable brings,” Humphrey said. “It’s not quite premium cable where you don’t bleep it, but it’s definitely not network either where you find yourself having to come up with euphemisms for the words that people would actually say.”
It may be a tad traumatizing to see our most trusted insurance agent, and former 24 president Dennis Haysbert running a corporate Gitmo. That was the point. Humphrey had worked with Haysbert on Now and Again and The Unit and wanted to subvert viewers’ expectations of him. Yet Humphrey wants people to know he’s not the bad guy.
“There are no villains on the show,” Humphrey said. “His character is not a villain. His character is a complicated man who is at heart a moral person, has his own very strong moral code and lives and works in a system in which he’s forced to do things he finds distasteful in order to ensure his and his family’s survival. We meet his wife and child and learn a lot more about that.”
If you’re wondering how a society allowed companies to gain this much power, here’s one easy answer: They got the kids first. A cartoon, animated by Cuppa Coffee Studios, shows “Officer Bucky” teaching kids to rat on dissenters.
“That is an example of the way I think a lot of things have become more affordable to do,” Humphrey said. “Animation used to be so expensive, and it still is, but we were able to find this company who did a great job.”
There are so many different Bens on Incorporated. There’s past and present Ben, there’s Ben in the office and Ben on the streets, etc. Teale revealed how he keeps track of which Ben he’s playing in a given scene in any episode.
“I map out episodes quite heavily actually,” Teale said. “I do an episodic plan every episode and I establish where it is that I am, what scene it is, what day we’re shooting it, any notes I think about necessary for the scene, any questions being raised by it, and then where I’ve been and where I’m about to go. It’s just mapping. This was the most prep I’ve ever done.”
The gated city of Incorporated is so high tech, you would imagine it’s based more on Blade Runner than the real world. Actually, if you take the Red Zone into account, it’s more like cities in places like Brazil.
“One of the big questions the show asks is: What does a future look like in which America’s cities resemble cities that we see today in less developed countries?” Humphrey said. “The Red Zone and Green Zone world is in some ways not that dissimilar from a world that actually exists today in less developed countries around the world where wealthy people live behind guarded gates and drive on guarded highways and everybody else lives in favelas and slums.”
With all the screens full of information and Ben swiping in the air with his fingers, technological interfacing in the show makes Incorporated look like Minority Report in places. Teale works with visual effects artists so that his motions match with the visuals they add later, but Teale admits he’s no Tom Cruise.
“I realized that I’ll never look as good as Tom Cruise in Minority Report,” Teale said. “Have you seen him run? He can run through explosions, that dude. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone be more graceful in battle than that man.”
Incorporated premieres Wednesday, November 30 at 10 p.m. on Syfy
Watch the first episode: