Saturday, April 10, 2021

His Dark Materials: Ariyon Bakare geeks out

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The main conflict in His Dark Materials comes down to the battle between the governing Magisterium and the rebellious aristocrat Lord Asriel — essentially, it’s a conflict between religion and science. The Magisterium seeks to shield the world from the truths that science exposes, and Asriel’s rogue experiments threaten their grasp over the world. During our interview, we asked Bakare whose side he ultimately stands on — the men of faith or the men of science?

“Now you’re asking some questions today, ain’t you?” Bakare says with a grin as he bursts into laughter. “Look, I did a film called Life. And in Life, I remember I was working with a scientist and I did a lot of research on scientists. We had a big conversation about science versus theology. And at the end of the day, even as a scientist, you would always ask — where did it begin? So, I would always have to go back to, it has to be a spiritual thing. I believe in the universe. I believe that the universe creates us, and creates the world, and creates what we do. I believe there’s an energy. So, as to your question, I would say I think I’m more theolo-sciencey.”

Surely, working on a show with such extraordinary ideas must spark some interesting on-set conversations amongst the cast and crew. Does Bakare ever geek out with his fellow castmates? “There was a geek-out moment between me and Clarke Peters, he played The Master in the first season,” says Bakare when asked if deep philosophical questions ever erupt on set. “We used to travel back and forth together and we’d really geek out on it a lot. And we’d have big kind of existential questions that we’d always want to ask. But after a while, when you work on it every single day, you’re worried more about getting your lines in and trying to make sure you hit your character.”

A fear of religious authority is a theme that’s not uncommon in pop culture. In recent years, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale has depicted a dystopian society ruled by a theonomic government, while HBO’s Raised by Wolves explores a future Earth ravaged by war due to the opposing beliefs between a radical religious order known as the Mithraic and a militant atheist resistance. These themes aren’t a far cry away from those explored in His Dark Materials. “I think right now we’re asking these questions, aren’t we?” says Bakare. “We’re asking, ‘Why?’ We’re asking, ‘What’s going on?’ We’re in the middle of a pandemic, as nature’s attack on humans. So, we’re asking questions. Why? Why are we here? What have we done wrong? Is it just science that’s caused this? Or is it nature that’s caused it? Or is it our disbelief in our own selves?”

He goes on to observe, “I think we are longing for that, for those questions to be explored in whichever way. And sci-fi and fantasy allows us to do this, allows us to throw these questions out. Allows us to have these big ideas and see where they land. I think we all have a little bit inside of ourselves. That we’re always questioning how we exist in a planet that’s continuously evolving, and it has a beginning, middle, and end, but yet it keeps on going. So, I think we always asked those questions.”

Catch all-new episodes of His Dark Materials on Mondays at 9 PM on HBO.

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