‘Severance’ Director Ben Stiller, Creator and Stars Reveal Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Inside-Out Finale

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The first season of Apple’s “Severance” concludes with a jam-packed finale that sees the Innie versions of MDR employees Mark (Adam Scott), Helly (Britt Lower) and Irving (John Turturro) awaken in the real world for the first time during an escape attempt, which leads Helly to find out she’s actually the Lumon CEO’s daughter, Mark to realize his wife, Gemma (Dichen Lachman), is alive and Irving to discover Burt’s (Christopher Walken) Outtie has a partner, all in just a few scenes. Constructing the episode in which Milchick (Tramell Tillman) and Cobel (Patricia Arquette) realize what’s going on and then try to stop it, all while Dylan (Zach Cherry) is desperately trying to simultaneously hold the control room switches that will keep his friends awake, required more effort than the eight episodes that came before it.

Ben Stiller
DIRECTOR, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
“The idea was to try to immerse the viewer in the point of view of the Innies. We wanted the last episode to be totally representative of their experience being in a different world than their own, so it was all shot by Steadicam, which we had only previously used in the MDR scene with Milchick’s dance. The hope was that it would feel as different for the audience as it did for the characters…. We didn’t shoot it as a stand-alone. We had shot parts of it over a nine-month period, so we would only have parts of a day to film it. I think Helly’s first shot, where we meet her at the party, was done at 1 o’clock in the morning, with only an hour left to shoot. … It involved lots of choreography, and the glass elevator. … Luckily, we had an amazing crew who were total pros and were able to design it and shoot within in that time.”

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Dan Erickson
CREATOR, WRITER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
“We tried to think of it from both the Innie and Outies perspectives and end the story on a point that would change the game for the characters on both sides and create a cool new playing field for Season 2. So, for Mark, his Innie has just found the wedding photo and is scrambling to get the message to Devon that his wife is alive at Lumon, which he, sort of, half-completes. His Innie, in theory, is going to return to the Severed floor with this world-shaking knowledge. Meanwhile, his Outie’s going to wake up having just yelled this cryptic thing in the middle of a crowded party. He’s holding the photo, but is it going to be clear to Devon what he meant? It leaves both versions of him with new knowledge but also new things to figure out.”

Adam Scott
ACTOR, PRODUCER
“Innie Mark’s disillusionment with Lumon steadily grew over the course of the season, and he assumed it had probably hit its ceiling. But when he sees the wedding photo of Outie Mark and Gemma, everything he thought he knew is redefined — the depravity and cruelty of Lumon comes into focus for him, and it’s just immediate raw terror and fury. … Playing it was interesting, challenging, and like everything with this show, a bit of a puzzle. He’s also reacting to the tragedy of it: Having heard about Gemma from Ricken and Devon, he has an idea of what she meant to his Outie and how bereft he’s been — so, physiologically, he understands in a way, because they do share feelings, even though he can’t name or pin down the sadness Outie Mark passes along to him, he does feel it, even if it’s abstract. It’s also very sad and he feels the betrayal for the both of them. It was several things happening at once in that moment and I hope I was able to squeeze a few of them in there.”

Patricia Arquette
ACTOR, PRODUCER
“Cobel has a long history with Lumon. Lumon represents her family, her religion, her political view of the world. And she’s very committed to the corporation and the corporation doing important work in the world, even if that means she needs to step outside of normal procedures to show them. She knows what’s best and has the company’s interest at heart — even upper management. Cobel is fully aware that the rules are constantly changing. Even for her. She knows there’s no guarantee of anything. She has multiple agendas happening at the same time in this scene.”

John Turturro
ACTOR
“Obviously, Irving is discovering his Outie’s world. The essence is about discovering your surrounding circumstances, the place where you live in, the objects around you and who you are, obviously that would be quite disorienting. But, you are discovering it detail by detail. Then when he finds Burt’s place on the map, it all clicks in for him. Once he finds his address his feelings take over and he’s off. … Driving a car, it’s in you, but obviously you don’t know exactly what it is. I guess it’s not as easy as riding a bike, but it is how much of your Outie bleeds into your Innie. That’s the whole trick of it.”

Zach Cherry
ACTOR
“One thing that made the process of shooting that scene easier was the amazing set and production design. All the sets and locations we shot on were so fleshed out and detailed, it really felt like I was locked into this weird little claustrophobic control room. Also adding to the genuine tension of every take was that my glasses would slowly slide further and further down my nose to the point where I was essentially wearing them on my upper lip. That’s stressful! I had to hold the position for quite a while! I was definitely shaking my arms out in between takes and at the end of the day. [But if anyone asks, I could’ve held it for much longer with no issues. I’m very strong.]”

Britt Lower
ACTOR
“Filming this scene with Michael Siberry was a real tightrope walk; trying to balance how well Helly R is covering her rage in front of him, careful not to misstep, while also doing reconnaissance and plotting her next move. For me, reciting the compunction statement became a prayerful reckoning with herself. It’s Helly R being laid bare, holding her Outie self [Helena] accountable for her and their family’s actions. ‘Forgive me for the harm I have caused this world’ took on a really different meaning in this context. And at the same time, she’s reclaiming it as her own rally cry before she steps out to take down the company. Helly R is all instinct. So Cobel challenging her backstage becomes the gasoline on her fire. There’s no backing down after that.”

Tramell Tillman
ACTOR
“One of the joys of crafting Milchick was embodying a controlled, meticulous character to slowly unravel throughout the season. I jokingly said on set, ‘Everything was fine until Helly came along!’ One of my many responsibilities is to maintain order and productivity on the Severed floor at Lumon. As the season expands, we watch Milchick lose what he believes to be an effective grip. By the season’s conclusion, the stakes are incredibly high. The game has completely changed and everything is on the line. Milchick is a man who is wicked smart, agile, an observer. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of those he surveys. His superpower lies in knowing how to utilize his knowledge for gain. In playing this scene, it was important to remember who he is and what is at risk. I believe Milchick would stop at nothing to do what’s best for the company. Not only was it a pure delight in making the scene, but what we witness occur within Milchick is quite extraordinary.”

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