Scott Z. Burns and Dorothy Fortenberry talk “Extrapolations” at virtual college Q&A event

During a Q&A event for college students, Scott Z. Burns and Dorothy Fortenberry talk about new Apple TV+ show “Extrapolations.”

Apple TV+ hosted a virtual Q&A event about its new show “Extrapolations” for college students around the country on April 18. Scott Z. Burns, the show’s creator and executive producer, spoke alongside Dorothy Fortenberry, another executive producer on the show, to give students a deeper look into the new series.   

“Extrapolations” tells the story of the effect climate change will have on the planet over the span of three decades. Told as an anthology, the show depicts the interconnected stories of people along different points of the three decade timeline throughout the course of eight episodes.  

“Our show wanted to have the pulse of a thriller,” Burns said. “We wanted to move across time and create a very basic question for the viewer, which is ‘Will we solve climate [change] before it solves us?’”  

Burns said that after working on “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary about Al Gore’s global warming education campaign, he became interested in how he could tell the story around climate through a narrative lens rather than through documentary.  

At the same time that Burns was working on the storyline for the second episode on the possible extinction of humpback whales, he was also saying goodbye to one of his parents. Burns said that as a because of this, grief became an important undertone in the show.  

“[The episode] became sort of a metaphor for grief, and what it means to be in a world where you’re saying goodbye a lot of the time,” Burns said. “And how does that change human beings?”  

Grief was not the only undertone that worked its way into the show though, as religion was also a theme that got explored in the series. According to Burns, the show relies on “an appeal to higher power,” so having religion underscore certain episodes fit well with the show’s message.  

Stories of natural disasters are frequent in the Bible, Fortenberry said, as in the Bible, God sends natural disasters in response to sin. When the first disaster does not stop sin, God often sends another natural disaster.   

“I think the idea that people would look around and see these natural disasters and see the hand of God makes a ton of sense,” Fortenberry said. “It’s a very ancient impulse to consider how our actions have brought upon the wrath of the natural world.”  

According to Burns, as the series progresses through each episode, the characters start to lose their human connection and community solidarity as they retreat further into the advancing technology that encourages them to escape the climate disaster rather than trying to fix it.  

This technology inspires a willingness to give up, Burns said, as the alternative reality and virtual reality technology makes the characters, especially Hari Nef’s character in episode seven, care less about what is happening with the outside world.  

“This person is so disenfranchised that they would actually rather leave and bet on a possibility than take up arms and try to improve their current situation,” Burns said.  

Despite exploring dark and depressing themes in each episode of the show, “Extrapolations” also has its fair share of comedy throughout. Fortenberry said that this is by design, as the use of comedy makes the audience aware that even though the state of the world may seem alright in the moment, the effects of climate change are still present.  

“[Climate change] is already happening, and all of us at some point today will laugh about something,” Fortenberry said. “Climate change feels like right now. There are moments that are going to make you angry, there are moments that are going to make you sad, and there are moments that are going to make you laugh.”  

Although there is no season two confirmed for “Extrapolations,” Burns said one of the things he would like to explore in a second season would be the complexity of solutions for climate change in addition to continuing the stories of some of the characters featured in season one.  

All eight episodes of “Extrapolations” are now available to watch on Apple TV+.