‘Mrs. Davis’ Hatched From ‘Creative Blind Date’ Between Damon Lindelof and Tara Hernandez
Oddball Peacock series pits nun against all-powerful artificial intelligence entity
Mrs. Davis, a peculiar dramedy about the world’s most powerful artificial intelligence, and the nun devoted to destroying her, begins on Peacock April 20. Tara Hernandez is the showrunner, executive producer and writer, and Damon Lindelof is an exec producer too.
The two were “set up on a creative blind date,” Lindelof told B+C, three years ago. Lindelof, whose credits include Lost, Watchmen and The Leftovers, was eager to find a new creative partner. While most every producer is hustling to be the showrunner, Lindelof’s ambition went in a different direction.
“I’d reached a point in my career where I didn’t really feel like I should be showrunning,” he said. “I could cede that space to use my knowledge or experience to help someone realize and recognize their vision.”
He also feared “telling the same story over and over again.”
Lindelof saw Hernandez’s script for Mrs. Davis, and was intrigued. “Given the premise, it should’ve been horrifying and depressing,” he said. “But it was weird and funny.”
Betty Gilpin plays the nun Simone. Jake McDorman and Andy McQueen also star, and Margo Martindale, David Arquette and Ben Chaplin too are in the cast.
Hernandez comes from comedy. Her credits include The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon. She began working with Lindelof three years ago. In the midst of the pandemic, the two would go for walks in their own neighborhoods, and chat on the phone. “We’d talk about the things that were worrying us,” said Hernandez. “At that time, it was a lot.”
They discussed the growing presence of technology in humans’ lives. She described it as “this collective fear of technology while also having the need to be entertained and uplifted. We wanted to generate something centered on this premise of being too addicted to technology, but what if this technology is the thing that could uplift us and could bring us joy?”
Four episodes are available April 20, with new ones streaming on Thursdays. There are eight 60-minute episodes.
Asked how they researched the lives of nuns, Lindelof quipped about watching The Sound of Music–”over and over and over again.” Hernandez mentioned a documentary called God is The Bigger Elvis, about a woman, Dolores Hart, who gave up a promising acting career–she costarred with Presley in the ‘50s movie Loving You–to be a nun.
“Surprisingly, there’s a lot of nun content on YouTube,” Hernandez added.
Owen Harris and Alethea Jones are also executive producers. Harris worked on Black Mirror, which Lindelof called a major influence on Mrs. Davis, along with Monty Python and westerns.
Asked about the title, Hernandez described Mrs. Davis as “bonkers and bananas,” and noted how Everything Everywhere All At Once had already come up with the proper over-the-top title. “We were like, what is the opposite way to title a bonkers series?” she said.
Lindelof liked that “Mrs. Davis” sounded like a teacher. “Mrs. Davis gives you a hug when you’re crying,” he said. “She tells you when it’s nap time. She can be stern with you.”
Reviews for the show look favorable. The Washington Post warned readers that “Mrs. Davis will make your head explode.”
The New York Times described the show as a “screwball thriller” and said it “cartwheels from the sublime to the goofy. I wish it took itself more seriously (which probably also would have made it funnier). But it has moments of astonishment; a late revelation about Mrs. Davis’s origins made me bark with laughter. Having access to all recorded human text can make A.I. a great mimic, but it takes something else to show your audience a thing they haven’t seen before.
“If nothing else, Mrs. Davis is that.”
That creative blind date three years ago has produced a pretty inventive series. “So far in 2023, there’s nothing else quite like Mrs. Davis,” said Hernandez. “I’m hopeful on that merit alone that we’ll at least get a Unique badge.”
Added Lindelof, “No one’s gonna say it’s derivative.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.