Interview: Dennis Haysbert and Julia Ormond on Incorporated

We caught up with Julia Ormond and Dennis Haysbert, two of the stars of Syfy's new dystopian-set thriller, Incorporated.

Dystopian sci-fi has often suggested corporations would take over, be it Tyrell in Blade Runner or Carl’s Jr. in Idiocracy. Syfy’s new series, Incorporated, goes deeper into that very fear. The Spiga Corporation rules from a sleek tower in the Green Zone where its employees live luxurious lives, while peasants in the Red Zones scavenge for food and supplies beyond the gates.

Ben (Sean Teale) is working for Elizabeth (Julia Ormond) at Spiga, but he’s got ulterior motives. He’s looking for an old Red Zone friend, even though he’s married to Elizabeth’s daughter Laura (Allison Miller). Dennis Haysbert plays Julian, a mysterious man in a suit in the show’s pilot, and clearly he’ll have a major role in the series. We spoke with Haysbert and Ormond over the summer after their panel for the Television Critics Association. Incorporated premieres Wednesday, November 30 at 10PM on Syfy.

We only see a little of Julian in the first episode. Will we see a lot more of you in the future?

Haysbert: He will expand, exponentially actually. I’ve found more about him every episode I’ve shot. It surprised me and elated me. So I’m very excited about where he goes.

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Did you enjoy getting to have a very mysterious introduction?

Haysbert: Absolutely. Especially after I was told he will expand. I said, “There’s not a lot to do here. Will I have something to sink my teeth into?” He says, “Oh, definitely.” Just for the purposes of introducing the story, I was limited.

What exactly is Elizabeth’s relationship with her daughter?

Ormond: Very tortured and tormented. I think Elizabeth is extremely needy for a loving relationship but I think she feels that she’ll never get that. She’s made certain choices that she believes are in Laura’s best interest but I think she’s feeling a bit burnt by them.

Do you know what really happened with Laura’s father?

Ormond: I do. That will be revealed. That would be too big a spoiler alert.

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Does she genuinely like Ben?

Ormond: I think one of the ways that they survive, being in this world that they’re in that is somewhat soulless is I think they have a joint love and passion for the actual work. I think they enjoy the work. So they have a work relationship that on an emotional level, I think Elizabeth is always slightly inappropriately boundary-less with him because he’s a vehicle to Laura. There’s something that’s a little bit too close to Ben that pisses other people off because it’s inappropriate that she’s protective of his position in the company, because that protects Laura. But she emotionally is kind of needy of him because that’ll get her closer to Laura.

Does Elizabeth really believe in the corporation or is she just doing what she had to do to get ahead?

Ormond: I think she’s a pragmatist. I see being in that world as like somebody who’s underwater and just permanently scuba diving without ever coming up to see the world outside of water. You just shut off everything else because the reality is, I’m making a choice to commit to this and make it work as best I can. I’m just going to accept that there’s certain fallout that I’m just going to block out. I need to stay underwater. Does my weird water analogy work at all?

Haysbert: It works really well.

Ormond: She’s scuba diving in the corporate world.

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Dennis, are you comfortable in the role of an authority figure, whether it’s a benevolent one like a president or leader, or a possibly sinister one?

Haysbert: Because I know more than you know from the pilot, like I said, just from the standpoint that he’s there to protect his family and do a job that he is seemingly good at, and there’s a nobility in that because he keeps traitors flushed out. He keeps the peace. Whenever he can, he spares those that he feels should be spared. From where he comes from as a man, he has been places worse than The Red Zone. So he has an empathy for those who are in the Red Zone because unless they do something drastic, they cannot come out of there. Now he will come to have a certain kind of disdain for the executives that live within the Green Zone even though he is charged with protecting them, sifting out whoever is trying to usurp the company. So he delights in that. I think that’s what keeps him in his job and makes him feel comfortable about his job. There are other things that I think would be spoiler alerts to you right now that keep him in that job because it’s not just his family.

Ormond: But it’s also that I would do things for my daughter that I would not do for myself, and I would question whether or not I would do it maybe even for my parents. I think by definition, if people are stressed out and challenged, if the rules change on us, we change because we’re not just human beings. We’re mammals. I would both risk my life and somebody else’s, I would find it very hard to contain myself from those actions if my daughter was put at risk. That’s why you need the law. That’s why you need government and that’s why a world without it where just a profit model is being followed is so scary. It’s terrifying.

Do you ever get to visit the Red Zones on Incorporated?

Haysbert: Spoiler alert.

24 has evolved so much from having an African-American President as a supporting character, to now Corey Hawkins is the star of 24: Legacy. Is that good progress?

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Haysbert: I think so. I think it’s just different. Once we understand that we’re all in this whole thing together, yes, I think that’s great.

I haven’t heard Charlie Sheen talk about Major League III in a while, but when he was, did you ever tell him, “We did Major League III. You weren’t in it?”

Haysbert: They don’t really count that. I don’t either, because it didn’t have any of the guys in it. Back to the Minors as far as I’m concerned. It’s impossible to call that Major League III because it only had a smattering of the characters. I don’t know how the hell we could do a Major League III.

If he somehow got Major League III going, would you want to play Cerrano again?

Haysbert: It depends on what it is they wanted me to do. If they wanted me to go to bat… really? Not at this time, not at this age.