Conspiracy theories used to be the realm of late night AM talk radio, obscure internet forums, and breathless conversations with trusted friends. Whether it’s talking about Stanley Kubrick faking the moon landing on a soundstage or a global cabal of reptilian elite pulling the strings, sometimes it’s just fun to indulge in the ridiculous and grandiose.
Unfortunately, however, conspiracy theory thinking has run amok in the digital age. This has led to the mainstreaming of some truly dangerous ideas, like let’s say hypothetically, that a vaccine for a deadly virus is actually a microchip/population control device/mark of the best/whatever else. How does Shion Takeuchi (Gravity Falls, Disenchantment), creator of Netflix animated conspiracy comedy Inside Job, feel about these developments?
“I’ll tell you what: I don’t love it!” Takeuchi tells Den of Geek.
Inside Job is a 10-episode animated series on Netflix and is, in fact, Netflix’s first animated series produced entirely in-house. Set at Cognito, Inc., the Illuminati-like organization that pulls the strings of every world event, the show covers the weird, wonderful world of conspiracy theories. From building a robot to replace the President of the United States to visiting a secret moon base run by sex cult leader Buzz Aldrin, Reagan Ridley (Lizzy Caplan) makes sure everything runs according to plan.
The series is fit-to-bursting with fun conspiracy theories both popular and obscure. That’s because Takeuchi comes across her interest in the topic naturally. Like many other highly distinguished, creative, and dare we say classy individuals, the writer and animator enjoyed listening to cult radio talk show Coast to Coast AM in college. Created by Art Bell, Coast to Coast airs from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. ET on select radio stations and is a safe haven for any paranormal enthusiast or conspiratorial thinker to call in and share their wild stories.
Though Bell died in 2018, Takeuchi appreciated the gentle way in which he would respond to his callers’ more out-there theories. Still, some of those theories had a darkness at their center that scared the young writer.
“I think that my personal journey with conspiracy theories was initially more fear-based,” she says. “A shadow government would be horrifying! Then I broke down that concept and realized that probably would be ridiculous.”
Yes, most conspiracy theories don’t pass the simple smell test of “could a group of human beings pull this off?” The answer more often than not is no because most human beings can barely successfully get themselves out of the bed in the morning.
“I don’t know if anyone has ever been in a workplace that has ever been able to execute something with precision. It certainly hasn’t been in any workplace I’ve been a part of.”
Cognito, Inc. certainly has a hard time with keeping things together. Reagan’s team includes D.C. frat boy Brett Hand (Clark Duke), strung-out biochemist Dr. Andre (Bobby Lee), human-dolphin hybrid super soldier Glenn Dolphman (John DiMaggio), head of media manipulation and office gossip Gigi Thompson (Tisha Campbell), and of course: a psychic mushroom from a hive mind deep in the Hollow Earth named Magic Myc (Brett Gelman).
“Bret Gelman is also very good at playing sharp tongued asshole-types. He brings a certain depth to that that’s always so funny to watch,” Takeuchi says of the mushroom man.
The core of Inside Job, however, revolves around Reagan Ridley’s relationship with her father, Rand Ridley (Christian Slater). Once the CEO of Cognito, Inc., Rand was fired for nearly exposing the Deep State, and now spends his days at home, annoying his daughter with his paranoid ramblings.
“Christian has a wonderful dynamic with Lizzy,” Takeuchi says. “He brings this really fun slovenly dad type of energy to this role that could have gone a different way. He could have been more professorial. There’s just something so funny about Christian’s deadbeat dad.”
Takeuchi notes that Lizzy Caplan was her first choice for Reagan as she strikes the right balance between flawed and driven. Even while the character seeks to control the events of the universe, she must confront that some things can’t be changed – like a relationship with a father who names her after his favorite President. Though the origins of Reagan’s first name are clear, does her last name suggest some upcoming Alien-like adventures a la Ridley Scott?
“I will say that she does appear in a power loader a couple times!” Takeuchi says.
All 10 episodes of Inside Job are available to stream on Netflix now.