How ‘Invasion’ Showrunner Created Fact-Based Sci-Fi – The Hollywood Reporter
“I’m someone who went to college and didn’t take a single science or math class when I was there,” says Simon Kinberg. “Unlike someone like a James Cameron, for whom it is his calling, science is not something that comes naturally to me.” In other words, he assumes: “I need Astrophysics for Dummies.”
A lifelong science fiction fan, from Isaac Asimov to aliensthe prolific writer-producer has left his mark on the genre with entries like The Martian and his latest Apple TV+ drama Invasion. The series, co-created with David Weil, tells the story of an alien invasion through the eyes of five ordinary people. When creating his science fiction, Kinberg wants it to be as grounded as possible. So he called in experts from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as the SETI Institute, a research organization dedicated to the study of life beyond Earth. (As a testament to this commitment to realism, The Martian some audiences believed it was based on a true story so much that the filmmakers had to issue a statement to the effect of “No, we haven’t sent humans to Mars yet”, Kinberg recalls.)
While preparing for Invasion, a journey that began five years ago, Kinberg gathered expert opinions and references on what the government does or does not know about extraterrestrial life, realistic military strategies in the event of an invasion and, yes , even astrophysics. “I think part of science fiction, especially in relation to extraterrestrials, that sometimes people don’t quite understand in storytelling, is what’s in place right now in our armies and our governments in case of alien visit,” says the showrunner. A note of personal interest for Kinberg that has come to light through his research is understanding that extraterrestrials would have to change Earth’s atmosphere to survive on our planet.
In the years following his research for Invasion began, the general public was made aware of the U.S. government’s understanding of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAPs. In the summer of 2021, the government released reports after reviewing nearly 150 NAPs, concluding that several had no known explanation. This month, it was revealed NASA would be conducting a study to scientifically examine the unexplained sightings.
“For me, it suddenly felt like we were doing a show that people could watch and feel like it could happen anytime,” Kinberg says of these recent revelations, “as opposed to ‘this is a form of pure escapism.'”
Despite being grounded in the world of speculative extraterrestrial visitation, the showrunner is still surprised by the occasional report of extraterrestrial life: “You assume that when you’re working in science fiction, the fiction is going to be weird,” says Kinberg . “And then suddenly some facts start coming out that are as weird as your fiction.”
This story first appeared in a standalone June issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.