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‘It’s About Creating Relatable Characters,’ Says Simon Kinberg Of Apple TV+ Series ‘Invasion’

Shioli Kutsuna in Apple TV+ sci-fi series ‘Invasion’ by Simon Kinberg and David Weil.

Photo Courtesy of Apple TV+.

Though he’s known for grand storytelling with blockbuster hits including the X-Men franchise, for Simon Kinberg it’s all about putting ordinary people into extraordinary situations.

The Academy and Emmy-nominated writer, director and producer has had huge success with the X-Men franchise including Deadpool and Logan, as well as the Oscar-nominated film The Martian.

Though he has a very long list of film and TV credits, the upcoming 10-episode sci-fi thriller Invasion for Apple

TV+ was a first for Kinberg. “This was the first time I created a series and it was a real labor of love,” he said in an interview about his latest endeavor with co-creator David Weil.

Invasion is set across multiple continents and follows an alien invasion through the various perspectives of people around the world. The series is directed by Jakob Verbruggen and will debut Friday, October 22 with the first three episodes, followed by new episodes every Friday.

“I’ve done a lot of genre storytelling but I’d never done an alien invasion story as a sub-genre but it’s always interested me,” Kinberg recalls of his initial idea for Invasion. He’d heard that the rights to H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi novel “The War of the Worlds” were available for television and explained he’s a huge fan.

Shamier Anderson in Apple TV+ sci-fi series ‘Invasion’ premiering October 22.

Photo Courtesy of Apple TV+.

“I was interested in how this story could play out on television and I wondered how I would tell it,” he says. “We are living in a globally connected world with technology and if I was going to tell the story of the world being attacked by aliens, I needed to see it from all of these perspectives. I wanted to tell intimate stories with real relatable people, not just aliens and presidents figuring out how to stop the invasion. This was a way into this genre I hadn’t seen before. It’s my version of The War of the Worlds.

What excited Kinberg most, he adds, was the idea of telling interesting and emotional stories within a genre piece. “It’s intimate and epic at the same time. This is about ordinary people in an extraordinary situation and I want the audience to care about them alien invasion or not.”

Kinberg discussed the advantages to writing a 10-hour TV show as opposed to penning a screenplay. “Invasion was a really fun way for me to broaden out the kind of storytelling I’m used to doing. We had the chance to go deeper into the characters and tell multiple stories and really stretch out the plot,” explains Kinberg, who wrote or co-wrote nine of the ten episodes. 

“In television, I can create characters who grow at the pace of life as opposed to movies where you have to cram their growth evolution into two hours. It’s the difference between writing a novel and a short story. TV is very novelistic and as a writer I can really explore the nooks and crannies of characters, which you just don’t have time for in a movie.”

Kinberg was inspired as a child by big genre films. “Anything from the George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis era was my thing. Their movies had such an impact on me and really sparked my imagination and made me want to be a storyteller. I wanted to tell big stories with relatable multi-dimensional characters. This is what I was most attracted to and Invasion is a clear example of merging the epic with the intimate.”

Golshifteh Farahani in ‘Invasion’ on Apple TV+.

Photo Courtesy of Apple TV+.

In general, he adds, when sitting down to write he never thinks about the biggest way to tell a story. “I actually come from the opposite direction and think what’s the most intimate and relatable way to tell this story. With X-Men, for example, those are some of the most relatable characters there are. Everyone knows what it’s like to feel like an other. People are very drawn to these characters because each feels very distinct and has their own voice but they’re unified by something big.”

Another example is the first script he ever wrote, Mrs. & Mrs. Smith. “This was my thesis in film school. I had a wild journey with that one,” he laughs. The idea for the script was sparked by his real-life relationship at the time but he added the twist that the couple were spies.  

Up next for Kinberg is the highly-anticipated action spy film The 355 which will be released in theaters by Universal on January 7, 2022. Kinberg directed, co-wrote and produced this film starring Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz and Fan Bingbing.

In addition, he has a plethora of other projects in the works including Battlestar Galactica for Universal, his first original screenplay since Mr. & Mrs. Smith entitled Here Comes the Flood for Netflix

with Jason Bateman directing and he’s partnered with Idris Elba to produce an untitled Africa-set thriller for Apple.

Other projects in development include The Dirty Dozen at Warner Brothers, Death Notification Agency at Amazon, Karma at Sony Pictures, Chairman Spaceman at Fox Searchlight, Starlight at 20th Century Studios and The Running Man at Paramount Pictures. Under his Genre Films banner he’s producing several Netflix projects including Pyros with Reese Witherspoon starring and producing.

As for a second season of Invasion, Kinberg cannot confirm or deny at this point but he does say it was conceived and built to be a multi-season show.

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