“When people watch Black Mirror they expect to see someone staring at a see-through phone until their life falls apart”: Series creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones discuss season 5 of their Netflix thriller
Black Mirror is exactly what it claims to be: a mercilessly dark reflection of the world we live in. The dystopian sci-fi’s ability to connect with the current climate through bleak and hypothetical yet all-too-plausible technological scenarios propelled the series onto Netflix back in 2015, where it has become a global hit and now awaits the launch of its fifth series, starring the likes of Miley Cyrus, Andrew Scott and Anthony Mackie, to name a few.
Speaking at a Q&A following a preview screening of one of their upcoming episodes, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones gave some insight into its conception. Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too tells the story of a lonely fan (Angourie Rice) desperate to meet her idol despite the disapproval of her sardonic sister (Madison Davenport). However, after the star releases a line of branded AI dolls, we soon discover that the life of pop sensation Ashley O (Cyrus) may not be what it seems.
The dystopian series hardly seems like a natural fit for Disney prodigy Miley Cyrus, and Brooker admits that they thought they were living in a “dream world” when they initially asked her to get on board. But the writer goes on to explain that it’s this saccharine past, spent embodying the smiley Hannah Montana persona, that makes the artist perfect for the role. He divulges that the star was very involved with the creative process and drew from her own encounters with the music industry (though one hopes her experiences were not quite so extreme).
Jones was equally delighted that Cyrus possessed the perfect sarcastic humour and “subversive” drive that would fit this anarchic, pitch-black comedy, and the singer’s rationale, paraphrased by Brooker, seemed fitting: “It’ll piss people off, and pissing people off is kinda my thing.”
Cyrus was not the only artist with whom the team collaborated, and Brooker recounts the unexpected pleasure he found in reworking the songs of Nine Inch Nails with an upbeat vibe. “I’m no lyricist,” he confesses with his trademark self-deprecating humour.
When it comes to the show’s deeper meaning, the creators explain that the episode aims to explore the potential harm that can stem from a superficial relationship between fan and idol, as well as the very real dangers of fame and the lack of control we hold over our virtual legacy. Jones explained that they wanted the digital dolls to feel credible, like something you could imagine ordering online today.
Brooker accepts the risks that come with following up his hit series but remains pragmatic: “Some episodes will piss people off, but if they are all nihilistic, it becomes predictable.” He continues with a smile: “Sometimes we like to go Pixar, sometimes we like to go Texas Chainsaw Massacre; it all depends on a whim.”
Black Mirror is available on Netflix from 5th June 2019.
Watch the trailer for Black Mirror Season 5 here: