'Future Man' Season 2: Why Haley Joel Osment Is Afraid of Mark Zuckerberg
Haley Joel Osment’s antagonist Stu Camillo, in Season 2 of Hulu’s Future Man, is the worst case scenario of what might happen in the future if we let beta male tech magnates like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg take over the entire world.
Throughout Season 1, Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherman) skipped through time with warriors from the future, Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and Wolf (Derek Wilson), all to prevent a race of superhuman Biotics from bringing about the apocalypse. That culminated in the destruction of Kronish Labs, preventing it from developing the super-cure.
But when Tiger and Wolf return to the future in Season 2, out January 11, they find a totally different post-apocalyptic wasteland ruled over by the immortal A.I. projection of Stu Camillo, a meek scientist who worked at Kronish Labs and developed his own version of the cure. In this future, climate change has destroyed Earth, so Stu wants to bring humanity to Mars, Elon Musk-style — or does he?
"I am in real life very creeped out by Mark Zuckerberg’s obsession with Augustus Caesar.
In an interview ahead of Season 2’s release, Haley Joel Osment tells Inverse what it’s like playing alt-reality versions of the same character, and talks about the conflicted nature of his nerdy antagonist, what went into the surprising song-and-dance number he performs in Episode 8 with co-star Eliza Coupe, being part of the weirdest sci-fi sex scene of all time, and his totally legitimate fear of Mark Zuckerberg’s megalomania.
Light spoilers follow for Future Man* Season 2.
Since Season 1, you’ve had to play several different versions of Stu Camello so far. Which one has been your favorite?
I guess when I was running around with a samurai sword and the yellow Hummer in the Season 1, that was definitely a favorite of mine. But the meek and mild version of Stu, the one who ultimately ends up surviving in this timeline 150 years into the future, they just gave me so much to do with him.
But, you know, a weird thing that happened was, I’m pretty sure that I reunited with that yellow Hummer in this other movie that I did where I also drove a yellow Hummer, The Devil Has a Name. When I was driving around the first day I was like, “I think I’ve been in this car before?”
Oh wow so you think it was the same exact one?
Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if the same movie car company or something had provided the same one. My character was different in that movie but he was still sort of the of an obnoxious guy so he still had the yellow Hummer.
When you were exploring Stu Camillo as a character in Season 1, did you have any inkling that he would wind up such a big part of Season 2?
No! I hoped that he would survive and even though a lot of people died in Season 1, this is a time travel show. So I always held out hope that he might somehow reunite with the gang even though they’re enemies, I guess.
I had no idea what direction they would be taking until I sat down for a two-hour meeting with Kyle [Hunter] and Ari [Shaffir] and Ben [Karlin] — the writers and showrunners — in early 2018. They just sort of laid out what would happen in Season 2, all the way up to the crazy conclusion.
I was just laughing the whole time because of the ambition of it, but then we have great jokes in it too. It’s a legitimate sci-fi epic, but it also still has that silly sense of humor that I think the show has become known for.
Yeah Future Man really epitomizes lowbrow-brilliance. Like if it were on the New York Magazine Approval Matrix, it would totally go there on the spectrum.
I think that’s a good coordinate for it. The series does explore the science of time travel and try to keep those theories consistent.
It honestly seems like no show takes time travel more seriously than Future Man, especially with this idea that time-travelers are unmoored from their realities.
Yeah it’s very interesting philosophically, just the implications of what happens. And as you see in Season 2, I love how they start to have Josh sort of wrestle with this idea of whether it’s even right to try and be a hero or a savior to change what happens in the future, because of all the other problems you can cause if you attempt it.
I really love the dynamic between Stu and Tiger towards the end of Season 1, and that’s a big part in Season 2. What’s it been like expanding that with co-star Eliza Coupe?
I was so glad we have our plotline together this year. You know, I love everybody in the cast, but Eliza and I had a couple great scenes last season. So the fact that we get to go on this journey, learn our dance together, and go into the studio and record the song and everything — it was just a really, really fun time. I hope we hope we have many more adventures like it.
And it was just crazy grueling, especially for her because she’s playing two versions of herself. So every work day we designed around her having this giant, hours-long changeover with hair and wardrobe and makeup, always flipping from Tiger to Tiane or back.
So how much preparation went into that extensive song and dance number from Episode 8?
We were a bit under the gun because the way that we shot this season, we’d be filming multiple episodes with different directors all at the same time, but during a hiatus week, me and Eliza met up with our choreographer twice and then had a dress rehearsal the following week the day before we shot it.
I think we did pretty much the whole sequence in one night.
One thing that they were very kind to us about was that this was Santa Clarita in August. Originally in the script, we go to the taco truck in the middle of the day during lunch and the whole dance sequence is happening in the middle of th day when it was 120 degrees. They very kindly switched that to a night sequence. It was still in the 80s, but better than being under the full sun.
A really cool thing about that was that we had Tamra Davis directing. You know, she’s done some of my favorite music videos ever. So it was very, very cool to work with her. She’s fantastic. I was like, “What’s cooler working with Sonic Youth or me in a tuxedo?”
Did you have a favorite scene in Season 2? Other than the song and dance number?
That whole sequence including the light void and me sort of explaining to her how that reality works was a really, really fun experience. I guess then that culminating in what you’ll know as “The Brain Job.”
That was just insane! It was very hard to keep from cracking up in that scene because it’s just so extreme and so absurd.
That’s got to be like the weirdest sci-fi sex scene of all time.
I certainly hope that we get on that list. I mean, even more generally, it’s up there with the alien coming out of John Hurt’s stomach in terms of sheer horror.
It was really fun for me because I’m just a disembodied voice in that scene. So I was sitting at video village with all the writers and Kyle and Ari, just with a little lavalier mic.
So I was just sitting really close to their ears while doing it, trying to make them laugh while Eliza was off of the other room. That was very, very funny.
That’s so great. Taking a little bit more serious turn: Do you think it’s in Stu’s nature to be a villain?
I don’t know. On the show, they do find that some aspects of people’s personalities are unchangeable [in alternate timelines] even if things on the surface change. Maybe he’s a little bit more rage-filled or crazy like he is in Season 1. Or with some of his darker tendencies, he sort of justifies it for himself that he’s doing a good thing because people don’t don’t know how to make decisions for themselves.
I don’t know what the exact term is I’m sure somebody has probably used this better than me on Twitter, but there’s also that “Nice Guy Syndrome” where he really sees himself as a savior for this girl.
He’s gonna show her how to live and everything but then wind up doing a lot of really terrible things because he wants to have control over her.
For most of the season, Stu really does seem like a genuinely good and nice guy. But then we learn that he did some truly terrible things he rationalized as being for the greater good. Do you think that was homicidal megalomania or was he genuinely convinced he was doing the right thing?
So I am in real life very creeped out by Mark Zuckerberg’s obsession with Augustus Caesar. Because he’s an extremely powerful person and he always says, “Yeah, [Caesar] used unconventional methods and was brutal in some ways, but it also led to 200 years of world peace.” I’m like, “Uh oh!”
I think Stu sees himself the same way, that he is part of the world-historical elite. I think he literally says at some point that you have to crack a couple eggs to make an omelet — except in his case, it’s around 7,000 eggs.
Some of the scenes I loved in Season 1 were when Stu was in charge and was this brutal, angry boss that was a total jerk to Kronish. How did you get into that mindset of inner rage?
I love working with Keith David. For me, it was like, you have to be a real jerk to try and bully or intimidate him. So it has to be really crazy.
One thing that was sort of a guide was this visual element where they took a couple photos of me in the in the suit before we shot anything. Then they painted this ridiculous oil painting. I’m not sure who has it. I think somebody took it home from set. I really wanted it but someone else got it. It just looks absurd.
We did a couple of different poses, you know, one with like my foot up on the desk. There was one with my hand planted on the table, like that photo of David Miscavige for the Church of Scientology. There are very clear visual guidelines for someone who has an extremely high regard for themself.
So when Stu extrapolates his consciousness into this transhumanist A.I. projection for Season 2, is it truly Stu, or is it just an A.I. approximation?
I don’t think he has evolved on a personal level enough to truly merge with the computer. I think it’s proven because his concerns are so petty and so small. It’s just about this one girl and he’s got to invent a therapist because his insecurities and panic and fear can be so overwhelming.
What are you working on next?
I actually have a film opening at Sundance, a film called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, which is the movie where Zac Efron is playing Ted Bundy. That one’s premiering at Sundance on the 24th. That’s John Malkovich, Lily Collins, Jim Parsons, and just really wonderful cast. So that one’s going to be hopefully in theaters soon.
Future Man Season 2 is now available to stream on Hulu.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.