It’s okay if you get a Vertigo feeling while watching Surface.
Ahead of the Surface release on Apple TV+, showrunner Veronica West discussed the inspirations and sources for her latest show. Shooting her latest series in San Francisco allowed West to give several nods to one of the cinematography all-timers, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
“Set in high-end San Francisco, Sophie, a woman who has suffered a traumatic head injury that has left her with extreme memory loss, believed to be a result of a suicide attempt,” reads the synopsis. “As Sophie embarks on a quest to put the pieces of her life back together with the help of her husband and friends, she begins to question whether or not the truth she is told is in fact the truth she has lived.”
Check out the full interview in the player below.
Tudor Leonte: In Surface, silence and untold things are as much important as talking. How did you manage to find the perfect balance between what must be said and what must stay unsaid?
Veronica West: Well, that’s a really good point. A lot of the series is about Sophie trying to uncover her own secrets, and in a sense, she’s alone in this journey because she doesn’t know who around her she can trust. So there were a lot of moments where Gugu [Mbatha-Raw] had to play a revelation internally. We’re so blessed to have an actress of her caliber who can show us that whole range of emotions and those discoveries simply without words.
San Francisco seems like the perfect place where someone can look for their real identity. How important was setting this story in that particular city?
West: From the beginning, we wanted this show to be a really sophisticated kind of escapist world to spend time in every week. San Francisco seemed like the perfect choice. It has a certain timelessness, and in a sense, the show is a callback to classic noir films. There are some hints and nods to Vertigo in the series. I think that San Francisco… shooting there allowed us to really tap into that timeless classic quality and bring it to the surface.
I was curious to know which were your main sources of inspiration for the series.
West: Actually, we had been watching this old French film called Last Year at Marienbad, which is like a sixties, black and white classic film. In the premise of the film, this woman walks into this beautiful palatial luxurious hotel with her husband, and a man comes up to her and basically says, ‘You don’t know me, but I know you. We were in love. We were having an affair.’ And as this scene unfolded, I was like, I know that the story’s gonna go in loops and kind of never really answer that question, but what if you could write a show that did answer that question? How could this crazy scene actually be true? What would the set of circumstances have to be that allowed us to kind of launch into a story with that kind of drama? That’s what we set out to do.
You clearly believe that people can assume different identities throughout their lives. Do you think that there is a limit to those identities?
West: Well, Sophie’s situation is extreme. This is a heightened, psychological thriller, and the things that she uncovers about herself are probably different than the secrets that you and I have. But in a sense, all of us are different people at different times in our lives. If I went back and met 20-something Veronica on the street, would she recognize who I am today? Would I recognize her? I think there’s something relatable in the premise in that we all can think about the different identities we’ve had just in the natural evolution of our own personalities.