“Mosaic,” Steven Soderbergh and Ed Solomon’s upcoming limited series for HBO, brings a new approach to murder mysteries: It launched on a new mobile app from PodOp, allowing the audience to choose which character’s perspective to follow. That means that in addition to the usual multiple takes from different angles that production requires, “Mosaic’s” cast and crew had to film different versions to account for the multiple character perspectives of the storytelling.
Still, actor Michael Cerveris tells Variety that filming “Mosaic” was easier than other jobs he’s had because he only had to focus on what was right in front of him for any given individual scene.
“It was a very freeing process for me because you really just had to go with the immediate situation and immediate scenarios and you were learning information in a very real way from your scene partners on your feet while you were shooting,” Cerveris says. “Your job was really just to be super, super present, which is really what you want to do as an actor anyway.”
Cerveris says he signed on for the project, which involves a complicated mystery around fictional children’s author and illustrator Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone), without seeing the whole script for it. (“I saw it in Ed’s hands once, and it looked like two Bibles stacked on top of each other,” he laughs.) Instead, Cerveris says that each actor was only given the information that his or her character would know for any given scene.
“Ed, when he laid it all out for me, said, ‘Because of who your character is in this story, you know almost as much as anybody else in this story,’ which I believed until one day we were on the set, just hanging around, and Devin [Ratray, my co-star] was talking about what he thought was happening in this one scene that we were shooting. I was sitting there smugly thinking, ‘Well, that’s not right at all!,'” Cerveris says. “And then it suddenly dawned on me that maybe he was right and I had just been told something different and didn’t have the answers at all.”
That kind of uncertainty in the storytelling was not something Cerveris was worried about, though. Having worked with Soderbergh before (on an episode of “The Knick”), Cerveris says he had immediate trust in his director and in the new process.
“I love the way he works and the way he is with actors,” Cerveris says of Soderbergh. “If somebody approaches you with an understanding of what it is you do and a clear desire to support that with what they do, and treats you as a peer from the beginning, it makes you want to live up to that.”
“Mosaic” premieres Jan. 22 on HBO; the mobile app is available now.