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‘Altered Carbon’ Showrunner and Cast Talk About the Diversity and Violence in Show’s Futuristic World

The showrunner and cast of new Netflix series “Altered Carbon” praised the show’s diversity and defended the somewhat controversial violence and nudity depicted in the furturistic series before the premiere screening in Los Angeles Thursday.

Altered Carbon,” based on the cyberpunk novel by Richard Morgan, creates a futuristic world in which people can live for hundreds of years by transferring their DNA into new sleeves — aka bodies. The experience is shown through the main character Takeshi Kovacs. Although the protagonist is a male, showrunner Laeta Kalogridis’ first plan was when translating the book to a sci-fi series was to expand the diverse, female characters.

“The world that we live in isn’t uniform looking, and the future that we’re headed toward isn’t uniform looking,” Kalogridis said. “It was very, very important to me to represent a broader swath of humanity that often isn’t seen in futuristic sci-fi.”

She added that the show allowed her to provide a lens for the female perspective even when Kovacs wasn’t in the scene. Star Dichen Lachman, who plays Reileen Kawahara, said Kalogridis gave her the opportunity to play a role not typically written for her. “She’s committed to giving women like me and all women an opportunity to drive the story forward — to tell the story in a meaningful way,” Lachman said. “We’re not just dressing.”

However, early screenings of the series has already led to some concerns about the way women in the show are treated. Although set in a futuristic society, this new world heavily features nudity, sex and violence against women.

Joel Kinnaman who plays Kovacs when he awakens in his new sleeve in the series premiere, said that the book couldn’t have been transformed into a show without the inclusion of sex and violence. He refers to it as an “honest” portrayal.

“It’s so important and intrinsic to the story to show the human body in the ‘Altered Carbon’ universe is disposable,” he said.

Regarding how women specifically are treated, Kinnaman added, “The female characters in the ‘Altered Carbon’ universe are not victims. They’re bada—s.”

Martha Higareda, who stars as police officer Kristin Ortega, commented that the violence, whether against men or women, is used in the show to urge the characters to fight harder.

Renée Elise Goldsberry, who plays Quell, does not feel the use of nudity is “sensationalized.” “I never feel like I’m looking at somebody naked so that the world can see somebody naked,” she said about the more risqué scenes. “This is a show where our bodies because accessories, so there is some handling of the human body that has to reflect that.”

Kalogridis further explained the decision to include the more graphic elements from the novel by saying, “What I wanted to do was hold a mirror up to what I regard is the ongoing extremity of violence against women and disenfranchised people. The most graphic violence is visited on a white, male body on purpose. The show is a cautionary tale.”

“Altered Carbon” is available to stream Feb. 2 on Netflix.

Stars Joel Kinnaman and Ato Essandoh Stewart Cook/Variety/REX/Shutterstock
“Altered Carbon” actresses Tamara Taylor, Dichen Lachman, Martha Higareda, Laeta Kalogridis, Kristin Lehman and Renee Elise Goldsberry Stewart Cook/Variety/REX/Shutterstock
Showrunner Laeta Kalogridis with actress Tamara Taylor Stewart Cook/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

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