For most of his career, Billy Crudup has kept his personal life behind closed doors. But “Hello Tomorrow!” — the new Apple TV+ series set in a retro-futuristic world — hits close to home for the actor.
Crudup stars as Jack Billings, who leads a duplicitous operation selling timeshares on the moon. The actor said his character reminds him of his late father, Thomas Henry Crudup III, who died in 2005.
At the series’ New York premiere on Wednesday night, Crudup spoke to Variety about how his father informed his performance.
“I guess [co-creators] Amit Bhalla and Lucas Jansen touched on something that I found unique about my father and this country,” Crudup told Variety at the Whitby Hotel. “It was a wonderful way for me to remember my father and conjure him through — not just playing him — but telling the story of him to people.”
Crudup has described his father as an incessant gambler and hustler salesman, but after reading the script for the new sci-fi drama, he said he was compelled to view his childhood upbringing in a different light.
“[My father] just had a flawed sense of psychology,” Crudup revealed. “A lot of us do because that’s a very human feature, isn’t it? We’re all fractured and flawed. We do the best we can to pretend like we’re normal, but sometimes that stuff comes out.”
He continued, “My dad — he had a dad who told him all the time he was not good enough. And the reason my grandfather did that was because he thought he was doing the right thing by making him tough to survive a difficult world. It had the effect on my dad of making him feel like he was worthless.”
Crudup recently told the New York Times that the behavior of “traveling salesmen are akin to gamblers” in that they are “always playing the odds, always counting on the big win.”
“[My father’s] idea was, ‘I’ve got to hit the jackpot at some point to ever fulfill my dad’s idea of who I am as a success,'” he said. “And as any gambler knows, there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Life is just a grind. You grind it out day by day, and those are the people who make it through successfully.”
“Hello Tomorrow!” depicts an idealistic, futuristic vision conjured up by Americans in the early 20th century. Production designer Maya Sigel said she took inspiration from old World’s Fair photos and various cartoons like “The Jetsons” and “The Tex Avery Show.” But underneath that shiny chrome aesthetic, humanity is still grappling with the intoxicating hope for a better tomorrow.
“We’re all under the spell, including [Jack], of maybe there’s just a crazy way we can get out of this life,” said actor Matthew Maher. “What’s crazy is that [urge] actually comes from deep pain.”
The larger mystery of the show is whether Jack’s mission to send the middle class up to the moon is a legit endeavor — or if it’s all a Ponzi scheme. Jansen, who also served as a co-showrunner with Bhalla, contested that the morally ambiguous journey of the traveling salesman has become more relevant than ever.
“These days, we’re all salesmen — and anybody who denies that isn’t looking in the mirror,” Jansen said. “That’s what the culture is asking of us, it’s something we all need to reckon with.”
The most successful moments in the show, according to Crudup, are when the characters are forced to confront one another with the sobering reality of their existence.
“That’s one thing all of us can do: we can stop from time to time and experience one another and really take in the challenges that we all face in living,” Crudup said. “Man, it’s fucking hard — come on! And when we can join one another, we can be fortified by that humane journey.”