IGN spoke to Lawrence (no stranger to post-apocalyptic stories thanks to his work on The Hunger Games and I Am Legend) about how the cast and creative team meticulously created this strange new world and the history that informs it.
The World of See
The guiding principle of See, as shown in our exclusive behind-the-scenes video, was to create a world that could’ve believably evolved over the centuries if all of humankind lost their sight. “That drove every decision made in almost every department in terms of world-building,” Lawrence told us.“We had think-tanks with blind consultants and evolutionary biologists and survivalists,” Lawrence said. “And then we put a bootcamp together for all the actors with a blindness consultant [associate producer Joe Strechay] and a movement coach that, in combination, were giving the actors a skillset of how one could navigate the world as if blind … how do you reach for something and how do you let somebody know that your hand is out and what do you do with your eyes and all that kind of behavior – plus all the cultural work of what these tribes might be like, depending on where they are geographically and what’s their size and how long have they been together?”
That world-building extends to how the characters navigate and communicate – they write messages for each other using braille-like knots tied into strings, and use chimes, columns, ropes, and hanging objects to orient themselves in their villages and more treacherous locations like the surrounding forests and mountains.
“Characters who are blind or visually impaired haven’t often had an opportunity to portray aspects outside of showing off their disability,” says Joe Strechay – See’s associate producer and blindness consultant – in the video above. “I trained actors how we move through the world and how people utilize their senses in a different way.”
Apple’s See – Photo Gallery
And in some circumstances, Lawrence noted, sight isn’t necessarily an advantage – something that the show will continue to explore as the twins grow up and start learning more about humanity’s past.
“The contrast is always really fun for me because I think that there’s an arrogance that comes with the kids,” Lawrence said. “The truth is is that there are environments … [where] there’s a sense that it’ll be too dark for them to navigate, but it wouldn’t be for anybody else. There are definitely some environments where the characters that can’t see have the upper hand. It becomes a big thematic element: if there are characters that can see and you start to open up that box and you start to look at these books that supposedly hold this knowledge that’s going to rebuild the world, are we going to start making the same mistakes?”
The Tribes of See
In the first few episodes of Season 1, we’re introduced to two major tribes – the Alkenny, led by Momoa’s Baba Voss, and the Payans, ruled by Queen Kane.
“The Alkenny is a mountain tribe, which means that they would have certain things available to them in the area,” Lawrence explained, pointing out that their geographic region informs everything from the Alkenny’s weapons (they call steel “god bone,” but also use antlers as stabbing weapons) to their housing and their clothing, which includes fur and other materials found in nature. They’re also more democratic – deciding things via a parliamentary vote.
Queen Kane, on the other hand, commands a court that bows to her autocratic whims, and occupies an area that was previously more developed. “She lives in a semi-operating hydroelectric dam,” Lawrence said. “Some of the turbines still work and they can still harness some of the electricity that’s used for various things – light not being one of them because they don’t need it, but heat, or music, or electricity for electrocution.”
Since she has the benefit of heat and consistent shelter, Kane’s costumes are gauzier and more elaborate; some are even remnants of a long-dead civilization. “There was actually something that we shot where the piece that she’s wearing is actually pulled out of a vault, so you see that the assistants keep it and are very cautious with it because that would be quite fragile if it still existed,” Lawrence revealed. “But as the season progresses … you get to a silk farm and you see that silk is being woven. People still create clothing too – it’s not just remnants of things that have been found or saved.”
Since the world was designed in service of characters without sight, what our characters can hear, smell, and feel becomes that much more important. Queen Kane has rings that jingle which “signals her court whether they need to kneel or be silenced. It’s all those kinds of things all came out of all that thinking that we did beforehand,” Lawrence said.
That also extends to the roles that need to be performed in each tribe – just as armies have different combat and defensive specialities, so do the various tribes.“There’s an idea that people talk about where there is a given amount of space in the brain for each of the senses and, if one of those senses is missing, the other senses will take over that brain space, and I think it’s scientifically called neural plasticity,” Lawrence said, explaining that some – but not all – characters in See may have developed a heightened sense that can be used tactically.
Here are some of the unique tribal roles you’ll encounter in See:
- Scentier – A person with a heightened sense of smell. “Maybe the sense of smell ended up using all of that extra space that’s not being used by vision and so you could smell, very distinctly, things that might be very far away, or be able to take a smell that would be general to some and be able to specifically say what all the elements are that’s making something smell a certain way,” Lawrence explained.
- Ayura – A person with heightened hearing. “They could hear details in distance, so they could hear something very far away and also be able to discern exactly what that is, like what is that crunching pebbles, what is that moving through water, is it just animals or is it [people] … how is weight affecting it?”
- Presage – Someone with a “sixth sense, of being able to sense things and feeling intention in the air,” according to Lawrence.
- Kill Dancer – Specific to the Alkenny tribe, a Kill Dancer is an acrobatic warrior “who’s skilled in what I would say is some sort of a martial art,” Lawrence said. Their weapon of choice often includes “killing ropes,” long, whip-like ropes that are used to trip or snare their prey.
- Witchfinder – Enforcers who are sent to hunt down and kill those with special abilities, including sight. In this world, like humanity’s not-so-distant past, those suspected of being witches are burned alive if they’re perceived as different.
The Alkenny also scar themselves with tribal markings, separating them from other groups – partially because the scars are raised from the skin, “so it’s something that you could feel, as opposed to ink, which wouldn’t matter because that’s visual,” Lawrence said. “Usually they mean something about the person. A Presage would have scarification for a specific reason and an Ayura, who can hear really well, might have scarification to highlight the idea that they’re Ayura. They’re part of who the person is, [which] is why they’re scarred in specific ways.”
Religion and spirituality also play a big role in the world of See – and while Lawrence noted that “spirituality is very different from tribe to tribe, even within the same nation,” many tribes are reverent of the sun (which they call the God Flame) – especially the Alkenny.
“The sun’s important because they can feel it and that’s part of what drives a lot of the more spiritual elements of the show is the sensory qualities that they bring out,” Lawrence said. “The sun is something that you feel when it comes up and you feel when it goes and down and that helps them keep track of time and helps them with a sense of direction and a sense of placement of things, so there’s importance in that.”
The Battles of See
One of the most distinctive aspects of See comes from its unique approach to fight sequences and battles. Episode 1 begins with a particularly impressive sequence between the Alkenny and Queen Kane’s forces.
“There were big brainstorming sessions, just starting to think about people who are blind both on the offensive side and the defensive side, you start to think about silence – that you’re not going to charge in a roar. Silence and being as quiet as possible would give you an advantage,” Lawrence pointed out. “We ended up having our own think-tanks, just as we did for just the concept of the show, specifically for the battle, in terms of how do you sound, what would be some offensive tactics, some defensive tactics, what are different ways you can fight, what would hand-to-hand combat be like, what would be the killing ropes be like?”
Episode 3 also features a jaw-dropping, visceral fight sequence between Momoa and a group of opponents that should be a lock for a stunt coordination Emmy.
“As I was trying to figure out what the sequence would be like, I remembered my very first meeting with Jason. He had had an idea for a fight using a katana or a samurai sword, and I don’t want to give too much away, but it was this idea of a way of clearing a room without being able to see,” Lawrence explained.
The scene is also spectacularly bloody – something that may come as a surprise to those who heard rumors that all of Apple TV’s programming would be “family-friendly.” Lawrence revealed that there were no restrictions on content during production, much to his relief.
“In all honesty, I was worried because they bought off on a script that was very clear in what it was and, over the course of a year and a half since we sold it and started working on it, you start to worry, ‘are they going to make us pull back, are they going to make me re-shoot that sequence in episode 3?’ and they never did. I don’t think my work is gratuitous anyway in terms of violence, but, yeah, they never went back on their word. They stuck with what the show was and let us do our thing.”
You can experience the world of See for yourself when the first three episodes are released on November 1 as part of the Apple TV+ launch. Do you plan to subscribe to Apple TV+? Weigh in below.