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Jimmi Simpson Believes in the Multiverse

How the ‘Always Sunny’ actor got to unite his love of literature and science in Apple TV+’s new sci-fi series ‘Dark Matter.’

by Maggie McPhee

When I first meet Jimmi Simpson I can’t help but blurt out my love for Stay Alive, a deeply 2000s horror film in which a group of teens play a video game that has real life consequences — or rather, real death ones. Turns out, Simpson met a young producer on that set, David Manpearl, who was integral to getting Apple TV+’s latest sci-fi series Dark Matter off the ground and securing Simpson’s involvement in the show. It’s a coincidence with uncanny ties to the theme of fate at the heart of the new series and the Blake Crouch novel from which it was adapted.

The philosophical thriller follows physics professor Jason Dessen when he’s kidnapped by a version of himself from a parallel universe and abandoned in that alternate world. Jason Two dedicated his life to proving his theory that since subatomic particles exist in quantum superposition, occupying multiple realities, then so could people, enabling travel between overlapping spacetime continuums. Original Jason, however, abandoned his work when his girlfriend Daniela (Jennifer Connelly) became pregnant, opting instead to raise a family and teach at a university. Jason Two, haunted by the regret he made the wrong decision at that crossroad, attempts to swap their lives. Dessen, played by an unflappable Joel Edgerton who, in Simpson’s words, “carries the weight of 27 worlds on his shoulders,” must navigate across infinite planes to find his way back to his wife and son. The action and plot twists will leave you on the edge of your seat, while the ruminations on identity and what makes us who we are will leave you on the edge of your comfort zone. 

Simpson, who plays Jason’s friend Ryan, a scientist in some realities and a car mechanic in others, has participated in many science fiction projects, including HBO’s epic western reboot Westworld. He’s drawn to the genre for its ability to explore scientific possibilities while tapping into the human condition. “To have someone talking about the reality of quantum physics and quantum mechanics and superposition, and then to expand upon it in a way that’s articulating human fears,” he tells RANGE, “that’s all I want to be a part of, fucking beautiful entertainment that might help a little bit.” Simpson himself found consolation in Crouch’s story, wondering whether he had made wrong choices in his life. The moment he accepted that everything happens for a reason, the script landed on his desk.  

An avid reader, Simpson has long admired writers like Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov for their prescience in foreseeing technological advances like Artificial Intelligence and their implications for society. Crouch shares in that legacy, imagining a possible reality to mirror our current one while honing in on universal dreams and fears.



“[Crouch] explores it in such an articulate and beautiful and brilliant and entertaining way, all these possibilities. Just a gorgeous ride that culminates with the fact that everything happens for a reason,” says Simpson. “You are where you should be. All the hard shit that you’re like, ‘Oh, why do I have to deal with that?’ serves a purpose. All the boring shit like, ‘I’m tired of that,’ if it was gone, you would be lost. And so it promotes gratitude, if we can wrap our minds around this fact: ‘No, I’ve been given this tough experience for perspective, or for preparation, or for armour, or for whatever it’s needed for.’” 

“I was deeply moved by the writing,” he continues. “Then to meet Blake and find out, ‘Oh, yep, he is exactly that person.’ He is pure heart and soul, with a big fat brain, and crazy skill with literature.”

It follows that Simpson felt blessed to have Crouch on board as Dark Matter’s series creator. “To have the engine of the IP code, then be able to articulate it in another form, it was like it was meant to be,” he says. Eight hour-long episodes granted Crouch with ample space to evolve his worldbuilding, and the shift in mediums from written word to moving image added even more tools to his carpenter belt. “It’s glorious because it’s so rare,” he adds, “even Stephen King, he’s not responsible for the screenplay [adaptations].” 



The marriage of great literature with great entertainment was serendipitous for Simpson who, in another lifetime, may have been an English teacher. “That was the plan,” he says. “But before that, it was to be a chef.” Finances killed the culinary dream, and Simpson fell into acting while pursuing a degree in literature. He was failing a theatre class and had to ace the acting finale, and after doing so was asked to pursue it as his major. 

“I had to change to not fail. And I think a lot of change happens out of necessity instead of like, ‘Oh, I think I’d like to change to be a better person.’ That’s not how it ever worked for me. It’s always been like, ‘This is happening! Change!’” says Simpson, his voice growing loud for emphasis. “And then, you know, you can reap the benefits if you’re okay with adjusting yourself.” 

Simpson adjusted, and this reality has been fortunate for that. But elsewhere, beyond perception, there might be an esteemed Jimmi Simpson chef or a beloved Jimmi Simpson professor. “I think the infinite worlds theory absolutely tracks. I think we’ve been shown that everything has an equal and opposite reaction enough to see the snowball butterfly effect of a large decision splitting a reality. So yeah, infinite worlds for days.” He pauses. “Eons, I guess.”

Dark Matter made its global debut on Apple TV+ with the first two episodes on Wednesday, May 8, with new episodes every Wednesday through June 26, 2024.