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Common Takes On The End of the World In SILO

The legendary rapper/actor leaves reality behind as the charismatic villain in Apple TV's latest post-apocalyptic nail-biter.

by Adriel Smiley

In 2011, Hugh Howley’s self-published story of an underground post-apocalyptic community – known as the Silo – became a viral sensation, leading to several other stories being published in the series. In the story, the outside world’s air supply has become toxic and deadly, and the ten thousand people living in the Silo have been left with a simple instruction: ‘Don’t Ask To Go Outside.’ 

Hoping to land another sci-fi hit, Apple TV is adapting the best-selling trilogy for their new series, Silo, out this spring. Starring Rebecca Ferguson, Chinaza Uche, and Common, who recently sat down with RANGE to talk about his role in the series, the show will drop the actors into a riveting nail-biter that takes place in a future where the characters do not know why they are underground and are under constant watch, forced to play a game of cat and mouse with the truth about their past. Sims, played by Common, is the head of judicial security, the enforcer in the Silo.

The juxtaposition created by Common’s casting is intriguing. He is someone whose voice has long been a symbol of hope and motivation through his music, while his character in the series is the face of oppression. Sims is aggressively stern. Nothing he says is questioned, and no one would dare challenge him. Think Derek Morgan from Criminal Minds with the attitude of Hotch. He spends most of time keeping his eye on anything that doesn’t conform to The Pact, a series of rules that the community should live by and not dare contest that begins to cosplay as a religious text of sorts. 

 “I just see the way we as people can be followers of what we’re told.”

According to Common, there is a resemblance between this fictional story and our everyday life that is hard to ignore. “I just see the way we as people can be followers of what we’re told,” he says. “Also how powers that be will do whatever they need to do to keep you in a place where their world is stable and safe.”

HBO’s The Last Of Us recently scored huge success depicting a post-apocalyptic world multiple decades after the initial catastrophe, and Silo now aims to replicate that – but with a more relatable approach. You’ll find no sign of mushroom zombies, the show instead seeing characters leading lives very similar to oursother than the whole living underground thing. Various storylines revolve around unbridled excitement around pregnancy, jobs we don’t love, and bosses we love less. The familiarity of this world sets it apart from the usual tenor of the post-apocalyptic genre, something that attracted Common to the script. “It was just really interesting to me,” he says. “Some TV projects can create a world and this Silo is a world. And it’s a world that’s very entertaining and interesting and reflective of what we’re experiencing now.”

Common is a man of faith, the type to carry his Bible with him wherever he goes. In the Bible, the book of Revelation outlines what the end of the world will look like. No aliens, no terrifying walking fungi and definitely no Silo. Despite all of that, Common is still able to let his acting choices be informed by other aspects of his faith. “When they yell ‘Cut,’ I still want to be a good human and bring that love to it,” he says. “My faith makes me look at this and see that I do believe that out of all we experience in the world, true love and God’s love will prevail over all of those things.” 

After feeling like the world was coming to end at the start of the global pandemic, post-apocalyptic stories hit differently. For Common, the fragility of life was hard to ignore, another reason why the show was of interest to him. “We were in an unknown space. A lot of fear going around,” he says.  “At a time when people were saying the world may be ending… once again faith does come in, because some things you just don’t control.”

“At a time when people were saying the world may be ending… once again faith does come in, because some things you just don’t control.”

Of course, the similarities between the world of the Silo and everyday life predate COVID-19. Although magnified over the last three years, there has always been a strong mistrust of the government. Most of the people in the Silo don’t ask questions, but one person does: Juliet Nichols, played by Rebecca Ferguson. As she chases down the answers to questions no one wants to ask, she threatens the status quo. The show follows the chaos that ensues, bringing even more meaning to the tagline “If the lies don’t kill you, the truth will.”

When Common is asked who in the show is most like him, it seemed like there was an obvious choice. “The closest character I would be is Juliet,” he says. “She is the character that rebels, is questioning things, and not taking yes for an answer. She’s not falling for that, and I haven’t fallen for that.”

Common’s character’s job of judicial security in the Silo draws many comparisons to various governments, something that prompts him to reflect upon his Chicago upbringing as he continues to exemplify the spirit of a character like Juliet. “I grew up on the south side of Chicago, where some of our heroes were Mohammed Ali, Fred Hampton, Dr. Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Dr. King,” he says. “All these people taught us to think for ourselves, and not just accept a government that’s treating us like we’re less than human beings.” 

The realities of the Silo make this series impossible to look away from. Speaking with conviction, Common has some choice words about the phrase ‘Don’t Ask To Go Outside.’

“It’s written in a way where you understand, ‘Hey, never ever say something against the powers that be, ‘cause if so, that can be your life.”