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‘3 Body Problem’: Why Alex Sharp Recommends Not Binging Brain-Bending Series

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Netflix‘s 3 Body Problem may have a problem—a good one, says costar Alex Sharp.

“I’ve spoken to a few people who are like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to binge it!’ And I almost feel like saying, ‘Don’t binge it because there’s so much in each episode.’ And I know the story back to front,” jokes the actor, who plays sweetly introverted physics teacher Will Downing. “But when I watched it for the first time, I found myself wanting to just sit with one episode at a time and just kind of absorb what I’d seen.”

Makes total sense, seeing how this big-budget adaptation based on the sci-fi book series by Liu Cixin—and exec produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones) and Alexander Woo (True Blood)—is as dense as it is dazzling. Telling concurrent tales set in 1960s China and modern-day London, 3 Body Problem is essentially about an impending alien invasion and the actions in the past that opened the door to their attack. There are big ideas, trippy segments set within one of the most effed-up video games ever, and a lot of physics. At its heart is the Oxford Five, a group of college pals (Sharp, Eiza González, John Bradley, Jess Hong and Jovan Adepo) who begin to realize that science seems to be very broken while also dealing with very grounded matters in their personal lives.

Eiza González as Auggie Salazar, Jess Hong as Jin Cheng, Saamer Usmani as Raj Varma, Jovan Adepo as Saul Durand, Alex Sharp as Will Downing (Ed Miller/Netflix)

“When I read it, it was almost like Will’s a microcosm,” explains the immensely appealing Sharp of his character’s arc, which we won’t spoil. “He’s sort of a symbol for what humanity is going through, with this kind of impending doom and their reaction to it. That’s the sort of macro scale of the show and he’s going through it on a very intimate micro scale, a very personal scale of it.”

“And that was interesting to me [because] this is a guy who really loses everything,” continues the Trial of the Chicago 7 actor. “How would I respond to that? Probably not as well as Will. He’s a quiet hero. He’s quite quietly heroic and I think there are a lot of not quiet heroes, which is great in mainstream storytelling. I was really drawn to how stoic and dignified he was.” He adds with a laugh, “He’s very British.”

In fact, Will’s situation is so tied to an inevitability of the human experience that he is spared some of the otherworldly issues plaguing his friends. “People always ask me what’s it like to be in such an epic, cosmic show, and my experience of making it was not really epic,” he admits. “I sort of feel like I made an independent movie that was very character-driven about a man who loves a woman immeasurably, who’s facing the hardest thing that we all face, which is ultimately our own mortality imminently. It felt quite separate. So then when I watched it for the first time or when I’d watch a trailer, I was like, ‘What show is this?’”

Did he understand any of it?

“I did…past tense! I feel like it may have departed my brain at this point,” confesses Sharp, who actually immersed himself in the studies of universal gravitation, chaotic dynamical systems, and quantum mechanics. “At the beginning of a project, at the start of the process of creating a character, I front-load the more academic, intellectual side of the story, the themes, the concepts, what the character knows, what the character doesn’t know, just to teach myself the frame within which I’m telling the story. So yeah, I did read quite a bit of physics. I won’t pretend that I understood all of it, but I had a good grasp for a brief time, I would say.”

3 Body Problem, Series Premiere, Thursday, March 21, Netflix

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