Open relationships are 'common' in Hollywood. ’Soulmates’ is helping TV catch up
AMC's new anthology series "Soulmates" imagines a world in which knowing one's fated love is only a test away.
The show takes place in the near future where each person has a "soul gene" that can be detected and compared against those of others who've elected to take the test. The results are stored in the database of the 23AndMe-esque company Soul Connex, and each person is paired with just one perfect match.
From cocreators Brett Goldstein ("Ted Lasso") and "Black Mirror" alum Will Bridges, the series feels like a spiritual cousin to the Charlie Brooker anthology series.
"I could see that it would bring a comparison," said Bridges. "But Charlie's 'Black Mirror' is a very special thing. It's his own vision, his own ideas, and it's very strongly his own voice. I think 'Soulmates' is a very different show. Charlie's is more about people's relationships with technology. Our show's about people's relationships with relationships."
"The technology is just a setup to get us into stories about relationships," added Goldstein.
"We're trying quite hard not to make a sci-fi show," said Bridges.
The show's third episode, "Little Adventures," which aired Monday, follows Libby (Laia Costa) and Adam (Shamier Anderson), a happily married couple who occasionally engage in one-night stands with other people. After Libby's test results pair her with Miranda (Georgina Campbell), she has to figure out which partner to choose — or if there's a possibility of making it work with both.
"It felt like a very relevant story to tell now about how relationships are changing," said Bridges. "We wanted to tell a story that wasn't a judgment on how many people were in the relationship. It was just an honest look on how [polyamory] affects the characters within that relationship."
"I think we've seen a lot of stories where it's that kind of thing and it always ends in jealousy and recrimination," said Goldstein. "I've seen too many things where the end is, 'Well, you should've stuck to traditional values.' I think it was interesting to try to do something different with it."
The writers drew on the experiences of people they know to inform their characters.
"I had a lot of friends, particularly in L.A., who [were a part of] throuples and dealt with all the different politics of open relationships," said Goldstein. "Lots of people who had successfully or unsuccessfully tried to navigate that. I knew a married couple that had an open relationship last 15 years, and I was fascinated by it.
"I think there's something weird about how we always say, 'It takes a village to raise a child,' but when it comes to our relationships, we believe in only one person to do everything," he added. "When you put it like that, that's mad."
"Remember like 20 years ago yoga was really weird? Now everyone does yoga and there's nothing weird about it," said Bridges. "And I feel like there's a world maybe where open relationships, or at least untraditional non-monogamous relationships, are much more acceptable and an option rather than, 'Oh, that's a weird thing you're up to.'"
In the Season 4 "Black Mirror" episode "Hang the DJ," Campbell played another character who finds her perfect match using futuristic technology.
"On 'Hang the DJ,' me and Joe [Cole] did a chemistry test before we properly got the job and immediately realized that it really worked," she said. "But on this, I hadn't met Laia before getting to Madrid to start filming. But I knew Laia was a brilliant actress and I was kind of taken aback by how much chemistry we did have."
In doing research for the role, Anderson called on his friend Sarunas Jackson, who plays a character in an open marriage on HBO's "Insecure."
"I did a bit of research but not too much, because my character was unfamiliar with it," said Anderson. "I do know some people, actually some pretty famous people, who [are in open relationships]. I find it's very common in the business. Being an actor, you're being intimate with lots of people in different scenes. When people kiss onscreen, they're not faking it."
"I think they work when people are being open to the possibilities of it," said Bridges. "I think they go wrong when you're trying to fix a problem by doing it. If there's something wrong with your relationship and you think bringing someone else into it is going to fix it, those are the ones that go wrong.
"With the research that we did and all the people we spoke to, it becomes clear that it's not about sex," he added. "It's not about the tantalizing idea of what it's like to have another person to have a sexual relationship with. It becomes about what each person brings to the relationship and how that affects what you give to each person."
The idea of science helping to predict compatibility has become more plausible as technology and dating apps continue to evolve.
"I think nowadays with artificial intelligence, it's proven that they know a lot more about you than you," said Costa.
"I think the advance of technology brings choice," said Bridges. "You've got more choices in the world now — it's not such a binary decision about things. And we're seeing it happen now with all the dating apps. That all happened after I got together with my wife, and it's completely changed the landscape of dating."
"What we always wanted for the show was for people, particularly those in relationships, to watch it and question everything about their lives," said Goldstein with a laugh. "People have been really forced to face their relationships while on lockdown and then stuck in a house together. I think for a lot of couples this will be the most time they've ever spent together, and I'm sure that has made a lot of people question things. This show is about, 'What is [the health of] your relationship and are you in the right place?' So I think it will be probably more appropriate than it ever was."