For all its mind-bending plot lines, elaborate mythology and far-reaching philosophical themes, Altered Carbon is, at its core, a love story, according to the series’ Australian star Dichen Lachman.
Lachman, best known for her roles on Neighbours and the Joss Whedon series Dollhouse, stars alongside Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) in the 10-part sci-fi epic, which is based on the classic cyberpunk novel by Richard K. Morgan.
She plays Rei, sister of the series’ protagonist Takeshi Kovacs, who is played variously by Kinnaman and Will Yun Lee. The use of two actors for one part is because in the neon and rain-drenched world of Altered Carbon, human consciousness is able to be downloaded on to a “stack” and implanted in a new body when we die.“Which means that anybody has the ability to switch bodies or, for some who have access, to potentially live for ever,” Lachman explains by phone from Sydney during a promotional tour for the show, which launched last month.
With shades of Blade Runner, Westworld and The Matrix, Altered Carbon’s intricate storyline explores everything from themes of immortality and what makes us human to our reliance on technology. “There’s a lot of layers to this show,” Lachman says. “There’s the relationship we have to technology and are we being responsible with that. And then there’s an epic love story that spans the ages. It’s also a murder mystery.
“It’s like a 10-hour long theatrical experience. It’s just a stunning show.”
She admits even she struggled to absorb the sweeping, time-shifting plot.
“It really doesn’t dumb itself down,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of television out there that’s just there to help you check out — this is a show where you have to check in.
“It’s like looking at an intricate masterpiece of a painting. You walk away and then you go back and you look at it again and you see something new or different.”
Lachman underwent extensive physical training to prepare for the role of Rei who, like Takeshi, is a former rebel fighter. “(The producers) wanted us to do everything we possibly could,” she says of the action scenes. “So we had an incredible stunt team. But 98 per cent of what you see on screen is the actual actor doing it.
“I trained for about three months in katana sword training and it was amazing. One of the things you look forward to being an actor is learning something you wouldn’t ordinarily go and learn.”
As for the show’s fandom, which has been demanding a season two, Lachman agrees there are still many questions to be answered.
“There’s so much story to tell,” she says. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and for the fans too. I try and engage with them as much as much as I can — they just want more.”
Altered Carbon is now streaming on Netflix.