‘The first time I read the script … I sobbed.’ ‘Atlas’ stars Jennifer Lopez and Sterling K. Brown on AI paranoia and their film’s emotional core’ (exclusive)


Strap in for a heavy metal romp of interstellar proportions as Netflix’s big budget sci-fi spectacle, “Atlas,” stomps onto the streaming service starting today (May 24). 

Atlas” is directed by Brad Peyton (“San Andreas,” “Rampage”) and stars Jennifer Lopez, Sterling K. Brown, Simu Liu and Mark Strong. Centered around the hunt for a rogue android terrorist named Harlan (Liu) who flees Earth after a devastating attack on humanity, this $100 million action flick features an AI specialist named Atlas Shepherd (Lopez) who insists on joining the seek-and-destroy mission alongside gung-ho Ranger leader Col. Elias Banks (Brown) and his imposing squad of APC military mechs.

“The heart of ‘Atlas’ is really about trust and how difficult it is to trust people,” Peyton told Netflix. “‘Atlas’ is told through the lens of a woman who’s learning to trust after undergoing a trauma that’s upended her life. It’s a reminder of how we have to have deep, meaningful relationships in our lives, in one way, shape or form. That you can’t do everything by yourself; you have to choose to trust people at a certain point and let them in.”

(Image credit: Netflix)

We spoke with Lopez and Brown about this ambitious cinematic juggernaut, the state of our current artificial intelligence anxiety, the rigors of the roles and what fans can expect from their heroic characters when “Atlas” hits the ground running. 

“Honestly, the first time I read the script, it was during the pandemic, and I sobbed,” Lopez told Space.com. “I literally called my producing partner, and she was like, ‘What’s the matter?’ At the core of it there was a really emotional story about two entities, a person and an AI, who become more human together, where they go on this journey and she has to learn how to trust. 

“She hasn’t had trust since she was a little girl. So to open up and believe that somebody is going to be there for her is such a huge journey in this crisis she gets in with him — made her believe in humanity again. Not just the understanding that the AI technology can be good as well, which is kind of the debate today. It’s very timely and relevant right now. It’s the human story about Atlas that made me want to do it.”

Related: Netflix releases official trailer for Jennifer Lopez mech sci-fi film ‘Atlas’

Jennifer Lopez as Atlas Shepherd in “Atlas.” (Image credit: Netflix)

Regarding what drew him to the action-packed project, Brown said that, although he’s a tough guy and didn’t cry, he loved the story’s emotional depth and topics.

“I thought it was a great story,” Brown said. “It was an opportunity for me to do something that my young son could watch. He’s like, ‘Dad, you never do anything I can watch.’ I mean, it’s not like I’m out here doing X-rated movies, but I understand. Lemme try to find something for the kids. Jeff Fierson was the producer on it, and I went to grad school with him — that was cool. Got the chance to work with an icon over here [nodding to Lopez]. And it is timely and topical. 

“I think we as people are still figuring out our relationship to artificial intelligence and how we can best utilize it. Is it something to be feared? It’s definitely something to be respected, because if something has the ability to learn, then you want to make sure what it’s learning still has a place for you inside of it. So I believe the allegory of it all is something that everybody’s sort of thinking about, as AI is at the forefront of what we’re dealing with as we move forward as a society.”

Related: Could AI communicate with aliens better than we could?

Sterling K. Brown stars as Colonel Banks in “Atlas.” (Image credit: Netflix)


The “Atlas” roles were demanding for both Lopez and Brown, though in different ways.

“It was funny, because I knew I was going to be in this pod on green screen, by myself, with somebody just voice-talking to me the whole time,” Lopez recalled. 

“It was like a one-woman show. I thought, ‘This isn’t going to be so bad; this is going to be easy.’ It was really a lot of me by myself with the AI, Smith. But it was one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done. It’s really creating that level of life or death by yourself with no other actor to help you, in a very confined small space all day long, upset and sweating. I’d go home exhausted. ‘Atlas’ was one of my most tiring movies. It took more emotional and physical energy to create that reality.”

Brown’s readiness for his Ranger role dealt more with the constricting limitations of his skin-tight wardrobe.

“I just had to make sure I looked good in this body condom they put me inside,” he joked. “There was very little wiggle room where stuff is like… I had a thing that went underneath the legs that stretched up the back, so I was just trying to keep it tight.”

“Atlas” arrives exclusively on Netflix today.

This post was originally published on Space.com

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