After the unfortunate and premature death of a young video game company founder, CompWare’s employees find themselves working for a mysterious and rather creepy consultant, who appears to be missing a sensitivity chip. But who exactly is Regus Patoff, and how did he manage to worm his way into their boss’s life, right before his murder?
Prime VideoWhile the premise for Prime Video’s eight-part limited series is dark, Servant creator Tony Basgallop was inspired by the post-COVID return to normal when he dreamt up this workplace horror drama. “When I was writing this, we were in the middle of lockdown, and I didn’t know that people would ever go back to their jobs, and I didn’t know if anyone would ever make this show,” he says. “But it felt like, if everyone’s going to go back to work, what will the new rule be, working in-office? It was saying, ‘Look, things are going to get hard. There’s going to be a massive shift in the working dynamic.’ ”
Portraying this unorthodox consultant, who takes some of his workers down paths they never expected, is Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained star Christoph Waltz.
Prime VideoOnce he read the script and met with Basgallop, the Austrian actor found himself drawn in. “I read the pilot and then I met the pilots,” he cracks. “They made the impression of being very competent, knowledgeable pilots with a very clear idea of the course, and then I jumped onboard before they left without me.” What appealed to the two-time Oscar winner was the writers’ take-no-prisoners view on the office environment. “Patoff’s actually teaching these kids stuff that no one taught them before—that privilege is not wasting your time at the workplace, privilege is in making use of your time at the workplace. The privilege, right now, is to have a workplace at all. So why insist on a home office and [working] only three days a week? What is work-life balance? And how would you actually support the balance [part], if you don’t generate the means for it?”
Prime VideoThrough the horror lens, Basgallop also plays with stereotypes that anyone with an office job is familiar with. “You never really know your boss at work. All you know are the rumours: ‘He’s a monster.’ So that’s what you project onto that person,” the creator reflects. “Patoff is a mystery. I think every time we see this character, we should be leaning in and wondering what his intentions are.” Basgallop also says he does not aim to force a certain genre onto his stories. Rather, the characters dictate the tone. “At the core, there’s a drama. You don’t get horror without drama and if something doesn’t feel real, then the horror’s never going to be effective. I never really look at things in a horrific way or a funny way. I don’t think, ‘This scene has got to be scary.’ Does it become scary? Then great. Then the characters are positioned correctly in your play, to deliver that. The horror, it’s not something I ever thought about. It just felt like it’s a horrific situation, so it’s going to play out that way.”
Prime VideoAfter breaking out on HBO’s The White Lotus, actress Brittany O’Grady was looking to flex some new dramatic muscles as the office’s creative liaison Elaine. “I was personally excited to play an adult in the work field, not sassing some adults and doing a bunch of drugs,” she jokes. “I loved the drive that Elaine had. I loved that she was trying to constantly solve problems. In my life, I hear about my close friends, my family, my husband’s work life in an office and those dynamics—to have this weird, warped version of it is really fun.” Meanwhile, it was the eeriness of this world that grabbed her co-star Nat Wolff’s attention when he read the script for the pilot. “As soon as the twist happened at the end [of the pilot], I screamed in my apartment,” he says. “I was like, ‘I have to be part of the show,’ and started chasing the part [of Craig] like a rabid dog.”
While Wolff describes each instalment as an episode of The Twilight Zone mixed with Oscar-winning crime flick Training Day, what surprised him most is the allegorical aspect of Basgallop’s work. “I think we’re so used to being comfortable in the modern world in every sense of the word. If you just cultivate comfort, then you’re going to break at the slightest gust of wind. So, I think that Patoff—as evil and scary as he is—is actually a representation of the change that we do need to see in the world. What Patoff is doing to the characters is similar to what the show is trying to do to the viewer: It’s destabilizing, it’s confronting and it’s confounding. It pushes you out of your comfort zone.”
The Consultant is streaming on Prime Video