What happens when you are forced to start questioning everything that you’ve been taught? That’s what the group of teens at the center of Utopia Falls, a new series streaming now on CBC Gem and Hulu, are dealing with when they stumble upon a hidden archive of cultural relics. Set in the not-too-distant future, these teens have been chosen for the prestigious Exemplar performing arts competition in the seemingly idyllic colony of New Babyl, but their discoveries will lead them to use the power of music to ignite change in their society and expose the truth.
Humberly González, a recent graduate of the CFC Conservatory program in Toronto, plays one of those teens, Brooklyn. She’s a singer from the Industry Sector and a free-spirited flirt who soon sets her eyes on another dancer, Sage (Devyn Nekoda). Together, along with the rest of the teens in the Exemplar competition, they start using The Archive to dive into hip-hop’s long line of outspoken singers and rappers.
González, who has appeared on In the Dark and Workin’ Moms, recently spoke to The TV Junkies about getting the role on Utopia Falls. She not only previews what’s ahead for Brooklyn this season, but also gave us insight on all the work that went in behind the scenes to create some of the big performances staged during the Exemplar competition.
The TV Junkies: This show is unlike so many other things on TV right now. What did you think when you first heard about it and were in the process of auditioning?
Humberly González: I vividly remember getting the audition and being so excited that they wanted singing. I love it and it’s been a passion of mine since I was a little kid. To be able to do that for a role has always been a milestone. I thought they may want professional dancers and singers for all these roles, and not that I’m not good, but there’s people who have trained their entire lives and they deserve to show that on screen. What I had going for me is that I had been acting for awhile, and this role came at a time where I could really tackle it and do it justice.
When I read the synopsis I absolutely loved it. Anything that has to do with a near future or dystopian society I just love, and I read books like that. The audition process was really exciting, I kept getting brought back, and got to speak on the phone with creator R.T. Thorne. It was a very involved process with dance callbacks in front of R.T. and our choreographer Tanisha Scott. When I booked it I screamed really loud. [laughs]
TTVJ: I, like you, assumed that all of you in the cast had huge backgrounds in song and dance, but it sounds like maybe that’s not the case?
HG: For me, I sing and move. Being from South America, I think I always had music and dance in my bones, but I’m not professionally trained in the same way as someone like Devyn Nekoda, who has been dancing since she was little. The cool thing is that in some way or another, we do all have singing and dancing backgrounds, though some not to the extent of others. I actually did take dance classes in school and at The National Theater School in Montreal. I know a lot of dance forms, but I haven’t put in the hours to consider myself a professional dancer.
TTVJ: Some of the routines in the show are very involved and complicated. What was the rehearsal process like?
HG: If you’re asking me, I practiced every single day — when I woke up, in my kitchen, in my living room, and in between takes. We had rehearsals on the weekend, usually like 6 hours on a Saturday, and those lasted for like 3 months while shooting the show. I don’t pick up choreography as fast as people who have been dancing their whole lives, so I took it upon myself to make sure I was ready and on it. Specifically, there’s a routine at the beginning that involves stepping, and I had never done anything like that before. That was a really exciting one to learn, especially since it has to do with people protesting, and learning about stepping crews was really exciting.
TTVJ: How much did you and the other actors have to learn about and study the different dances and songs in the show and what they were protesting?
HG: Unfortunately, we do live in a world where things like racism and homophobia do still exist. It was really exciting to stand up for that in the show, and we learned a lot about the background of it all. Our choreographer used to send us links for each of the dance’s inspirations. It wasn’t just about doing the movements, but we had to feel it as well, and know who we are fighting for here.
TTVJ: Let’s talk specifically about your character, Brooklyn. What can we expect to see from her during this season?
HG: Without ruining the show for the world, I can say that she is so powerful in the way that she’s fearless. When The Archive is introduced she takes it and runs with it. There’s no doubt in her mind that there’s always been something more. When we first meet her she’s so cocky, sassy, and confident. She grows so much from the mentality that it’s her against the world. She becomes a leader in that and is very forward in the way she takes it all on.
TTVJ: Brooklyn gets close to another dancer named Sage. What can you share about their relationship and story this season?
HG: Honestly, I think Brooklyn sees Sage’s eyes, and that’s how I felt when I was on set too. It’s very disruptive when Brooklyn comes into the group, but she notices a really beautiful human who is checking her out so she’s going to check her out too. I think that’s how Brooklyn works, ‘Oh, you like me? I like you too. Let’s go!’ She knows what she wants and she goes for it.
TTVJ: This is a pretty big ensemble cast. What was it like working with some of the other actors?
HG: I remember the first read through where we all came into the room with these huge smiles. It’s like we all worked to get there and they had picked the best people for it. Everyone was reading and laughing, going through the motions of the first episode, and I kept looking up seeing how everyone was having such a good time. It was my family for the next few months and we grew so close. We started a group chat almost immediately, went to dinner, dancing, and bowling. We were always hanging out or rehearsing. It was so great that we all got to mesh together because the show needed us to have a real relationship for it to work.
There will be a lot of behind the scenes footage that we will release in the coming months after the show’s premiere. You’ll see us together all the time and in each other’s trailers dancing. We just loved being with each other. I don’t think that’s always the case with every production, but we just loved hanging out together.
TTVJ: In addition to Utopia Falls, do you have any other upcoming projects?
HG: I do! Last year was incredible, starting with Utopia Falls, and gave me so much energy and hope for the future in my career, as far as what I am capable of doing. I got to be on two other shows that will be coming out this year on Netflix. One is called Ginny & Georgia and the other is Jupiter’s Legacy. They’re all so different and I feel so thankful.
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Utopia Falls premieres Friday, February 14 on Hulu and CBC Gem.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.