SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from the first three episodes of Apple TV+’s Extrapolations.
Daveed Diggs plays a rabbi grappling with the realities of the climate crisis in Scott Z. Burns’ series Extrapolations for Apple TV+.
When audiences first meet him, Rabbi Marshall Zucker is newly ordained and set on serving a congregation in Tel Aviv. He’s passionate about his religion and also about saving the world, specifically from the climate crisis. But in Episode 3, which is set 10 years later, things clearly haven’t worked out as planned. Now, he’s back in his hometown of Miami.
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He’s doing much less saving the world and more pandering to the Department of Sea Level Mitigation, hoping that they will zone the synagogue to be saved from sea-level rise and flooding — and his sermons are noticeably less passionate than they used to be.
That’s when he meets Alana Goldblatt (Neska Rose), who is preparing for her bat mitzvah with Rabbi Zucker. But Alana is much less worried about coming of age when she can see the planet being destroyed before her eyes, especially as she watches her father profit off of the crisis. Often, her conversations with Rabbi Zucker devolve into existential discussions about whether the climate disaster is a divine punishment.
“I think she’s the only one in his world who’s talking about it. She’s asking questions that he doesn’t have the answer to and, as frustrating as it can be for him, it’s also exciting,” Diggs told Deadline. “I think for him, so much of his gig is becoming, like keeping the lights on in the building. He hasn’t been questioning things. And here comes Alana, who is forcing him to ask these big questions and it’s hard but also he’s engaged and excited for the first time ever.”
Diggs spoke with Deadline more about exploring the climate crisis through this perspective of faith in the interview below.
DEADLINE: How was it for you to explore the climate crisis through a faith-based lens?
DAVEED DIGGS: We tend to think of faith as being anti-science, of religion being the antithesis to science. Part of my work on this was talking to rabbis, and it’s just not true. Across the board, the [rabbis] that I talked to are very aware of climate science and are activists about it. They’re big advocates of science and scientific study on everything, not just the climate. That was great for me, I think, to realize just with my own set of prejudices about how religion works and the function of religion even growing up Jewish. I’m not very practicing, and sometimes I get in my own head about that hard line between religion and science. It just doesn’t exist, at least for the rabbis that I was talking to.
DEADLINE: The way that Marshall leaves things with his father at the end of that first episode is a bit heartbreaking. By the time we see him again, his father is gone. Are we to assume they mended things, or what do you think happened there?
DIGGS: He’s back in Miami, So he did something. There were some concessions there. But I think a lot of that stuff is unresolved for Marshall, which is creating this sort of cognitive distance between his faith and his activism. That was a thing that was unresolved with his father, and now he’s not sure whether to feel like he gave up or whether he gave in or whether he’s doing this for himself or who he’s doing this for. Is it all for his mother? I think that, for me, it was more useful to have it not be entirely resolved.
DEADLINE: Sometimes we do see Marshall’s faith and activism at odds though. In the third episode, he has to come to terms with the fact that in order to save the synagogue, the unhoused people of Miami will no longer have shelter. How do you feel about how he worked through that?
DIGGS: The hardest thing to swallow as just a human being in the world watching that, which I think is the usefulness of Marshall as a character, is that we’re all met with, in some way, these kinds of conflicting moments — particularly with how we relate to the climate. Like, [if] I’m trying to go to a party in another state, what does it mean for me to get on this plane? We don’t examine those things on smaller scales. This one comes knocking right at his door. And so much of his actions initially are based in sort of willful ignorance of this issue. He totally knows what’s going on, but he is used to this thing where like, “I don’t deal with the politics of it. I don’t deal with the business side of it. My job is to be the faith leader of this community and to keep the doors open. That is a big part of my job. That’s why they wanted me here. So, that’s what I’m doing.” The old Marshall would have examined the “why” a lot more and would have had this crisis of faith a lot sooner, I think. But he’s not in that mode anymore. For me, the takeaway is about active choices as opposed to passive ones. And maybe the choice doesn’t change. Maybe I still get on a plane, but I have to know what I’m doing when I do.
DEADLINE: I really enjoyed the relationship between Marshall and Alana. She is very scared about the future, and she seems to be the one holding a lot of the adults accountable. What do you think makes Marshall want to nurture her, as her rabbi?
DIGGS: I think she’s the only one in his world who’s talking about it. She’s asking questions that he doesn’t have the answer to and, as frustrating as it can be for him, it’s also exciting. The other thing that the rabbis I talked to shared and that I think is also kind of baked into Judaism is that questioning is part of it. You ask questions. Woven into all of the holidays are the questions that you’re supposed to ask, and I think a big part of the reason you become a rabbi is because you’re interested in the analysis of the Torah. I think for him, so much of his gig is becoming, like keeping the lights on in the building. He hasn’t been questioning things. And here comes Alana, who is forcing him to ask these big questions and it’s hard but also he’s engaged and excited for the first time ever. That’s why he gives her so much leash, which eventually comes out and at her bat mitzvah kind of blows up in his face.
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