A nun, sitting down next to a man in a cowboy hat.

Peacock (CC-BY)

Nuns invade SXSW: Inside the zany new Peacock series, ‘Mrs. Davis’

'Cautiously entertained is my position on AI.'


Adrienne Hunter

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 17, 2023   Updated on Mar 17, 2023, 12:55 am CDT

When the first two episodes of the Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof-helmed Mrs. Davis premiered at SXSW, the moderator asked the two writers what inspired the show. “Mircrodosing,” Lindelof remarked. 

Led by showrunner Hernandez and executive produced by Lindelof, Mrs. Davis follows a nun named Simone on a quest to take down a supposedly all-knowing AI known as Mrs. Davis. With two panels, a world premiere, and a gaggle of nuns roaming the streets of Austin, Mrs. Davis has captured a highly prominent presence at this year’s festival. 

One element contributing to Mrs. Davis’ visibility is the relevance of artificial intelligence, with Hernandez and Lindelof leading a panel on the future of tech and entertainment. AI is one of the hot topics at this year’s SXSW and is a central element of the upcoming Peacock series.  

In a time of intense anxiety around the ethics of AI, the idea of the series’ titular AI algorithm was written with the concept of a malevolent AI in mind.  “Once we assembled the writers’ room, we had to seriously question what a malevolent AI would look like,” Lindelof said. 

“Cautiously entertained is my position on AI,” Lindelof said. “We love tech, we need tech. Tech can be a valuable tool, but we also need a champion to push back against it because we’re worried about where all of this is headed.” 

In a featured session titled “Careers & Collaboration between Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof,” the duo explained that this show was the result of a creative partnership engineered by Warner Brothers. 

First-time showrunner Hernandez, who previously worked as an executive producer and writer for Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory, had written a pilot with the concept of a nun vs. AI. Lindelof, who had just finished his Emmy-winning Watchmen, knew he wanted to do something different. After coming across Hernandez’s early pilot, Lindelof knew he wanted to work with Hernandez on his next project.

“We started going on walks and sort of spitballing ideas, and inevitably those conversations would devolve into all of these questions that we had,” Hernandez said. “We just decided, what if there was an algorithm that answered all of our questions?”

The result was a zany new series that the series lead, Betty Gilpin, described as creating an entirely new genre. “[Tara & Damon] asked big questions joyfully and invented a new genre…No Country For Old Looney Tune,” Gilpin said.

The zaniness of the series didn’t halt at the show itself but has been a central component of the show’s marketing. Near the start of the festival, a large group of nuns made their festival debut at Darwin’s Piano Bar, where the group performed highly censored and Jesus-friendly versions of popular hits to the crowded bar. 

These nuns—who religiously stayed in character—have been seen throughout the festival, from Hernandez and Lindelof’s panel to Austin’s iconic “I love you so much” mural. 

The first four episodes of the new series will debut on Peacock on April 20, 2023. 

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*First Published: Mar 17, 2023, 7:00 am CDT