Djouliet Amara in THE BIG DOOR PRIZE - Season 1 | ©2023 Apple TV+

Djouliet Amara in THE BIG DOOR PRIZE – Season 1 | ©2023 Apple TV+

In the new Apple TV+ series THE BIG DOOR PRIZE, life in a reasonably contented small American town is disrupted by the arrival of the mysterious Morpho machine. For two dollars, and the input of your fingerprints and your social security number, the Morpho prints out a card that reveals your true potential.

Based on the book by M.O. Walsh, THE BIG DOOR PRIZE was adapted for television by David West Read, who was previously an executive producer and writer on SCHITT’S CREEK (a comedy to which THE BIG DOOR PRIZE has already drawn favorable comparisons). The series has already been renewed for a second season.

Chris O’Dowd plays high school history teacher Dusty, who has just turned forty. The machine creates more problems than promises for him.

Dusty’s teen daughter Trina is played by Djouliet Amara. Trina embarks on a tentative friendship with Jacob, played by Sammy Fourlas. Jacob is one of Dusty’s students. He is also the brother of Trina’s former boyfriend, who died a year earlier.


Fourlas has a more unconventional route to THE BIG DOOR PRIZE, which is his first TV series role.

At Apple TV+’s portion of the winter 2023 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, Fourlas and Amara sit down together to talk THE BIG DOOR PRIZE. The pair continually encourage and praise each other, effortlessly displaying their real-life friendship.

ASSIGNMENT X: How did you both get involved in THE BIG DOOR PRIZE?

SAMMY FOURLAS: I guess maybe I should go first. The normal audition process was during COVID time, so I was doing taped auditions. One of them just clicked, and then I was in a Zoom session with Dave [Read] and Gayle Keller, the casting director, and we got into some really good, deep conversations. I think Dave and I both had this mutual appreciation for our [desire] to dig deeper into the script, and so we just clicked, really quickly, and I heard back not too long later. And then they were looking at Djouliet.

Sammy Fourlas in THE BIG DOOR PRIZE - Season 1 | ©2023 Apple TV+

Sammy Fourlas in THE BIG DOOR PRIZE – Season 1 | ©2023 Apple TV+

DJOULIET AMARA: I was working on another show, and at the time I got the audition, I didn’t actually have time to study [the material], and I thought, “You know what, they’re going to be auditioning all the girls across the U.S.A. to get this job. I’m just going to pass, so that I can do my job tomorrow on the show that I am on, and do it right.”

Fast-forward to a few weeks later, they still hadn’t found their Trina. My manager messaged me and said, “They still want to see you audition,” and I was like, “Really? How do they even know who I am?” I did the audition the next day, and I heard I had the callback with Gayle Keller. I was in Canada. So, I was like, “Oh, God, okay.” I did the callback with Gayle. It was amazing. I heard I had a chemistry read, and I thought, “Oh, my God, I need to buy an Apple computer for this,” because I just had my phone, and then did a chemistry read with Sammy. It was so amazing. It went really, really well, and it ended up being me.

AX: Did you also have a chemistry read with the actors playing your parents?

AMARA: No, just this one.

AX: You had primarily done TikTok videos before this. Was that with an aim towards becoming an actor, or were you doing TikTok to express yourself in some other way, and acting just came out of that?

FOURLAS: Well, I acted in high school, so I acted for a few years in high school, and I loved it. I had a burning passion for stage acting, and I loved plays, and reading plays, and playwriting. And then I went to college, got into TikTok, and I just started doing these comedy skits, just to release some energy. It was up and coming, and I love writing, and I love coming up with silly, stupid jokes, and playing characters, and just getting to play.

Djouliet’s really gotten me into the concept of just playing, to let it go free, live a little bit, so I think that was my big release with TikTok. It was almost mindless. It was just, you go, you have fun, come up with something a bit witty. And when it took off, I got my agent, and she wanted me to look into writing. I wanted to write as well. And then, in a couple weeks, she said, “We might as well also give acting a shot.” So, I was like, “Okay …” And some time later, I wound up here.

AX: And you are also a dancer …


AX: Is there difference for you between dancing and acting, in terms of what you bring to it in terms of how you prepare, and how you feel about it?

AMARA: For me, it’s definitely the same thing. When I’m dancing, I’m telling a story, using my body. I was never trained in acting whatsoever, so when I got into acting accidentally, it really was for me finding my voice, and how I speak as these different characters. But then, I’m naturally comfortable in front of the camera from being comfortable in my body, and feeling free to bring physical elements into each character that I do, and specifically into Trina.

AX: Now, when the series starts, your characters already know each other, because Trina had dated Jacob’s brother. Did you sit down together and discuss what your characters’ relationship was like prior to when we first meet you in the show?

AMARA: We discussed everything, and then I think just building our friendship in general helped the way that we played it.

Djouliet Amara and Sammy Fourlas in THE BIG DOOR PRIZE - Season 1 | ©2023 Apple TV+

Djouliet Amara and Sammy Fourlas in THE BIG DOOR PRIZE – Season 1 | ©2023 Apple TV+

FOURLAS: Yeah. I think that was [helpful], getting to know each other a little better in real life. Everyone [involved in the series] is very open to getting to know you and wanting to spend some time – safely, of course, because we were mixed in with the pandemic, but we were all tested. We got to know each other and become friends, and that reflected our relationships in the show, which was especially true for us.

AX: What is it like working with Chris O’Dowd, who plays Dusty?

AMARA: Well, first of all, he’s eight feet tall [O’Dowd is 6’3”, Amara is 5’3”], so he gave me a hug, and lifted me into the air, and it felt like the weather was different. So, something about that changed me. It just felt like we were instantly connected after that moment. He did that today [at the earlier Q&A session for THE BIG DOOR PRIZE] as well. He’s just a great guy. We have these different jokes and games that we play on set, like this “Guess the Movie” game, but I’m not going to explain it.

AX: Somebody quotes a line, and then you have to guess what it’s from?


FOURLAS: Explain it, Djouliet.

AMARA: We only have fifteen minutes. I feel like I can’t explain it in a short time.

AX: No problem. How do you think your characters see Chris O’Dowd’s character? Dusty has just turned forty. Are your characters thinking, “Okay, Dad/my history teacher is going through whatever he’s going through, because he’s really old, and old people go through this”?

AMARA: Yeah. I think little Trina is just [in an I’m-used-to-this tone], “Well, that’s my dad, he’s going through this thing.” She’s lived with him her whole life, and he’s always been the way he is. She’s just kind of in her own world, dealing with her own things, and dealing with a lot of grief and guilt for something I don’t want to spoil.

FOURLAS: I would say Jacob has a very interesting experience with Dusty. He’s his teacher, which is kind of goofy – what relationship do you have with your high school history teacher? But I really do think that he has a great deal of appreciation and respect for Dusty, especially as he starts being incredibly honest with his students and the town, everyone else that he knows. I think that’s something Jacob really appreciates is just that straightforwardness.

THE BIG DOOR PRIZE - Season 1 Key Art | ©2023 Apple TV+

THE BIG DOOR PRIZE – Season 1 Key Art | ©2023 Apple TV+

AX: What about working with Gabrielle Dennis, who plays Trina’s mother/Dusty’s wife?

AMARA: Gabby was just easy. You didn’t have to do anything, it was just like, “You’re my mom.” She’s so funny, and fine.

FOURLAS: So funny.

AMARA: Yeah, just like a hug.

AX: Do you get to have input into your THE BIG DOOR PRIZE characters?

AMARA: Yes, for sure. And I think that was a really big thing with me and David at the beginning of the journey. I feel like maybe what I brought out, rather than the other girls who auditioned for it, was, I came into the audition not really [caring about getting the job]. I just kind of threw it out there, and was like, “You know what? I’m just going to have so much fun with this and play. Play, play, play. Because at the end of the day, this is all just a game of pretend.” Even all of this [doing publicity for the series]. It’s so silly, but it’s so fun, but it is really just like dress-up and play pretend, and I feel like I get to bring a lot of fun aspects into Trina with all the fun, silly things that Dave allows for us to do. There really is a lot of collaboration with the directors, and with Dave, and the actors.

FOURLAS: Oh, for sure. I’m a huge proponent of just learning as much as possible. I’m a sponge. I love learning. And so, when it came to diving into Jacob, the first thing I wanted to do was sit down and speak with everyone, the directors and the writers and Dave. His brain works at a million miles per minute, he’s a genius. And so, that’s all he wanted to do as well, which was incredible. He wants to engage in conversation with you, he wants you to understand and connect and feel everything your character does, and I wouldn’t ask for it any other way.

AX: Did either of you have to learn how to do anything in order to play your characters?

AMARA: I actually had to learn how to speak English – I’m totally joking. I had to learn how to like this guy [laughs].

FOURLAS: You had a lesson of some sort, no?

AMARA: Oh. I had to learn how to play the sousaphone, which is this over-one-hundred-pound instrument that crippled me. It’s about as tall as me, but on my shoulder.

FOURLAS: [laughs] It looked heavy as hell, that’s all I know.

AMARA: It was very heavy. There was someone coming in between scenes and lifting it, and letting me have [a break from carrying it].

AX: Did you have to learn how to do anything?

FOURLAS: We had some stuff towards the end of the season that I really don’t want to give away.

AX: Where do you shoot THE BIG DOOR PRIZE?

AMARA: We shoot in Atlanta. I hadn’t worked in Atlanta before. I only ever shot in Canada. But Atlanta is so sweet and sunny. Usually, from living in Vancouver, there’s a seasonal depression that happens, perpetually. And Atlanta was really sunny, so I was really happy. “I don’t want to un-alive here.” [laughs]

FOURLAS: Oh, Atlanta’s great. I’m from Chicago-ish. I’m not actually from Chicago, but I’m very close to Chicago, about ten minutes out, and I see a lot of similarities in the two cities.

AX: I believe that we don’t get the answer by the end of the season, but what is your best guess what Morpho is, and where it came from?

AMARA: God. I wish I knew. You’ve got to put the Morpho Machine through its own Morpho Machine to find out what happens.

FOURLAS: I have no idea. I mean, I wish I could go and beg people for answers, but I know that’s not happening.

AX: And what would you both most like people to know about THE BIG DOOR PRIZE?

AMARA: Ooh. What I’d most like them to know is that they’re going to love it. It’s going to be so easy for them to watch, and it’s just something extremely special that I haven’t seen anything like before.

FOURLAS: Yes. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. I’m a big charcuterie guy. You want to nibble on everything, all different types of flavors and vibes. I really think that is something THE BIG DOOR PRIZE is going to give you. It gives you the heart, it gives you the comedy, it makes you really consider who you are as a person, your past, your potential future. It has the mystery, it has the fantastic music and direction and writing and lights. There’s so much care and appreciation put into every little single bit of the show that I would say it’s undeniable. I would say it’s almost impossible to not appreciate all that’s in it.

AMARA: Absolutely. And it’s really about what it is to be human, and the human experience. It’s just real.

FOURLAS: And what’s more real than jumping into something new? I think it reflected all of our experience of jumping into this show with equal parts what our characters were going through, jumping into this new experience in their town. Everyone has their own existential questions, and it’ll play for everyone.

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Article: Exclusive Interview:  Actors Djouliet Amara and Sammy Fourlas talk Season 1 of new Apple TV+ series – Exclusive Interview


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