“Made for Love” is a series about relationships, specifically a toxic one of control and possession. It sounds difficult that a situation like that could be made humorous, but creators Christina Lee and Dean Bakopoulous have done just that. The series follows Hazel Green (Cristin Milioti), the wife of tech entrepreneur Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen). Last season saw Hazel escape Byron’s tech-fortress, known as The Hub, only to discover he’d implanted a chip in her brain to see her every thought.
This season, Hazel may be back in the Hub — using Byron’s company’s access to medicine to cure her father’s cancer — but Byron is committed to letting her be her own woman; he also hopes to win her back by showing he’s a kinder, less dominating soul. Magnussen, who has played several cads in his career, from “Made for Love” to “Ingrid Goes West,” brings something different to this season of Byron. Gone is the delusional introvert and in its place is a man trying to become a God, but who also wants his wife back.
This season also unveils Hazel and Byron’s consciousness, both of which have been uploaded to the Hub and their relationship actually is a lot sweeter than their real counterparts. In Episode 3 the pair, newly discovering they can inhabit the same space, break into a spontaneous dance reminiscent of the Old Hollywood era. Magnussen talked to IndieWire via Zoom about this sequence, as well as returning to the show for its second season.
It would have been easy to have Byron be the same, disturbing, antisocial character he was in Season 1. But Magnussen didn’t want to play the role that way. “It’s so funny, I think the relationship between men and women are very difficult because I think men and women operate differently. So I have empathy for both characters, weirdly,” he said. Watching this season has been especially interesting considering that one could say Byron is actually trying to win Hazel back. Sure, there are still weird food balls, but Byron has let Hazel talk to people, make a mess, and generally just be a normal person.
“In my heart of hearts I want love to prevail. I want love to make its way, and people to really connect, and hear each other and see each other. Season 1, that’s what everyone was longing for was connection. They just want to connect, especially in a digital world,” Magnussen said. It’s that question of whether love can prevail, especially considering how controlling Byron was last season, that remains at issue.
“Men do, naturally, want to be providers. They want to provide for their partners and they want to be there for them. And they try to be as direct and honest and when someone tells them what they want, there’s no secret agenda,” said Magnussen. He believes Byron is genuinely trying to do his best. It’s what makes “Made for Love” such a unique series as, while Magnussen said he wants love to win out and that Byron is attempting an effort, an audience might find it hard to divorce his actions from the past season with what’s happening now. “I don’t think Byron actually has, or ever had, bad intentions for Hazel. He didn’t want to hurt her and that’s what’s heartbreaking for me to see,” he said.
One element that certainly helps aid in the Byron/Hazel dynamic this season is the subconscious avatar versions of them that the audience follows throughout the season. Where Hazel and Byron, in reality, are still trying to figure out each other’s motives, the subconscious versions of them uploaded to Byron’s hard drive are genuinely interested in each other. The dance sequence the pair engage is in both a throwback to musicals of the past as well as a genuine expression of love in a series that questions what that looks like.
“We worked with this wonderful choreographer who came in. We kind of knew what the story had to be told through dance and we spent a few days improvising, then learning choreography and just playing,” Magnussen said. He praised the work of costar Cristin who worked alongside him. “Working with Cristin Milioti, one of the finest theatre actors out there, you get to just play and discover these things,” he said. Watching the two verbally spar against each other has always been the show’s stock in trade, but the added romanticism of what Hazel and Byron’s avatars this season shows a new side to the pair’s dynamic.
“Made for Love” is streaming now on HBO Max.