Fast Company

YOUR ROBOT OVERLORD

WHILE THE REST OF HOLLYWOOD CHASES NETFLIX, SUPER-PRODUCER J.J. ABRAMS IS APPROACHING ENTERTAINMENT IN AN ENTIRELY NEW WAY.

BAD ROBOT’S SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA, HEADQUARTERS—INTENTIONALLY MISLABELED “THE NATIONAL TYPE WRITER COMPANY” in raised Futura lettering—features a small gold placard above the buzzer asking a question that unsuspecting visitors will soon find relevant: are you ready?

In the reception area, two shelves are packed with toys and curios: old-school board games, a plastic skull in a bell jar, retired typewriters, and, of course, robots. A sign encourages guests to please create, and rows of colored pencils and giant sheets of newsprint are provided.

Suddenly, dozens of Bad Robot employees, armed with bagels and coffee procured from the kitchen, begin heading into one of the building’s theaters, an expansive, dark-gray room that doubles as a postproduction soundstage. It’s 9:30 a.m. on a Monday: Time for an all-hands gathering. But today the energy is heightened. The proceedings kick off with a Star Wars–themed game of charades in honor of the man casually slouched in one of the perimeter seats, his gravity-defying hair forming a tousled mop.

J.J. Abrams is back.

Abrams, who started his career as a screenwriter almost three decades ago and has grown into a megawatt player, thanks to creating such culture-defining projects as Alias and Lost, and directing reboots of Mission: Impossible and Star Trek, has spent most of the past year shooting Star Wars: Episode IX in England and Jordan.

Abrams blends in with the other Bad Robot employees in his dark jeans, black boots, gray T-shirt, and hoodie. But all eyes are fixed on him right now, and the room quiets to an almost deafening silence—this is, after all, a highly soundproofed space—when he finally speaks. Abrams, who returned to L.A. a week ago, is clearly jazzed to be back, and he revels in sharing details about making Star Wars on one of the tightest schedules he’s ever faced, and how it forced him and his team to problem-solve on the fly the way he did back when he was making Super 8 movies as a kid.

“I wasn’t supposed to be there,” Abrams says after the town hall. “I wasn’t the guy, ya know?” (That was Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, who left the Star Wars project unceremoniously in September 2017.) Abrams admits that his decision to take over the film at the request of Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was a “leap of faith,” but “this crazy challenge that could have been a wildly uncomfortable contortion of ideas and shoving

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