When it comes to multi-hyphenate artists, Common is doing his part to craft a legacy across music, film, and television. Since making his big-screen debut in the 2006 thriller Smokin’ Aces, Common has consistently challenged himself with projects as diverse as the action blockbuster John Wick: Chapter 2, the wildly outrageous comedy Girls’ Trip, and the sensitive coming-of-age film The Hate U Give.

Last year, he earned strong critical praise for his first performance on Broadway, tackling the role of Junior in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Between Riverside and Crazy.

Out of a career filled with highlights, Common shares that his work on Apple TV+’s “Silo” is his favorite to date. The critically acclaimed science fiction series, adapted from Hugh Howey’s novel Wool, is a character-driven dystopian thriller that unravels several mysteries throughout season one. In this futuristic underground society, all the inhabitants of the underground Silo believe that outside world is deadly to human life and they fear venturing “outside.” So much so that the words, “I want to go outside” are the most feared in the entire society.

Amid the day to day life in this hierarchy (where the rich live high up and the poor are at the bottom of the staircase), every citizen has a specific job and purpose. One thing that is for certain for everyone in the Silo, information is not free in this society and there’s a controlled narrative for why things have to be the way that they are.

Rebecca Ferguson plays the lead role of Juliette, who reluctantly becomes the sheriff of the Silo and butts heads with Common, David Oyelowo, and Oscar winner Tim Robbins’ characters in her search for the truth.

Common plays Robert Sims, an enforcer and security chief within the Silo who is tasked with keeping the peace… no matter the method. Sims is a character that isn’t easy to pin down, he carries many secrets but he’s also a loving husband and father to a young family.

The complexity and compartmentalization of Sims’ character drew Common to the role. “He’s a killer, but there was much more to him than that,” he explains. “It was beautiful for me, because my father used to say, ‘Some of the biggest gangsters I knew were in church, with their wives and children on Sunday.’ I used to laugh when he said it, and I understood it more as I got to know human beings and take on these characters.”

Common spoke with Awards Focus about finding the humanity in a character, how the show’s incredibly detailed sets helped the actors get into character, and where Silo might be headed after the shocking revelations in its season one finale.

Awards Focus: This one of the best series to come out in some time and you’ve got such a rich, integral role to the show. What were your first instincts when you read Sims’s role and got to speak with showrunner Graham Yost?

Common: My first instinct was, “Please, please select me for this role.” When I read this, I thought it was some of the best material I’d come across. I loved reading “Silo.” I was out on a birthday trip with my friends and we were out on a boat all day, but I couldn’t wait to get back to the scripts.

When I got a meeting with Graham and (director) Morten Tyldum, I was like “Man, this is amazing that they considered me for this role.” I felt that the meeting went great and I was praying and hoping to get this role because I felt I could do a lot of things with this character. You could take him as the villain, he’s a killer, but there was much more to him than that.

I felt that I could bring that extra layer to Sims, and they allowed me to do that. As the story evolves, you get to see my wife and kid and their life at home. It was beautiful for me, because my father used to say, “Some of the biggest gangsters I knew were in church, with their wives and children on Sunday.” I used to laugh when he said it, but I understood it more and more as I got to know human beings and take on these characters.

Sims is somebody who’s willing to kill, willing to lie, he’s willing to fight because he’s dedicating his life to doing good for the people of the Silo. But he’s doing it in a way that’s a part of the government and that requires deception and some hard choices. He’s ruthless in that way, but then he cares about his family and loved ones… he’s got a lot of range as a person.

As the seasons go on, I hope to keep evolving, and you get to see more of who Sims is, and who all these characters are. This is a character-driven story and I loved it for that, not just the mystery and sci-fi elements.

AF: Can you talk about the production design? This series has so many iconic sets in the first season and fantastic set pieces.

Common: The production design is some of the greatest that I’ve ever seen. There were so many talented people creating this, the passion and attention to detail… it’s incredible. I got to those sets and saw the engine room and then Sims’ apartment. It just felt real and authentic, I didn’t need to do any work to create an environment. This environment helped me to understand even more how we live in the Silo.

It feels authentic when you look around and see all these old items or relics. Then you see one like, “How did this get here?” It just feels like the collage of what life would be if we didn’t know what had happened years ago. We live in the future where everything was given to us, and we don’t know where it came from and those sets express that.

Going up those stairs in the spiral staircase, you feel like, “This is for real.” You know what it would take to go up that many levels to go visit somebody up top or to go down deep. One of my favorite things about the show is the sets. Anytime someone comes to visit, I can’t wait to take them to the sets because they get blown away by the detail.

AF: Is there a scene that you read on the page, and you construct an idea of how it’s gonna play out, and then it just evolves in the moment? Were there any moments where you found something new on the day?

Common: This is a very small scene, but I love the scene where Sims is in jail. They wrote that in the script a little later. Being in that space, I started to discover new things about Sims. Some of the playfulness that I discovered was an example of the power that he felt, and a little bit of, “Excuse me, I’m invincible amongst these people like and, and they know who I am.”

The confidence came out in that scene. Sims spoke in a very direct and low tone. And while he was incarcerated, he was playing around, taking his voice higher really like power tripping with the guy who was in charge of the jail. Me and the actor playing the deputy had a lot of fun doing it, and we were discovered things in each take.

I was playing behind the bars a little bit, part of Sims is letting loose because he knows, “Yeah, you got me in one of the worst positions… I’m in jail, but I still got power. And I’m gonna let you know I got power and you’re gonna have to watch out for me.” It’s almost like being in an acting class. For me, that was like an exercise.

AF: We don’t know the full extent of Bernard’s (Tim Robbins) involvement until the end, and it’s a great reveal. In your head, how did Sims and Bernard’s partnership evolve?

Common: Once Bernard and Sims understand they’re working for the same cause, they have to communicate, connect and agree. Even when we don’t agree, we still work towards the same goals because we both feel that what we’re doing is to save the people of the Silo.

Everything that Bernard does is not necessarily what Sims thinks is the best, but he’s his superior, so he follows suit so that we can get to the end goal. Sims is not happy with some of the things that Bernard is doing later on in the narrative.

There’s also the understanding between Tim and I, as we build these characters, and we discussed that we both want some of the same things. You never know what can happen if these two don’t see eye to eye. But for now, these two are working together to maintain peace and society

AF: If you asked to “Go outside,” or if they forced you to go out like with Juliette, would you wash the view screen like the previous Sheriff? 

Common: Yes, I would. Washing the screen is so that people can see what is out there. Now, the question is, when you watch this screen, are you really seeing what’s out there? I would want people to see what’s out there, and I would think that that was what I was doing. That’s why I would clean. I’m a truth teller…. a truth seeker.

AF: The secret about the tape was so enthralling, and then the hologram of a healthy outside world was equally shocking to close this first season. How did you feel when you read that and how shocked were you with Juliette finds the “real” outside world?

Common: I couldn’t believe that other Silos existed, it blew my mind. The tape was such a clever way of showing how the government was doing what they were doing to these people who were going out to clean.

That small detail sentenced every person that went out to clean to die, because they had that tape that didn’t seal off the outside air. It’s something to have one person who doesn’t die on the view screen like the others before Juliette. That changes the whole perspective, it can change the history of what people believe inside the Silo. 

AF: Did you want to read the novel, Wool, and know the arc of the series?

Common: I wanted to read and see where we might be going, but some of the team said, “Hey, don’t read too much because we’re not going exactly there yet.” So I didn’t want to get too far ahead of where we were.

Wool was very interesting. I loved the book, and the scripts blew my mind, so I don’t even know where we’re going now. We will follow some things that may happen in the book but these writers are taking it to exceptional places and making some great choices. Graham is one of the great artists and great leaders that I’ve been able to work with and I can’t wait for everyone to see what’s next.

Silo is currently streaming on Apple TV+ and eligible in all voting categories.