'Servant' on Apple TV Plus: How the Show Made the Doll Extra Creepy

Servant, the first new show to come to Apple TV+ after its big launch, has at its heart the story of a couple trying to deal with the death of their child with the help of a reborn doll, built to look as much as their dead son Jericho as possible.

According to series director M. Night Shyamalan, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the dolls are so lifelike that the team had to make it look more like a doll to increase its creepiness. He said: "Even when we were shooting for the ad campaign, we would shoot the doll, but it didn't look like a doll. We had to make it look even more like a doll so you could tell what it was if you were driving by it."

However, the doll they used in Servant was a real one as used for therapeutic purposes by mothers who may have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth. Shyamalan said of the design process behind the doll: "How about this: no design process! That is the doll they use for this kind of therapy. It's very real. It's an exact duplicate of a [specific] baby.

"The weight, the movement, all of it is exactly real. It feels like a baby of that weight, of that size. When you hold the baby, you immediately have a reaction. If we brought that baby in here right now and you started holding it, you would have a reaction. You could feel it on set. Everyone starts bobbing it a little bit as they're holding the baby...It presents some really interesting problems, because it lives in the uncanny valley."

He also told the website that the baby was so realistic that it had even fooled members of his own family: "When my mom saw the first ad, I asked her, 'Have you seen it yet, mom?' And she goes, 'Yeah, the one with the baby in the stroller, right?' And I go, 'Was it a baby, mom?' And she gasped."

According to an interview between Shyamalan and Indiewire, the idea at the heart of Servant is based on what he called " a real fringe therapy," of which he said, "That premise is so tragic and weird and scary, but it's also, oddly, inappropriately funny."

servant apple tv plus doll
The reborn doll in Apple TV+'s "Servant" Apple TV+

Some social media users have shared how healing they have found using a reborn doll. For example, reality TV star Courtney Stodden told Us Weekly: "I got a reborn baby based on the advice of my therapist. Apparently, quite often, these babies are used to help women cope with losing an angel baby whether that be in the form of a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss. It's been surprisingly healing having him here with me. When I hold him, I feel incredibly calm. He offers a soothing effect that I need at this point in time."

According to Servant creator Tony Basgallop, however, the show is not based on any specific real-life experience. Instead, he said in an interview with Variety: "It's not so much that I'm trying to tell a true story of someone who's actually gone through this event.

"I can see how somebody could attach to an inanimate object and feel it's real. If you attach all of your hopes and all of your needs into this one inanimate object, then it becomes a focal point.

"It didn't feel like there needed to be too much research because the way the characters go about it, they themselves didn't research it—there's no psychiatrist involved; everyone is reacting in the moment, trying to find a solution to an impossible problem. They can't face the truth about what's happened so they reach out for the nearest thing that feels like it might work, and it's one of those lies that just keeps building and building."

Servant is streaming now on AppleTV+.