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Culture > Entertainment

Troian Bellisario Takes On Her “Conflicting Feelings” About AI In ‘Ad Lucem’

If you’re looking for your next thrilling, fictional podcast, I’ve got the perfect one for you. Ad Lucem, created by Troian Bellisario and Josh Close, is a new socio-thriller podcast that blurs the lines between humanity and technology and deals with the ethical dilemmas that can arise from AI. Set in the year 2032, the podcast follows Miranda (Olivia Wilde), the CEO of tech company Ad Lucem, whose Corporeal Augmented Reality Assistant (CARA) is quickly growing in popularity — but not without dangerous and life-altering consequences.

Bellisario, who created and wrote the podcast with Close beginning in 2018, finds meaningful irony in the company’s name: Ad Lucem, meaning “for the light.” “There’s a lot of darkness that I see in our future, and … that’s an obstacle that I always have to climb over. And so I liked the idea that this innovator, Miranda, was in her mind always working towards the good in the world, always working towards the light,” Bellisario tells Her Campus in an exclusive interview.

The podcast stars Bellisario, Chris Pine, and Olivia Wilde as they voice the characters of Philomel, Dominic, and Miranda. “I’m very grateful that I, at that point, had had a number of directing opportunities, but I had never directed [that] caliber of actor,” Bellisario says. “They have a level of experience being in giant movie sets that I just haven’t. And they made my job really easy. They fully were such great collaborators, had their own wonderful ideas about the characters, and I got to help them steer their way and just kind of assist them and navigate what they wanted to do.”

Fans have seen Bellisario write and direct films and TV episodes, such as Life on Mars and Pretty Little Liars, but working on her first podcast had its own learning curve when it came to building a season-long plot. “When you write a television pilot, you are like, ‘Here’s what the world could be, if you like it!’ And then people were like, ‘OK, great. We like the world. Show us what eight episodes of it is.’ And so to then follow those storylines and try to navigate what it was going to be like to make a whole season, that to me was the biggest thing that I learned.”

Belisario was inspired to develop Ad Lucem by her fear of how AI can be manipulated and can take over connections by living online. “What it does to the character of Addison [Dominic’s daughter, played by Savy Monroe] and her daily interactions and her mindset and what’s going on on the dark web in and around her — I have a lot of fear around it and a lot of conflicting feelings,” Bellisario says.

While Ad Lucem discusses how CARA can strip humans from real-life connections, the same can be said about modern-day social media, such as TikTok and Instagram. This dilemma hits home for Bellisario, who is the mother of two young children herself. “My belief is that I want to keep them off of social media as long as humanly possible,” she says of her children. “The compare and despair of it all is really hard for me mentally, and I don’t want to put that on their young minds. So my goal is just going to be to keep them away from social media as much as possible. I’ll see how plausible that is in the real world.”

The real-world implications of the show are also exacerbated by AI’s increasing prevalence in modern society. “We wrote this story, and then right before we went in to record, ChatGPT was made public,” Bellisario recalls. At first, her and Close’s discussions around AI while writing episodes last year were mostly hypothetical. “It’s here a little bit, but it’s not really here. And then all of a sudden when we were recording, it became this very real thing that everybody started interacting with. And particularly, my industry right now is locked in a massive labor dispute about what AI is going to mean for the workforce and what it’s going to mean across the board and to people’s jobs.”

Yet, Ad Lucem doesn’t completely hate on AI. Bellisario says, “I think we’re in a really wonderful moment where AI is very supportive, and it’s the age of information. We have everything at our fingertips. It can be very, very helpful to us in so many ways.” This is the same idea that Miranda hoped to have with CARA, but once it was being abused, the technology could be seen as a threat to society. “And yet also, I feel like [AI is] slamming the doors in a lot of people’s faces.” 

On TikTok and other social media platforms, we can see a lot of influence from AI, leading Bellisario to believe a future like the one shown in Ad Lucem isn’t that far off. “There are these virtual talkers who are being created in Japan and in South Korea where they’re fully an AR person, and they’re being acted by a human being. But the truth of the matter is because they are a computer design, eventually that human being could be replaced by another human being, or it could be replaced by AI. And we are, as a society, starting to accept that and starting to watch that.”

Now that Bellisario has one successful podcast under her belt, should fans expect other podcasts from her any time soon? “Right now, we’re focusing on taking Ad Lucem into the world of TV and seeing if we can do that,” she says. However, that doesn’t mean she’s done with podcasts forever: “I would jump at the opportunity to do more work in the podcast world.” 

If you’re interested in listening to Ad Lucem, it is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, or through QCODE.

Sabrina Bernard

Queen's U '25

Sabrina Bernard is a writer Her Campus' National Program. She writes lifestyle content on the site, including entertainment, news, and experiences. Beyond Her Campus, Sabrina is heavily involved at her university, where she is an Orientation Coordinator for the largest not-for-profit orientation in Canada, she is the Co-President of the English Department Student Council, and models for her university's Sustainable Fashion club. She also volunteers at the local Animal Shelter when she goes home. Sabrina is currently a junior at Queen's University, majoring in English Literature with a certificate in French. She has also been a panelist at several literary conferences for her works. In her free time, Sabrina enjoys reading, playing with her cat Poppy, and petting every cat she can find on the streets. She's also a huge Modern Family fan and has rewatched the series multiple times.