Jeannie Tirado Talks Audio Drama 'The Last City' and the Influence of Climate Fiction

The audio drama depicts the future world of the last shining city on a climate-ravaged planet.

Jeannie Tirado is helping to bring a cautionary science fiction tale to life. The new 14-episode limited Wondery seriesThe Last City, is an immersive "cli-fi" narrative audio drama set in a futuristic utopia where a ravaged wasteland lies beyond its walls, and people fight to salvage the planet. The fictional scripted series, starring Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), Maury Sterling (Homeland), Tirado (Fairy Tail Zero), Skye Lourie (The Pillars of the Earth), and Celia Rose Gooding (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds), released on podcast platforms everywhere on April 22, Earth Day. 

A geoengineered paradise in the climate-ravaged year of 2072, Pura stands as a miraculous green haven, protecting lucky residents from heat domes, fires, floods, and droughts. Tirado portrays Demetria Lopez, Pura's PR fixer who tirelessly promotes the idyllic image of the city. However, after discovering a dark secret at the heart of Pura's existence, she must choose between what she values and who she is willing to protect.

The voice actor spoke to PopCulture about starring in the fictional scripted series and the importance of The Last City's climate-focused story and themes. She said she was instantly drawn to the role of Demetria, explaining, "The story itself is so dynamic, and I think it's so relevant. I could easily see it, you know, it takes place like in the future, but not crazy in the future. And you can actually see that this could happen. So that was interesting on this part of the story."

As for Demetria, "She's been through so much, and yet she's so resilient. And sometimes resilience can be a good thing, but also a bad thing because it is so powerful. It depends on almost how you use it and how it changes you."

The Last City weaves together elements of the climate crisis, its subsequent mental health consequences, and complicated feelings about our shared future. The hope is that this helps the story resonate with listeners, and Tirado said she finds the themes "very relevant."

"And it's interesting because one of the things you were talking about was mental health and climate change," she continued. "Mental health, it's easy for people to see on a daily basis within themselves. All of us have bad mental health days, no matter where we are, whether we're seeing a therapist or we take medication. No matter what, all of us understand that concept, so that's like a micro thing that we can all understand.

"And then climate change is this insane, like macro thing that it's hard for people, because you're not going to see it on the daily, right?" Tirado said. "Maybe there'll be a day where it's like, or a year where it's like, wow our weather has changed a lot from last year, even that. It's just. That's not all of climate change."

Tirado added, "Like it's such a big picture thing that it's hard for us to see. So it takes kind of both of them, like how can this major thing that's hard for you to view affect your everyday life and making it both really real. And I think The Last City takes these concepts. Marries them together so that you see how one affects the other and then see how that could happen for us easily. And maybe it already has started to."

Good Energy, a nonprofit story consultancy for the age of climate change, was a consultant on the series. With the help of this agency, Tirado said the narrative podcast could act as a "good conversation starter to think about what side of this, this conflict, would I be, where would I stand?

"So it's I want people to ask, where would I be within the world of Pura? Within this world that we've created, not just within Pura itself. I think that's the best way to start engagement with this."

With The Last City competing for listeners' attention with countless other podcasts, Tirado emphasized that the audio drama truly offers something unique that transcends science fiction.

"I think a lot of people might do themselves an injustice if they lump Last City into a kind of a sci-fi realm because I know there's a lot of sci-fi audio narratives out there, and I want to challenge people to see how this almost actually has more elements than you realize from now. You think of an entire world displaced because of climate change, and in some ways, you can think, oh, that's sci-fi, but there's so many people around the world right now that are experiencing it, experiencing displacement and looking for political asylum. 

Tirado said, "That's a now thing. And I want people to see that, hear this story, put themselves in the story, and ask themselves, what would I do if I were in that situation? Because tomorrow's never promised, and you never know what could happen."