When and Where Does Physical Take Place?

Apple TV+’s dark comedy series, ‘Physical,’ follows Sheila, a housewife who is fed up with being stuck in the same life and same cycle day after day. Living in the shadow of a husband was is a has-been and has no originality or vigor left in him makes Sheila miserable. Her eating disorder and the malicious voice inside her head don’t make it any better. And then, she stumbles upon aerobics.

Sheila’s life takes a turn for the better when she starts doing aerobics. She pursues it as a career by teaching it and soon turns it into a lucrative business. Still, there are many hurdles in her path, and the time she lives in adds another layer of complexity to how things are done. If you want to know more about the show’s setting and how it plays into the story, here is everything you need to know. SPOILERS AHEAD

Physical Begins in 1981 and Ends in 1986

Sheila’s story in ‘Physical’ begins in 1981 and unfolds over the span of five years, ending in 1986. The first scene of the series opens in ’86 and then takes the audience back in time to tell Sheila’s story from the beginning. The five-year timeline shows how quickly things change for Sheila, personally and professionally. Within months of joining an aerobics class, Sheila goes from being utterly broke to standing on the verge of creating a fitness empire.

Creator Annie Weisman always had the 80s setting in mind with regard to the story. She grew up during this time in Southern California and wanted to explore that time period, especially in reference to the many changes that were happening around the turn of the decade. “When the 70s were turning into the 80s, it was a big part of my childhood. I wanted to do that through the lens of this character that was struggling with this really private eating disorder that she wasn’t communicating to everyone around her,” Weisman said.

The writing team researched everything from the fitness videos to the politics and the time’s vocabulary to make the show era-accurate. Weisman also brought a personal touch to the story by giving the Rubins some traits of her parents, who had been a part of the counterculture of the 60s. “I grew up in the shadow of the sixties when Ronald Reagan was the Governor of California. Then he became President during the eighties. The era of Physical represented my childhood. Something optimistic, peaceful, and idealistic,” she said.

Weisman also noted that the eighties made it a great time to explore Sheila’s story, specifically the conflict in her marriage, because the meaning of marriage started to change during this time. “Marriage became less of a given, especially when people married young, and they could now explore options for a better life,” the show’s creator added.

Physical Take Place in San Diego

‘Physical’ takes place in San Diego, specifically around Del Mar. The reason behind this setting was an informed choice made by Weisman. She explained: “Del mar is a surf community which is constantly changing… the sea is shifting, and moving (an apt metaphor for the culture). A turbulent ocean represents our war with nature. “Some people want to build malls and condos, while others want to keep the coastline pristine. The ocean is a source of conflict.”

With ‘Physical’ focusing on darker aspects of Sheila’s life, Weisman wanted her surrounding to reflect it too. She wanted to strip away the shallow, romanticized idea attached to Californian beach life in Hollywood and focus on its complexity. She connected Sheila’s story with her husband’s political career, who finds a cause in the Save the Wave movement to bring some meaning to his life while she goes off to create a new world for herself.

Read More: Did Rose Byrne Lose Weight for Physical?