Viewers are just days away from the season premiere of Humans on AMC. In an exclusive interview with MStars News, actress Gemma Chan (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) discusses playing the robotic caretaker, Anita, and her must-see dramatic scenes with Katherine Parkinson (IT Crowd).
Before the season premiere airs on AMC, June 28, Humans is an eight-part sci-fi drama series. In a parallel but futuristic present, the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a so-called “Synth.” These Synths are a highly-developed robotic servant eerily similar to its live counterpart. After the unending strain of living together, a suburban family purchases a refurbished synth, Anita (Chan), only for the maternal figure, Laura (Parkinson), to discover that owning the machine has chilling consequences.
MStars participated in conference event speaking with Chan as she dished on the highly anticipated season premiere, the turbulent relationship between Laura and Anita, and actually “freaking out” her co-stars with her robotic stillness.
MStars: Was there a difference between working with the children and your adult co-stars?
To be honest, the actors who play the children, the Hawkins children, are phenomenal and for me, it was no different. They were as equally as brilliant as the adult actors in the show and it was an absolute pleasure to work with them.
Each of them were brilliant and Pixie Davies, who plays Sophie, she only turned eight years old as we were shooting. She was just amazing! Like she could also do an incredible version of a Synth!
She would mimic me, kind of went between page just for fun and she was like unbelievable, like freaking out all of us! But yes, they were brilliant! Certainly didn’t require any extra patience for me because they honestly, they just had it straight away and they got it. They’re really clever and brilliant!
On what drew her to the role:
I read the first three episodes before I signed on. I didn’t know exactly what Anita’s journey would be. I discovered that as we went on and as I got the new scripts, I was constantly asking the writers questions as well because the world of the show is so specific. I wanted as much information as possible as an actor. I didn’t do anything that was kind of, you know, not quite right.
On her Synth training and hiding her emotions in order to be a robot:
Anita was, you know, a really challenging. She’s a unique challenge for me really. There was the whole physical aspect of the role. About a month before we started shooting, those of us in the cast who were playing Synths, did some workshops with an amazing choreographer, Dan O’Neil. We tried to come up with a universal set of rules for the movement of Synths in the show.
And our writers and our directors didn’t want anything overtly robotic, but they wanted something that was other than human. It all boiled down to the fact that the Synths are ultimately machines. Every movement requires energy and essentially uses up battery power, so every move has to be economical. There’d have to be a reason why every move is the way it is. Starting from scratch, you’re learning how to walk again,how to stand up, and sit down and all of the basics.
On discussing the show’s central theme, ‘What makes us ‘human?’
I think at the crux of the show, it really wants to explore what makes us human and really everything comes from that. It explores the blurring of the line between humans and machines. It really wants to explore the human condition and yet it uses the framework of the show and the AI in the show. It really uses that to explore those themes, yes.
On playing a Synth and watching her cast-mates play Synths:
They told me they were freaked out, so yes. And when I would watch other actors play Synths, I would watch them on the monitor, you know, they would…I would be freaked out by their performances.
On Anita’s relationship with Laura:
I would say that Anita’s relationship with Laura definitely changes and evolves over the course of the show. As indeed her relationship with every individual family member evolves over the show, Anita will be changed by her time with the Hawkins family. She won’t be the same and they won’t be the same at the end of it is as well. They will be very affected by Anita’s presence in the house too; it’s kind of a two-way thing.
And I love that, I love the fact that Anita – but certainly when she’s first introduced to the house, she kind of acts like a mirror to the rest of the family and depending on each of their individual prejudices and needs and wants, she holds up a mirror to that and so each family member has a different reaction to her and vice versa.
I would say there’s definitely a theme that emerges. You know, what is motherhood and as you say, an episode – end of episode 1 as you know, what is love? Is love something that can be taught and you know, or are we in some way programmed to love our children? You know, these are all questions to which there are no obvious answers and I think the show definitely explores that.
On Anita’s relationship with the children:
The whole time that she’s with the Hawkins family she is watching and absorbing, I mean the question is on to what level is she. Is this having an effect on her? In terms of her relationship with Sophie, she has an immediate bond with her. Sophie is the family member that immediately takes bonds with Anita and takes her to heart, loves her. She’s affected by that and it’s tricky because I can’t without revealing too much about the genesis of Anita; her back story is complicated.
The season premiere of Humans airs on AMC June 28 at 9pm.