AMC’s new series Humans challenges the relationship between humans and technology from the perspective of a parallel present in which people rely not on each other, but on robotic “Synths.” The highly developed robotic servants are so similar to real humans, that they transform the way the characters live and question the foundation of human-to-human interaction.
The storyline of Humans is centered around the idea of artificial intelligence. In the show, Joe Hawkings (Tom Goodman-Hill), tries to maximize the little spare time he has with his family by purchasing a Synth, Anita (Gemma Chant), not knowing what kind of effect it will have on his wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson) and his kids. Though he assumes Anita’s story goes as deep as her robotic features, the audience learns that’s anything but the case, as Anita was part of a “family” of free-willed Synths that are trying to reunite after being separated. The story is complicated and characters are complex – it’s a must-see series of 2015.
Gemma Chan, who plays “Anita,” said the writers of the show are extremely dedicated, and that they “didn’t want anything overtly robotic, but they wanted something that was other than human.” She thinks that at the crux of the show, the writers are trying to explore what makes us human and are blurring the lines between humans and machines.
Chan was immediately drawn to the show upon reading the script. She admits to being a bit of a sci-fi geek, but also says it’s the characters and the relationships that truly drive the show. It was the emotional and philosophical aspects of the script that she found most interesting and most refreshing as an actor.
“I’m a huge fan of sci-fi and I know – I’m familiar with the films that we’ve had in terms that deal with AI, I think are brilliant, and I thought, what the show has is it’s actually a refreshing take on the AI genres for me,” she said.
When asked if the Synths in the show have rights, Chan gave a very straight forward answer. She said it isn’t the show’s goal to dictate how we think, or draw conclusions about how people or machines operate. Its purpose is really to open up debate and encourage conversation about the topic. She saw similarities between the show and real life that really spoke to her.
“You can see a lot of parallels between the show and between real life in terms of how we treat certain people in our society as less than human, and that was really interesting to me.”
Chan’s costar William Hurt (who notably played the artificial intelligence inventor in Steven Spielberg’s A.I.) also had plenty to say about the exciting new miniseries. He said it was the title of the show that initially had him hooked, alongside the “dislocating but interesting” plot. Hurt became interested in the idea of artificial intelligence at a very young age, when he became exposed to science fiction and started to realize that “it wasn’t anywhere near as much fiction as people were thinking.” The idea “fired his imagination” to red-hot, and led to a series of career decisions, including his participation in Humans. “I just realized what they were talking about was anything but imaginary. And so I was enthralled and always have been,” he said.
Hurt said that what interested him most about Humans was the stance from which the questions about the subject were posed and asked – the stance of our society today. He says this stance makes the show remarkably different from other projects that have tried to tackle this subject in the past, as it doesn’t take place in the future or question what it will look like. Humans introduces the future to us now.
“…So we’re watching the television, and in that television is a family, and the family, there’s a house, and in the house is a living room, and in walks the Synth. And that living room is like our living room. That kitchen is like our kitchen. Those people are like our people, like us. And they’re going to ask the questions that we would ask if that happened right now. And that’s the most vivid way to pose questions about the help, the hindrance, the invasion, the furtherance of human beings.”
When asked what he found challenging about portraying his character, Hurt replied simply and honestly. He said the role didn’t present much of a challenge at all, since he was “so furiously kind of in love with it.” He finds it much more difficult to play characters that aren’t so interesting, which he says he tends to refuse.
Hurt spoke about the issue of privacy in our society, and ended the interview with a very well-spoken, poetic statement:
“If a society is defined as security on the one hand and innovation on the other, or safety and love, love of the whole and love of the individual, I think you’re cutting off half of the horizon.”
The series premiered on Sunday, June 28th. Watch the first episode here and catch episode 2 this Sunday on AMC at 9:00 p.m.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty