No need to fear the moment that artificial intelligence invades every aspect of our lives, say those involved with AMC’s Humans: It’s already here.
And within the universe of the cabler’s new drama, AI takes the form of human-like androids who make every aspect of life easier… and also may be plotting your death.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The sci-fi series from Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent (MI:5) and based on Sweden’s Real Humans is set in suburban London in the “parallel present,” where incredibly lifelike androids called “synths” are used in all facets of life.
Our introduction to the new world order comes when Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill, Mr. Selfridge) impulsively purchases a synth named Anita to help around the house, and she turns out to be a looker — played by Gemma Chan (the United Kingdom’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl) — who instantly makes Joe’s wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson, The Honourable Woman) feel judged and suspicious that the robot isn’t as benign as she seems.
Meanwhile, other storylines focus on an aging scientist (William Hurt, The Big Chill) desperate to hang on to his failing synth, a cop duo that deals with synth-related crimes and a group of rogue robots whose thoughts and feelings (!) defy their programming.
In advance of Humans‘ premiere (Sunday, 9/8c), TVLine talked with some of the cast, as well as Brackley and Vincent, about what to expect from the unsettling, eight-part series.
WHAT’S LAURA HIDING? | Very early in Episode 1, it becomes clear that Laura is keeping a rather large secret from Joe and their three kids. “Though Joe doesn’t know what’s going on, he knows something‘s going on,” Parkinson says, adding that her character is “a bit emotionally blocked” and that may or may not affect how she reacts to Chan’s character. “She’s a busy lawyer and a busy mother and wife, and feels as a lot of busy working mothers do: that they’re kind of falling short everywhere,” she says. When Anita shows up and handily makes everything tidy and smooth, Laura “doesn’t really feel she’s got a leg to stand on.” But soon, the harried mom starts to wonder if Anita has it out for her.
READING, WRITING AND ROBOTICS | Chan and the other actors who played synths “went to what we called ‘Synth School'” for a month before filming began, the actress says. A choreographer helped the group learn how to move like a machine that could almost — but not quite — pass for human. “We tried to come up with a universal language of movement for synths that we would all share, a fundamental set of rules,” she says. Another challenge came during scenes of high drama: “I wasn’t allowed to physically cry,” she says, noting that synths just don’t do that. “I often did end up in tears, but we’d have to cut… I had to find a different way to convey the emotion.”
THE FUTURE IS NOW | You won’t see a lot of sterile laboratories or sleek, space-age environments in Humans — and that’s a conscious choice, according to Goodman-Hill. “To put it in a domestic setting, to make an average suburban household have to confront that technology and live with it is just endlessly engaging,” he says.
A WIDE (CYBER)NET | The series is “a 360-degree look at a world in which these machines exist. It’s not just cops with synth partners or anything like that,” Brackley says. “It allows us to go absolutely anywhere we like.” A sampling of topics touched on and/or tackled during the series’ eight hours: industrial labor, sex workers, what happens when children form attachment to synths and how government-issued synths create what one character calls a “nanny state.”
GRANDFATHERED IN | Hurt’s character, Dr. George Millican, was involved in synth creation but has since retired, choosing instead to hole up in his home with his devoted — though soon-to-be-defunct — synth, Odi. George is “loving something mortal” — his dead wife, Mary, of whom Odi has many memories — “through something immortal,” the Oscar winner says. Though Odi has sentimental value to George, Hurt hints that we’ll eventually learn there’s another reason the aging scientist doesn’t want his artificial pal scrapped.
BLUE BLOODS | When the synths leak fluid, it’s blue, but that wasn’t always the case. “Originally, we wanted it to be beige, a dark cream color, because we wanted it to be digusting,” Vincent says with a laugh. “We felt a color like that would be the most unsettling, because it would feel organic but would be wrong.” Eventually, production settled on the sky hue — like the original Swedish show used — because beige just didn’t film well. “Visually,” he adds, “it was very hard to make that color work.”