In AMC’s HUMANS, now in its second season on Monday nights, things are changing for both the individual characters and the world at large. At a time when humanity has embraced Synthetics, human-appearing but computerized androids, as cheap labor and household help, some Synthetics have been designed as fully conscious, emotional beings. One of these, Niska (Emily Berrington), had gotten hold of the code that can make any Synth conscious at the end of Season 1, and in Season 2, she’s started to use it.
Niska also shows up on the doorstep of the Hawkins family. Niska and her fellow conscious Synths had sheltered with the Hawkins clan in Season 1. Now Niska wants lawyer Laura Hawkins (Katherine Parkinson) to represent her in court, with the concept that Niska should have full human rights.
This is one of several problems for Laura’s husband Joe Hawkins, played by Tom Goodman-Hill. Not only is Joe worried about fallout from this, but he’s just been fired from his job (his bosses feel that a non-conscious Synthetic can do Joe’s job just as well). Then there’s the situation between Joe and Laura. Laura is still furious that Joe had sex with the Synthetic Mia (Gemma Chan), back when he didn’t know Mia was conscious.
Mia, meanwhile, is pretending to be an ordinary Synth while working at a failing seaside café with its owner, Sam Palladio’s newly-introduced character Ed Hooley.
Palladio, a native of Kent, England, shot Season 2 of HUMANS while on hiatus from playing American songwriter Gunnar Scott in NASHVILLE, which has moved from ABC to CMT for its fifth season. He has also had a recurring role on EPISODES. Goodman-Hill, from Middlesex, England, has been a regular on MR. SELFRIDGE and has film credits that include EVEREST and THE IMITATION GAME.
Goodman-Hill also appeared on the long-running British espionage drama MI-5, which had HUMANS creators Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent as its show runners for a time.
ASSIGNMENT X: Did you cross paths with Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent when you were on MI-5?
TOM GOODMAN-HILL: No, because I did the very first season, before Jon and Sam were picked up. But it’s a good touchstone, MI-5, it’s a great show, and it’s one that a lot of great writers have written on.
AX: Did you play a spy – that is, did you play someone who is pretending to be someone they were not?
GOODMAN-HILL: Well, I played a journalist who is pretending to be a very right-wing politician.
AX: Was that any kind of good practice for dealing in the world of HUMANS, where a lot of people are pretending to be human, and some people are pretending to be Synthetic?
GOODMAN-HILL: I don’t know how it impacts that. The thing about Joe is that he fails to pretend at all [laughs]. He’s so completely straightforward, he finds it very hard to be deceptive in any way at all. He gets found out the moment he does. So he’s the opposite of that, I think. And that’s the point. He’s the normal center from which everybody else kind of deviates.
AX: Can you say if you’re playing a biological human or a Synthetic?
SAM PALLADIO: I am indeed a biological, which I’m very happy about. But I am fascinated by [movement director] Dan O’Neill and his incredible Synth school that the actors that play the Synths go through. So maybe if there’s a life for Ed in Season 3, I would dream that he would meet an end and come back as a Synthetic. But no, very happily, I play Ed Hooley, who’s a young human, struggling with life’s many trials and tribulations, financially and emotionally, with ill parents, just a young guy trying to make ends meet and needing a little help from a beautiful Synthetic, played by Gemma Chan [laughs].
Ed runs a seaside café, so we get a nice coastal environment for Ed and “Anita” [the name Mia uses when pretending to be a non-conscious Synthetic] at the beginning of Season 2. He’s running the family business, trying to keep it afloat, and really struggling and needing help, and that comes from Anita, who he hires as help in the café, in the restaurant, which is interesting for him, because he hasn’t really had much interaction with Synthetics, so he treats her with a lot of humanity. He treats her in ways that most of the outside world, and humans, don’t, apart from the lovely Hawkins family, who have sympathies as well. But as the story develops, you get Ed and Anita, who reveals herself eventually to be Mia, and sentient. They have a very unique storyline.
AX: In NASHVILLE, you play an American Southerner. Is it a relief to get to use your normal speaking voice in this role?
PALLADIO: It’s brilliant, yeah. It’s the first time I’ve ever used it in anything with this sort of profile, and I was telling Tom, one of my favorite Tweets from when the show was airing in the U.K. recently was, “Oh, my God, Sam Palladio’s English accent is terrible.”
[Both Palladio and Goodman-Hill laugh.]
PALLADIO: I thought that was a really interesting backhand compliment, them thinking I was American because of my wonderful [laughs] portrayal in NASHVILLE.
AX: Have you made the leap to CMT with NASHVILLE?
PALLADIO: We have now, yes.
AX: How did they accommodate your shooting schedule for HUMANS?
PALLADIO: It was beautiful. HUMANS actually shot basically on my summer holiday, so we shoot twenty-two episodes of NASHVILLE for ten months, and then have a break where I did some auditioning for the part toward the end of Season 4 of NASHVILLE, and was lucky enough to win the role, and hopped back home for the summer and played with some robots, and jumped back to NASHVILLE.
AX: Do your characters intersect in HUMANS?
PALLADIO: No, unfortunately.
GOODMAN-HILL: But we were saying, they’re kind of flip sides of the same coin, so it wouldn’t really work, I think. Joe’s interaction with Anita is very much as a machine, and he can’t cope with her emotionally. When Ed deals with Anita, he wants to deal with her emotionally and is sort of surprised at the outcome of that, so they’re opposite sides of the same coin.
AX: When Joe had sex with Mia/Anita, did he on a conscious level think of her at all as a woman, or did he really see her as just a human-looking machine?
GOODMAN-HILL: No, I think the point with Joe in Season 1 is that he only sees Anita as a machine. When he becomes aware that she’s sentient, he can’t cope with that. He doesn’t really want to think about these machines being sentient. He doesn’t have a problem with it, he just doesn’t want to have to deal with it personally. And he thinks that it doesn’t impact well on his children, and on his marriage, and on his life. So he doesn’t really know, going into it eyes wide shut, the impact that one moment of madness is going to have on his life. And so he’s spending the rest of the time trying furiously to scrabble back his normal life.
AX: And would you say the character of Ed is pretty open and non-deceptive?
PALLADIO: Yeah. I mean, the relationship develops initially with Anita, and she reveals herself to be conscious, and at that point, he has been with her for months on end, working and confiding in her, and sharing secrets. I think initially he feels like his confidence has been betrayed by this machine. He has been developing feelings and trying to sort of push them down and dismiss them as insanity, but he’s a compassionate, caring guy, and the relationship is sort of solidified, for awhile at least, and he’s struggling to comprehend what he’s doing, but I think there is a human emotion from him being projected onto her. He has feelings – he may love her, and then circumstances change.
AX: What would you both most like people to know about Season 2 of HUMANS?
PALLADIO: Put your phone down. Meet people in real time and space. That’s the main thing [laughs].
GOODMAN-HILL: If they loved Season 1 of HUMANS, Season 2 really just blows open the world. It’s thrilling and it’s exciting. You get to see some very different sides of the domestic drama that we saw in the first season, and it’s just a very exciting place to be.
This interview was conducted during AMC’s portion of the Winter 2017 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour at Pasadena’s Langham-Huntington Hotel.
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Article: HUMANS: Actors Sam Palladio & Tom Goodman-Hill – exclusive interview