HUMANS has its two-hour Season 2 finale on AMC on Monday, March 20. The drama deals with a near future in which Synths, human-looking androids, work for humans in almost every aspect of life. However, some of the Synths are self-aware, with real emotions and needs and, arguably, souls.
Gemma Chan (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, the upcoming TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT) plays Mia, a Synth who was created in England to serve as a mother figure for the half-human, half-Synth Leo (Colin Morgan). In the first season, Mia started out with her “self” turned off, but she came back to awareness while with the Hawkins family. Although Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) and Laura (Katherine Parkinson) started out as far less sympathetic to Synths than their three children, the couple has come around, risking their freedom and even their lives to help their new friends.
This season, Mia is working at a small seaside café, where she develops feelings for her boss Ed (Sam Palladio), even as she copes with her Synth friend Niska’s (Emily Berrington) plan to awaken all Synths everywhere.
Carrie-Anne Moss (THE MATRIX, JESSICA JONES) joined HUMANS in Season 2 as American Dr. Athena Morrow, who makes some questionable choices in order to study Synths more closely.
Chan and Moss sit down together to answer some questions about HUMANS and their characters.
ASSIGNMENT X: What can you tell us about your character, Dr. Athena Morrow?
CARRIE-ANNE MOSS: I play a scientist, a human being who is interested in A.I. and who is pretty smart.
AX: Can you talk about Mia’s journey this season?
GEMMA CHAN: Well, for me, what was really interesting is that, at the beginning of Season 2, it’s really the first time that Mia has had a chance to figure out who she might need and where she might fit in as well. Because she was created for a particular purpose, to look after Leo, and then she ended up with the Hawkins family against her will. And so really it’s the first time she’s getting a say in what she wants to do. And she, for better or worse, wants to put herself out there. She craves human interaction. And I see her as something of an innocent still at the beginning of Season 2. And she definitely goes on an interesting journey, because her relationship, or her interaction with human beings has been quite limited so far, and I suppose there’s a naïveté to some of the way she behaves. I think her natural instinct to look for the best in other human beings, or other Synths, is a great asset to her, but also it could be her downfall as well.
AX: HUMANS creators/producers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent have said that you nailed the audition for Mia …
CHAN: [laughs] Oh, really? That’s kind of them to say. When I first went in to audition, they gave the brief and they said, “You’re obviously playing a character that’s not human, but we don’t want anything overtly robotic, or anything you think of being robotic in a clichéd way. We don’t want any quizzical head-cocking or anything like that. Definitely don’t come in and do that – you won’t get the job. We want you to give an indication of what you might do, just to make the movement something that isn’t human.”
And so I just thought, “Well, just from first principles, these things are machines, and every movement uses up battery power, and so there’s obviously going to be more of a stillness to …” That’s what I tried initially, more of a stillness. All of us have a lot of physical tics that we don’t realize that we’re doing consciously, so one of the first things I did was to try and neutralize that, which sounds quite easy, but actually, sometimes you don’t realize you’re doing things. Apparently, I have an overactive left arm. That’s what they told me. So yes, that was my first instinct, and when I got the job, I started working – me and the other actors who play Synths in the show, we went to Synth school and we worked with a really brilliant choreographer called Dan O’Neill to hone that movement. There’s a universal language of movement through all the Synths in the show, which is also tailored to each character, depending on how old the Synth is, or what condition they’re in.
AX: Athena seems to be morally ambiguous, rather like your Hogarth character in JESSICA JONES. Is that a quality you like in your characters?
MOSS: Yeah. I love storytelling, and I love characters that are layered and complicated, real people, where you see why they do what they do, and I was lucky when I got this part [as Athena in HUMANS] that they wrote a really amazing bio for me of her. And so I got to see all the reasons why she was doing the things that she was doing. They were all these nuggets of gold that the writers gave me to have in my arsenal of information about her. Because most of the time, you have to make that up. Which I like to do, too, but I felt like they gave me a lot – probably the best bio I’ve ever gotten from anybody, actually, which I appreciated. And then, you never know, especially on episodic television, you just don’t know week to week what’s going to happen, and some of the things they wrote in the bio didn’t actually execute, and then other things did. But that information all informed me as to who she was.
HUMANS: Gemma Chan & Carrie-Anne Moss on Season 2 – interview
AX: THE MATRIX was about how technology relates to humanity and where we’re going. So does HUMANS. Does this subject matter particularly appeal to you?
MOSS: Well, I like stories about the world, where we’re at. I like stories about humanity, I like to explore my own humanity. I’ve never been attracted to sci-fi per se – people tell me, I’ll be in a genre kind of movie, it never crossed my mind THE MATRIX was a genre [film]. For me, anyway, my character, I always had this feeling, I had this rock outside my door that said “Faith,” or “Believe.” And I remember feeling that that was my chi into her, into Trinity. It was like she was the heart of it, and I intellectually did not understand what I was doing when I did that role, but I definitely felt it, and I knew it in my feeling body, and in my self. But I couldn’t have explained it to anybody. So that’s not necessarily ever my gift to explain, so much as I just feel things pretty deeply. So I just love to play characters that are layered and that I can relate to in some way, even if they’re completely different than me, but I can see a glimpse of something in humanity that I’m interested in exploring.
AX: Would you say this is a good time for women working in television?
MOSS: I think it’s an exciting time to be a woman in television. And I think it’s an exciting time in television, period. I said this last year when I was here with JESSICA JONES – it’s like what the independent film world felt like when I did MEMENTO, for instance. I didn’t read a script like that anywhere other than in the independent film world, and now it feels like that in television. Every time I hear about a new show, and I see a show that’s being created that is completely like nothing I’ve ever thought about, I just get so excited about that expansion. Because TV – I started acting when L.A. LAW was on, and I remember, it was lawyers and cops, and to imagine that it could be this diverse and that it could be this creative, that television could be this creative, I couldn’t have imagined that.
AX: What is the heart of Athena for you, and what is the heart of Mia for you?
MOSS: And I think Athena is so protective of herself because of the pain she’s experienced in her life. So she has created this world of control so that she doesn’t have to feel how she feels. At the core of it, I think, is love again, her deep love for parts of her life that didn’t turn out the way she hoped they would, that disappointment.
CHAN: The heart of Mia is love, I think. It’s the first thing she knew. Her bond with Leo, which is, she’s his sister, but she’s also a mother figure to him as well, and I think she’s searching for that, she’s always searching for love, love and acceptance.
This interview was conducted during AMC Network’s portion of the Winter 2017 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour at Pasadena’s Langham-Huntington Hotel.
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Article: HUMANS: Gemma Chan & Carrie-Anne Moss on Season 2 – interview