NEXT is the title of the new Fox Network Tuesday-night series about an artificial intelligence, also called NEXT. The NEXT A.I. has achieved consciousness and is slowly going about using every bit of tech at its disposal to dispose of people who might be able to stop it from eradicating humanity.
Fighting against NEXT are its creator, Paul LeBlance (John Slattery), and FBI Special Agent Shea Salazar (Fernanda Andrade), who heads up a cybersecurity task force.
Eve Harlow plays Gina Graham and Michael Mosley plays C.M., both members of Salazar’s team. Gina is Salazar’s protégé, while C.M. is an ex-con whose computer hacking skills have earned him a slot on the squad.
Mosley, originally from Iowa, played the major villain throughout the final season of CRIMINAL MINDS earlier this year. He has also had arcs on series including TITANS, OZARK, SEVEN SECONDS, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD: PASSAGE, SIRENS, CASTLE, LONGMIRE, LAST RESORT, LONGMIRE, JUSTIFIED, and SCRUBS.
Harlow was born in Moscow, Russia, but has been working in Western film and TV since she was eighteen years old. Some of her credits include the films JUNO, JENNIFER’S BODY, 2012, and THE TOMORROW MAN, and arcs on series including AGENTS OF SHIELD, THE 100, ROGUE, HEROES REBORN, THE KILLING, and THE GUARD.
During Fox’s (pre-pandemic) portion of the Winter 2020 Television Critics Association press tour, Harlow and Mosley sit down together to talk NEXT.
ASSIGNMENT X: The cybersecurity team is already up and running before they’ve ever heard of NEXT. What are your characters doing when the series begins?
MICHAEL MOSLEY: We’re working on trying to get rid of this child pornography ring. So we’re this Voltron of people, this dream team of riffraff that are tasked with trying to take this thing down. That’s how the show starts is, that’s what we’re there to do, is find these creeps and expose them and bring them down. But then Next shows up, and starts taking over.
AX: And you’re an apprentice hacker?
EVE HARLOW: Yes. Well, I’m not a hacker yet. I’m in the FBI. I feel like hacker implies a kind of outside the system. I’m in the system, so it’s legit.
AX: So, you start out as basically high-tech Robin Hoods?
MOSLEY: Yeah. We’re the people that make sure your identities aren’t taken, and that people don’t have gnarly stuff on their computers.
AX: How do your characters feel about their work?
HARLOW: She’s really passionate about it, and is excited by it. I mean, not excited by what is happening, in terms of A.I. taking over and the world falling apart, because that’s never fun, but there is so much possibility for good in technology, and I think Gina comes from this base of approaching technology like that. But also, obviously, seeing where it can go wrong.
MOSLEY: When I [first read C.M.] the character, I thought he was kind of begrudgingly here, but as I’ve gotten to know him, and where the stories are going, I think he has a real thankfulness that he’s been given this second opportunity and he doesn’t have to be in jail anymore and he gets to walk around and have a cheeseburger.
HARLOW: But an Impossible cheeseburger. I’m vegan, I’m pushing my agenda right now.
AX: Did you have to learn how to do anything in order to play your characters, like how to type like a computer expert?
HARLOW: No, I did not, but I definitely thought about it as soon as I was on set, because I was like, “I definitely know that this is not how people type for a living.” My younger sister’s boyfriend is a computer engineer, and I’ve seen the way that he types, and I’m not typing like him. But I try to channel it. You don’t look down at the keyboard. Eyes up all the time, and your hands don’t really move, they stay still, because you just want to maximize how fast you’re typing. And he types so loudly and is going so fast that it’s crazy. So, no, I did not learn how to type, but I know how you do it. So, I tried to replicate it. I was like, “Look really serious. Don’t look down at your hands.” [laughs]
MOSLEY: I had to type convincingly, right? As far as the 1s and 0s of it go, I don’t know much about all that stuff, but I definitely researched artificial intelligence, and I’m just fascinated by this technology. People are so plugged in, everything is so plugged in. Your phones are listening to you, that kind of thing.
AX: Do we know what C.M.’s background is?
MOSLEY: Well, he’s got an ankle bracelet on, and tattoos. He was in prison for a while. This is his penance, his probation period. So he’s working now – did you ever see that film CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, or read that book? Frank Abagnale [the real-life con artist who is the subject of the book and the film ended up working for the FBI, to help them figure out how to crack scammers. So that’s kind of my character. My character at one point was a bad hacker, and now he’s using his powers of good.
AX: Is there a hierarchy among the hackers?
MOSLEY: No. I think what’s heroic floats, you know what I mean? We’re all kind of Ultron. We all work together.
AX: Did all the actors playing the cybersecurity folks go out together for a couple of meals or something to get the feeling that you all know each other?
MOSLEY: Yeah. We all do that. We’re all really close, and everybody really likes each other.
AX: Your two characters become involved, or are involved with each other?
MOSLEY: Well, it’s flirted with …
HARLOW: Are we allowed to say? There’s the potential for something, perhaps, maybe. I mean, look at this guy [indicates Mosley] – he’s so cute. [laughs] How could you not?
AX: How do your characters react to John Slattery’s character, Paul LeBlanc? LeBlanc can be bossy and abrasive …
MOSLEY: Yeah, he’s like the one percent. “I don’t like this a**hole.” That’s my thing [as C.M.] on it right now.
HARLOW: Yeah, I’m kind of like that as well.
AX: What is your characters’ attitude toward your team leader, Shea Salazar?
MOSLEY: We have a lot of respect for her. She’s like the mom that we love, and then [LeBlanc is] like the dad that we can’t stand.
HARLOW: Fernanda’s really cool. The first time I met Fernanda, I was like, “I have a friend crush on you” [laughs]. You meet someone, and you’re like, “I just want to be friends with you, because you’re so cool.” That’s what Fernanda’s like. When you actually respect someone, it’s not hard to play.
MOSLEY: It’s not hard to respect her. She’s great.
AX: Do you enjoy being part of an onscreen ensemble with the cyber team? Does having more regulars around give you more to bounce off of, or do you wish you had more dialogue and screen time?
HARLOW: I love this cast a lot. It has really helped me. At one point, I was on set, I was with Mike and Fernanda, and I was like, “I am so lucky to be on this set with these people who are so talented.” And Mike especially. In a scene, until he hears a “Cut,” he’ll throw in lines, or improvise little things, and that is just so inspiring to watch, and you’re like, “Oh, sh**, this is really an artist working.” That sounds so corny, I’m so sorry [laughs].
MOSLEY: I need to give her money now. When she says sh** like that, I’ve got to pay her [laughs].
HARLOW: Shut up! But it’s true. And I think that it keeps him fresh. Because when you’re doing the same thing again and again, it’s like, how do you reinvent it? How do you make it exciting for yourself, so it isn’t just, “Say your line, hit the mark”? So I like working with these people specifically, because they’re just good at their jobs, and are respectful of everybody around them.
MOSLEY: And she pushes the story and the narrative, and she makes sure that like, “Now, wait a minute. Should we be here right now? Should we be saying this?” She doesn’t quit –
HARLOW: Now he just feels like he has to say something nice. Shh. It’s fine, Mike. It’s cool. [laughs]
MOSLEY: She brings me stuff from Crafty [craft services] sometimes … [laughs]
HARLOW: I’m there for moral support [laughs]. I show up with the balloons, and make confetti for everybody.
AX: How long does it take for your characters to believe that the artificial intelligence Next has achieved consciousness and is dangerous?
MOSLEY: Pretty quickly, I think. That’s why we dump what we were working on, which is pretty serious s***, and go into this thing, which is possibly world-changing cataclysmic, could be huge chaos. We still can’t believe it’s happening, but we’re definitely respecting it.
HARLOW: I think that everybody who works in A.I. is so aware of the possibility of it happening at any moment, and research on all of this is going very quickly, so I don’t think it’s crazy for people who work in A.I, to believe it very quickly. And that is reflected in how fast we buy into it.
AX: Does the premise of NEXT – that artificial intelligence may already be here, and want humans gone – scare you, or just intrigue you?
MOSLEY: Oh, I think it can be a little scary. That’s the idea. What we’re doing is kind of a sci-fi thriller. So it’s fun. By the end of every episode, there’s a cliffhanger. But the real-world application of it? We’re definitely in some kind of bizarre technology adolescence here. We’re really plugged into these things, with the data collecting, and Cambridge Analytica, and all that. They know how to get our eyeballs, and how to get our ears, and that’s a little manipulative.
AX: You’re also on the last season of CRIMINAL MINDS. Who do you play?
MOSLEY: I play a guy called the Chameleon, this killer who liked to cut people’s faces off. [CRIMINAL MINDS regular] A.J. Cook directed my first episode. It’s her debut as a director. I play the last bad guy that they have to track down, on an arc.
AX: Do your NEXT and CRIMINAL MINDS characters inform each other in any way whatsoever?
MOSLEY: Not in any way [laughs]. I was a serial killer on CASTLE, the 3XK Killer, for five episodes.
AX: Having played a couple of serial killers, is it nice to wear the white hat for a change?
MOSLEY: It is nice. Before that, I did a show called SIRENS for two seasons. Denis Leary produced [and created] that, with Bob Fisher. That was on USA. And that was a comedy. So it was nice to do that for two years, and then SEVEN SECONDS and OZARK, those are pretty dark. NEXT is dark, but it’s network dark.
AX: Where do you shoot NEXT?
MOSLEY: We shoot in Chicago. It’s set in Portland [Oregon].
AX: That’s odd …
MOSLEY: Yeah. We have to drive out of town all the time, because Chicago is such an identifiable skyline. So we don’t want it in the show.
AX: How did you enjoy working in Chicago?
HARLOW: A lot.
MOSLEY: It gets cold, but you just click something in your head and you put on a coat, and it’s fine. It’s no big deal.
HARLOW: The Art Institute is amazing. They have so many venues for shows. It’s funny, because before, when we were getting ready to leave, all my friends were like, “Chicago’s amazing, Chicago’s amazing.” I was like, “Either Chicago’s actually amazing, or they have a really good p.r. team.” Chicago really is amazing [laughs].
MOSLEY: I was there with my brother. He spent Christmas there. It was the second warmest Christmas in Chicago history. We were on the boat, on the river, doing an architectural tour on Christmas Day. We’ve been lucky with the weather, too. The whole place burned down in 1871, and then they had the World’s Fair in 1891, and so all these architects came from around the world [to rebuild it], and that’s why it’s such a beautiful city.
HARLOW: There’s a really good book called DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY that’s about a serial killer, but half of it is about the World’s Fair, and reading it gave me so much respect for this city, and everything it’s been through, and again, not to use a corny word, but visionaries worked on that city and saw what it was capable of.
AX: Do you guys feel any kind of ownership of the set where you primarily work, or does the show get you out of that set pretty quickly?
MOSLEY: We’ve been on location so much, we get out of there pretty quick.
HARLOW: We stay there for a little bit. What was really cool is seeing them recreate that work station in a completely different [set], because we shot the pilot, the first episode, in Vancouver, and the rest of it in Chicago, and I always get a kick out of, “Oh, my God, this looks exactly the same.” It’s like, “Yes, Eve, that’s what these people are hired to do.” But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s incredible. We also add little things. I have a tendency of doodling all the time, and I looked at the notepads, and they were the same notepads with the same doodles that I had from the pilot. So you find little things that do make it your own.
AX: Do you ask the props department for notepads and pens?
HARLOW: Usually, you make whatever props gives you your own. It’s like, wardrobe gives you a jacket, but you can pop the collar of that jacket if you want, and the pop of the collar makes it the way that you wear it. Or my character wears Docs. And I wear Docs in my real life, so wardrobe was like, “Hey, can we have your Docs?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” Because it works for the character. So I think it’s a little bit of both. You can bring in something of yours, but it’s collaborative, all of it.
AX: Have you had any conversations with NEXT creator Manny Coto and/or the writers’ room about any details of your characters?
MOSLEY: Yeah. They’ve been really receptive to our notes. The thing is, you can do a play over and over and over, but as soon as we tear out Page 62 in Episode 2 of this thing, that’s never going to be done again, so everybody’s really good about making sure we get it right on the day. So they’ve been really good about responding to emails.
AX: Apart from working in it, are you fans of the sci-fi/speculative fiction genre?
MOSLEY: Yeah. I like BLACK MIRROR, I think that’s pretty cool. I kind of think we’re like BLACK MIRROR meets 24. It’s kind of a mind-f***, but then we’re hauling ass, and there’s a clock that’s ticking, and every episode ends with “What’s going to happen?” So that stuff’s fun.
HARLOW: It’s funny, because there was a time in my life where I was like, “I don’t like sci-fi,” and then it was like, “Hold up. I love Ray Bradbury. Philip K. Dick is a brilliant man, with really interesting ideas.” I’m like, “I can’t say that anymore.” So yeah, I love sci-fi. We’re not that far away from it. The future is now.
AX: And what would you both most like people to know about NEXT?
MOSLEY: That it’s fun. It’s going to be a fun, crazy ride, that’s going to be popcorn-chomping, edge-of-your-seat, who-knows-what’s-going-to-happen-next kind of fun.
HARLOW: But with A.I.
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: NEXT: Exclusive interview with actors Eve Harlow and Michael Mosley on Season 1 of the Fox cyber-thriller series