Colin Morgan & Gemma Chan – Humans at New York Comic Con 2016
The cast of AMC’s Humans made their first US convention appearance at New York Comic Con last weekend.
Humans cast members Colin Morgan, Gemma Chan, Tom Goodman-Hill, and Sam Palladio were on hand to preview the new season – which starts October 30th in the UK but doesn’t come stateside until 2017. Executive producers Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley were also in attendance. They brought the season 2 trailer with them (which I sadly can’t find a working link to)…and, for fear of spoilers, very little information.
I was fortunate enough to be in the press room for Humans and got to talk to the cast and crew. Interviews with Sam Palladio, Tom Goodman-Hill, Sam Vincent, and Jonathan Brackley are still to come, but for now, please enjoy the transcript from our roundtable interview with stars Colin Morgan and Gemma Chan!
Q: Let’s talk a little bit about what happened at the end of Season 1 and where you think that’s going to lead your characters in Season 2?
COLIN MORGAN: Well, we left off with, I guess, quite a significant cliffhanger in the fact that Niska was holding a key, or a weapon, or a whatever it could be to change the course of the future… She had the key to consciousness. And the power that she wields I guess is something that has been untested. It’s uncertain. It’s unknown, and so if she chooses to use it… If every single synth in the world would become conscious. That’s the idea they’re playing with in Season 2…that these things that have made their way into people’s lives, that are in their homes, that are looking after their children, that are cooking their meals…could maybe have decisions for themselves now. That brings up loads; that brings up what that does for the characters you’ve known and met in Season 1 and what that does to all their relationships. Also, vaguely, the new people and the new developments and the new characters, which there are loads of in Season 2 as well.
GEMMA CHAN: Some brilliant new characters.
COLIN: That’s only brushing the surface of what Season 2 is because it is quite massive. That’s my pennyworth.
GEMMA: Yeah for me, Season 2 is for my character… I think for the first time, she is trying to figure out what her place is in the world. She’s trying to assert herself, which I don’t think she’s ever really had the chance to do before in her life. With the Elsters, she had to care for Leo and then she ended up with the Hawkins family against her will. So this is really the first time she has had the opportunity to explore the world. There are positives and negatives to that. I still feel that Mia, as a character, is quite innocent and quite naive. She’s had limited dealing with humans in the outside world. She puts herself out there, and it doesn’t necessary go how she hoped… I would say broadly I feel that the show explores…morality. How do we do learn right from wrong? How can you give ethics of morality to a machine? Or a newly conscious machine? How do the experiences…the very first experiences that that AI or that machine has shape the way it views the world and how it is going to treat others? I think it definitely goes darker and deeper along those lines in the show for me.
Q: Do you think Mia would want to stay with her synth family? Or do you think that she would want to be more free?
GEMMA: I think she would love to keep her family together. You know what, that is actually a really good question because that is a struggle that she has to face up to. She’d love for them all to stay together, but she also feels like she wants to be free. She wants to do her own thing. It does become a conflict. If I’m allowed to say that.
GEMMA: Specifically between our characters-
COLIN: Between us, yes.
GEMMA: We have different objectives now. Although we love each other, I think there’s friction. There’s conflict.
COLIN: ‘Cause I think one of the big things that the synth family – they are actually technology that’s physically developed to be conscious. And that when consciousness could happen for the others, they were not designed for that. That’s a program kind of working in a machine that was not built to deal with that kind of level of input –
GEMMA: And to be suddenly thrust into the world. Thrust into the world instantly…I suppose for Elsters it would be a gradual awakening. And growing up within a family where there is structure. Whereas if you have a synth that is newly awoken…like you say, that overload of sensory –
COLIN: It’s a baby, essentially. Like a child.
GEMMA: But a super strong one. (laughs)
COLIN: If it throws a tantrum, you better run. (laughs) That’s a really interesting question because it…is very complicated. What it does when you are moving into the world and you’re discovering people, relationships, things and have a really good understanding of what it is. So it’s tough. I think it is a really interesting point. That’s a real theme, I think, moving through the second season.
Q: Do we still get to see the synth family with the Hawkins family? Are they still intertwined or are they on separate paths?
COLIN: I mean, I think it’s okay to say. I think they’re pretty much separate. I think it’s not –
GEMMA: At least in the beginning. Everyone is trying to move on with their lives, including the Hawkins family. They’ve moved to a new house. Toby’s starting a new school with all the challenges that that brings. Mattie’s started university. Everyone is trying to get on with their lives but of course…the story…I don’t think I can say. It’s not the last that the synths, that the Elsters and the Hawkins, have seen of each other.
Q: Do you think that there’s any hope for a peace offering in exchange for the code?
COLIN: I think it’s too late for peace offerings actually. When it gets into it. Things have kind of gone beyond that both in the logistical term and the emotional term. I think, like we said, with the family…they are all going their own ways, and actually forging their own path, as it were. You have to remember that when the synth family lived together with Leo to look after, they were confined in their own space. They were just living in their world. It’s like, have you seen the film Dogtooth? No? (laughs) Have you seen it? No, no one has seen it. It’s about a family that are all growing up in a really confined compound. The father is this demonic kind of man who has just taught them his own way of life. To them this is a giraffe (points at cup), that’s what you call a giraffe. Of course, if you didn’t know any different that’s what it would be and so…It’s coming into the world and discovering actually, that you can be all the things you never knew you could be. The possibilities are endless. That’s what everyone is trying to do. I think for Leo personally it’s a bit upsetting to see that all his family are doing that ‘cause, you know, they were designed to look after him in a way
GEMMA: Kind of selfish, though.
COLIN: That’s true.
GEMMA: I mean… Just used to having us all around…
COLIN: But again, if you’ve never known any other way. You know? It’s the same thing, I’m not defending it… but he is selfish.
Q: Is there a new character, or actor/actress that you worked with this season that you didn’t really pair up with last season? Or a new character – that you can tell us about – that you found interesting in that pairing that will add more to your character?
COLIN: One for me is Sonya Cassidy, who plays Hester. She plays a synth who has worked in a manual labor factory where a lot of abuse has happened to all the synths, as it does. They’re machinery that just got…you know, that stuff. But obviously for a synth that’s going to be now starting to become a bit more self-aware, there’s a lot of issues there. Leo has a lot of…he’s got a lot of connections with her, shall I say, that develop over the entire series. As inevitably he doesn’t get to spend a lot of time with his family. He has to make his own, and she is kind of one of the first.
GEMMA: Mia…I would say she probably feels the strongest new bond with Sam Palladio’s character, Ed. Ed is running a diner that’s failing, a failing business in a run down seaside town. She has started working there. But she is using the Anita persona to be able to pass herself off as a normal regular synth, but she is not revealing her true nature, because it wouldn’t be safe to. But… A bond forms between them. I think Mia gets to see a side of Ed that most people don’t get to see because he is someone who has a lot of weight on his shoulders. His mother is unwell, and his father has passed away. He’s got a lot of responsibility. She gets to see him when he’s turned the sign over at the end of the day and said goodbye to the last customer and she sees all the pressures that are on him. And because he doesn’t know she is a conscious synth, he is completely himself. So yes, there is a bond. There is a rapport between them, and then things elevate from there.
Q: We never find out where you took Sophie at the end of episode one. Correct?
GEMMA: Not explicitly, no. (laughs)
Q: Will we ever find out where you took Sophie?
GEMMA: I just took her for a nice walk. A nice walk in the rain. In the middle of the night.
Q: As you do.
GEMMA: As you do.
Q: I think it’s a generic question that gets asked to you so many times. But this time, I actually am curious. What is the most difficult thing filming this show for you? Are they like, No, too human? What happens on set? What do they say to you?
GEMMA: Well for me, I suppose a lot of the physical challenges come with doing emotional scenes but not being able to do all the things you normally do as an actor in an emotional scene. You can’t breathe too much. You can’t blink too much. If I cry, we have to cut; if my nose starts running – which it often does when it’s cold outside – then we have to cut. So all of those things, I find it hard to, all the challenges to be able to still emote what you need to emote in the scene in a truthful way but without doing all of those messy human things.
COLIN: For me it’s having to deal with all of that. (laughs) ‘Ugh, again.’ To be fair, I often am on set thinking thank God I don’t have to do what they have to do because it’s incredibly hard to have to shut yourself off from all your little idiosyncratic movements or from emotion. You know, ‘cause you do give emotional performances as well; she’s incredibly rich in that, but instead of…I’m just I’m glad I don’t have to do it. (laughs). For me, I guess it’s, for Leo, this season is probably an opening up of this area (points to chest) for him, you know, his sort of chest cavity. He is getting the chance to, I suppose, feel things he has never felt before. Not that it was difficult, but it was exciting to go there for him.
Q: So does that mean he is opening up to humans, or does he still see them as not to be trusted?
COLIN: He has been burned badly by them. He really was very, very headstrong about that fact in Season 1. I feel that he’s been… I feel that he’s found a way now. I think the problem is when you don’t know how to deal with the problem you tend to become quite hostile and sort of block out the thing that is perceived as the enemy. And you go, ‘Why would I look for an answer there when humanity’s failed me so much?’ But I think now he knows how he can [get] what he wants. Humans don’t factor in the spectrum for him.
Q: If synths were real would you guys own one?
COLIN: Would you?
GEMMA: You’d have to try it, right?
COLIN: (laughs) I can come ‘round to yours. ‘What are these things like?’ No, I don’t think would, I’m too independent I think.
GEMMA: I quite like the idea of having an… An unconscious synth I’d quite like to have. You are still kind of on your own except you have someone to help around the house with ironing and clean up your mess.
COLIN: Take for walks in the middle of the night. And cry. That’s a bit dark.
Q: In terms of CGI, when they show Mia’s inner workings, was that any practical effects or was that all CGI?
GEMMA: There was some CGI used, we did scenes where I got cut, and there was kind of a mixture of the two. In the eyes as well, they’re not contacts there, they’re all VFX as well.
Q: So we know that you are the oldest conscious synth at 14 right now. You last much longer as a conscious, so the life expectancy, will there be more of that this season? Touching on why you guys last so much longer than the regular basic models?
GEMMA: I think we are really handmade, with a lot of care. Whereas I guess your regular synths which are kind of factory produced, with cheap materials ‘cause they’re not meant to last as long. Kind of like your iPhones; they’re only designed to last a few years or something. In terms of companies that are producing synths, they’re not designed to last too long; whereas us guys, the original synths, we were built to last for a lifetime.
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from THE Ohio State University. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, and conventions in the NYC area.