"Humans" is about to go even deeper under the skins of the oh-so-real synthetic beings at its center and their place in the world.
Joining the cast for the AMC sci-fi drama's second season is genre veteran Carrie-Anne Moss ("The Matrix," "Marvel's Jessica Jones"), who sat down with series star Gemma Chan ("Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them") and a small band of press to offer some hints at what lies ahead.
Carrie-Anne, you're playing a new character this season. Can you say a little about your character?
Carrie-Anne Moss: Yeah, I play a scientist. Her name is Athena. Yeah, I'm a human being who is interested in A.I., and she's pretty smart.
In science fiction, a lot of these innovators and scientist characters have complex morality. They do things that might seem wrong or harsh, maybe in the pursuit of a good cause, maybe not. They usually get to play a little bit of a bad guy and a little bit of a good guy. Have you found that fertile ground to play in?
Moss: I love storytelling, I love characters that are complicated and layered, real people; that you see why they do what they do. I was lucky when I got this part that they wrote this really amazing bio for me of her, and so I really got to see all the reasons that she was doing the things that she was doing.
There 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 those up, which I like to do, too. But I felt like they really gave me a lot. Probably the best bio I've ever gotten from anybody, actually, which I appreciated.
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.
Obviously, "The Matrix" is a story about technology as it relates to humanity and where we're going, and so is this. What appeals to you about those kinds of stories?
Moss: Well, I like stories about the world, where we're at. I like to explore humanity. I like to explore my own humanity. I've never been attracted to sci-fi, per se. People tell me I'm in a genre kind of movie, but it never crossed my mind that "The Matrix" was genre. To me it was about, for me anyway, my character,
I had this rock outside my door which said "faith" or "believe" or something, and I remember felt like that was my key into her, into Trinity. It was like she was the heart of it. I, intellectually, did not understand what I was doing when I did that role, but I definitely felt it in my feeling body, in my self. But I couldn't have explained it to anybody. So that's not ever necessarily 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; that I can see a glimpse of humanity and something I'm interested in exploring.
You've been working more in television lately, between this and Jessica Jones. Have you been finding better roles in TV than in film?
Moss: I think it's an exciting time to be a woman in television, and it's an exciting time in television, period. I feel like it's -- 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." I didn't read a script like that anywhere except in the independent film world, and now it feels like that in television.
Every time I hear about a new show and I see show that is being created that is nothing like I've ever though about, I just get so excited about that expansion. Because I started working when "L.A. Law" was on. It was lawyers and cops. To imagine that it could be this diverse and creative, that television could be this creative, I couldn't have imagined that, I don't think.
Gemma, what were the most interesting things that was framed for you in terms of the exploration of her deepening relationship with Ed?
Gemma Chan: 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 be, and where she might fit in the world. Because she was created for a particular purpose, to look after Leo within the Elster family, and then she ended up with the Hawkins family against her will. So really, it's the first time she's really getting a say in what she wants to do.
She, for better or worse, wants to put herself out there. She craves human interaction. I see her as something of an innocent still at the beginning of Season 2. She definitely goes on an interesting journey because her relationship, or her interaction with human beings have been quite limited so far. There's a naiveté 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 both a great asset to her, but also it could be her downfall as well.
How did you master the art of playing that synth-but-not-obviously-a-synth quality?
Chan: When I first went in to audition, they gave a 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 that's being robotic in a cliché way." They didn't want any kind of quizzical head cocking, or anything like that. They said, "Definitely don't come in and do that. You won't get the job."
But they said, "We want you to give an indication of what you might do, just to make the movement something that isn't human. So I just thought, just from first principles, these things are machines, and every movement uses up battery power. So there's obviously going to be more of a stillness. That's what I tried initially. More of a stillness, more of a centeredness in these characters. All of us have a lot of physical ticks that we don't realize that we're doing subconsciously. So one of the first things I did was to try and kind of neutralize that, which sounds quite easy, but actually sometimes you don't realize you're doing things -- apparently I have an overactive left arm.
So that was my first instinct. Then, 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, so there's a universal language of movement for 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.
What would you guys say is the heart of Mia and Athena?
Chan: The heart of Mia is love, I think. It's the first thing she knew. Her bond with Leo: she's a sister, but she's also a mother figure as well. She's always searching for love. Love and acceptance.
Moss: And Athena, I think she's so protective of herself because of the pain she's experienced in her life. And so she has created this world of control so that she doesn't have to feel how she feels and at the core of it, I think it's love, again: very deep love for parts of her life that didn't turn out the way she hoped they would and that disappointment.
Season 2 of "Humans" premieres tonight (February 13th) on AMC.