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Meet the Synths: The Cast and EPs of AMC’s Humans Introduce Us to the Next Generation of AI 


Warning: Spoilers Ahead

I’ve seen the first two episodes and I find this series incredibly intriguing and disturbing and I can’t wait to see the rest of the season unfolds.

Humans takes place in a parallel present (or an alternate timeline) where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a Synth – a highly developed, artificially intelligent servant eerily similar to its living counterpart. The series takes a riveting look at the advancements in AI and the theories that become a little less hypothetical every day.

What impact will this advanced technology have on the human population? Will this new way of navigating life be detrimental or beneficial to us as a human race?   And who will we become when this technology arrives?

TV Goodness participated in press calls with series stars Gemma Chan, William Hurt, Katherine Parkinson and Tom Goodman-Hill, as well as writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent. They gave us so much great intel on the series and what we can expect in the next two episodes and beyond. But for now, let’s meet these Synths and learn a little more about them.

On the Synths

Gemma Chan: “There’s a group of Synths that are different to other Synths and have perhaps for whatever reason, which we’ll find out, evolved beyond what a regular Synth can do. You see them all together and then we get split up. Each Synth has their own journey.

You see where Niska ends up, where Fred ends up and a lot of the show is about coming to terms with what happened to them and for some of them trying to find their way back to each other. Each of them has a very different experience out in the world as well, and each of them will be shaped in a different way by the experience that they have at the hands of various humans that they come across.”

Sam Vincent: “Anita is constantly — and it’s hopefully quite amusing effect — regurgitating these long pieces of regulatory legalize speak about what exactly she is and isn’t allowed to do. So, it would be a very complex master/servant relationship and customizable, with lots and lots and lots of complicated regulations.

If something is bad they call for help. They take passive action. The last thing they would ever do is anything that involved laying their hands on another human being. That is the worst possible outcome. So, if any kind of violent intervention, even if it’s self-defense, would attract extraordinary attention that’s just not what they do.”

Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMC
Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMC

Gemma Chan‘s Anita

Anita is a beautiful Synthetic, purchased by the Hawkins family to help around the house. Most of the time, Anita is the pliant, servile automaton that all Synths are supposed to be – but every so often she does something inexplicable. Is there something more to Anita than the android she appears to be?

On how she interacts with the Hawkins family when she’s first brought home

Gemma: “When she’s first introduced to the house, she acts like a mirror to the rest of the family and depending on each of their individual prejudices and needs and wants, she holds up a mirror to that. So each family member has a different reaction to her and vice versa.”

On how the Hawkins family reacts to Anita

Katherine Parkinson: “Laura is more doubtful about the need for a synthetic presence and doesn’t like the idea at all, feels threatened by it, is worried that the children, it won’t be good for them, it will mess with their heads.

Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMC
Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMC

Her youngest will possibly form an emotional attachment which would really threaten Laura. Also the eldest starts to talk to the synthetic like she’s a slave. What does that do to her children? But later on, it’s interesting because there’s a bit of a switch. I think Laura starts to think about the rights of synthetics. So that’s interesting.”

Tom Goodman-Hill: “Joe just runs into it headstrong without really thinking about what he’s getting himself into. He’s forced to think about the sort of person he is, which is not something he’s used to dealing with. He doesn’t intellectualize things, he’s not one to ponder about his own humanity and his own being. He just tends to take things at face value.

The presence of Anita forces him to rethink his whole way of going about his life. It makes him think more about his relationship with Laura and about the impact it’s going to have on the kids, which is not something he’s been used to doing in the past. So it knocks him sideways and makes him re-evaluate his life.”

On when and how we’ll learn more about Anita

Gemma: “Her backstory is complicated. She hasn’t had a conventional childhood, as such, but at the same time she has changed from when she first was ‘born.’ She has been shaped by her experiences, but yes, she is affected by what she observes in the family and the maternal bond that she observes between Laura and her children and she will be changed by that.”

Photo Credit: Colin Hutton/Kudos/AMC/C4
Photo Credit: Colin Hutton/AMC

Emily Berrington‘s Niska

If Niska occurred in the natural world, she’d be an argument for intelligent design. Something as beautiful as she is could only have been created, as indeed she was. We meet her working as a prostitute in a legal Synthetic brothel, just one of millions of registered Synthetic sex workers who do anything you want, don’t need payment (that goes to the human pimps and madams) and never even need to leave their room. But Niska exhibits behaviors that mark her out as a little different to her empty-headed co-workers. If you didn’t know she was just a machine, you’d be tempted to think she seemed… angry. In fact, you may wonder if, under the sexy smile and come-hither eyes, there wasn’t a great, ice-cold rage against humanity – above all, men – who use her for their pleasure. But why would anyone program a machine to hate its makers?

Photo Credit: Des Willie/Kudos/AMC/C4
Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMC

Sope Dirisu‘s Fred

Strong, wise and protective, Fred was designed as an older brother figure. He will do anything to keep his family safe and the others rely on him to do the right thing at all times.

Ivanno Jeremiah‘s Max

Wide-eyed, curious, and above all, loyal, Max is a Synth that behaves a little differently to all his millions of unthinking brothers and sisters in operation around the world. Who made him this way, and why? Max wants to know things – or at least, it appears he does. He also seems devoted to Leo, fulfilling multiple roles for him – sidekick, confidant, little brother, protector and conscience. He sees no bad in anyone or anything, approaching everyone and everything with the trusting optimism of a child. Who would program a Synthetic to display these characteristics? Spend some time with Max and you’d start to get the feeling he was good – maybe even a better person than most people. Except, he’s not a person at all.

Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMC
Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMC

Will Tudor‘s Odi

State-issued care model Synths are customarily upgraded on two-year cycles. At six years old, Odi is obsolete, decrepit and on the verge of total system failure. He needs to be scrapped. But his owner, Dr. George Millican, can’t let him go. He and his late wife got Odi when they were both recovering from illness – George recovered, his wife didn’t. Now Odi – whose multiple faults make him a safety risk, but also give him an eccentric charm – is all George has left of his wife. Odi can’t return George’s feelings – he can barely make a slice of toast – but the lonely widower can’t let this repository of valuable memories go. No matter how leaky.

On why George is so attached to Odi

William Hurt: “His wife passes away and then he suffers an anomaly, a cerebral malfunction and he loses some of his memory. Odi has all the memories of the event that took place while [he] was part of their life. That becomes George’s relationship to his wife because the Synth remembers all those events in rudimentary fashion.

That helps George continue his relationship with his wife. That’s why the emotional part exists. He knows that Odi is a machine, but he also is grateful to anything that helps keep his memories of his beloved alive. And so he allows himself the responsible pleasure of projecting onto Odi some of the feelings, but at the same time he always differentiates between real and unreal.”

Sam: “Odi has become — even though he’s an unthinking machine – a leaky repository of precious memories for George. Odi was alive, Odi was with them, with George and his wife when his wife was alive the three of them have had some really happy times together.

The wife had died, George has had a stroke and the person who holds on and keeps the memories alive because, of course, he can record things perfectly, or he has been able to recall things perfectly up until recently, [is] Odi, so he becomes this reflection of the beloved past and an aid memoir — I think that’s a phrase. I may have just made that up.

So that’s why he’s so incredibly precious to George, that’s where I think some of that fondness comes from, is what he represents and what we’ve put into these things. We’ve poured our feelings into them and we’ve become so incredibly attached.”

Jonathan Brackley: “His beloved Odi [is] so dear to him that he will go to great lengths to protect him and keep him with him.”

Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMC
Photo Credit: Colin Hutton/AMC

Rebecca Front‘s Vera

Vera is a Vidman VA-262 Synthetic, specifically designed as a live-in care model for elderly people. Such was the success of the Vera model, the British government has ordered nearly 500,000 Vera units for use in the UK – freeing vast amounts of care home spaces and hospital beds as the Veras take care of senior citizens in their own homes. Assigned to Dr. George Millican as a compulsory upgrade, Vera’a stern, domineering presence in his home – very different to George’s previous model, Odi – leads George to question whether the machines are serving us, or vice versa. Are we giving away too much of our freedom, independence and dignity to the likes of Vera? Where will that lead us?

On why Vera is so threatening

William: “I think it raises a big question about whether machines are going to be used to inflict a police state on us, I mean on the people who are not competent or in agreement with the use of them. She walks in the room she’s like the stereotype of the police state meddling in your life at a time when you’re losing some of your physical capacities but may not be losing them mentally.”

The only Synth we don’t have much information on yet is Jack DergesSimon. His model is helping D.S. Pete Drummond’s wife Jill through her rehabilitation after a car accident. Pete investigates synth-related crimes and seems to be having a pretty hard time having Simon around, especially since he’s making Paul feel unappreciated and obsolete.

Quotes edited for space and content.

Humans premieres Sunday, June 28th at 9/8c on AMC.

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