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Meet the cast of Humans

From Gemma Chan's unusual Synth to Katherine Parkinson's frazzled mum and William Hurt's retired doctor, here's the low down on who's who in Channel 4's new sci-fi series Humans

Published: Sunday, 14th June 2015 at 11:43 am


Gemma Chan 

Who does she play? Anita, a synth who is owned by the Hawkins family. "Anita is an enigma and a challenge: there are many layers to her which you get to see more of as the series goes on. The challenge was to be able to plot the arc she’s going to go on, revealing little by little about what she is and why."

What's her story? "When you first meet Anita no one really suspects there is anything different about her but then certain members of the family, Laura and Mattie in particular, notice things about Anita which are slightly strange. Her behaviour is somewhat different to other people’s synths, she seems to be a bit more perceptive."

What's it like to play a Synth? "Synths are basically machines and everything that they do is going to use up energy or battery power, so everything they do has to have an economy. As an actor, it was about finding ways to do things that are actually very counter intuitive to how we would traditionally do things: so it was really learning all the basics, how to stand up, sit down, walk, turn a corner. The things that sound so easy but actually you have to really pare back your physicality and do it in the most economic way. It’s really hard actually when you realise how many physical ticks you have and you have to kind of strip those back."

Where do you know Chan from? Sherlock, Fresh Meat, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Shetland, Dates, The Game

William Hurt

Who does he play? Dr George Millican. "He’s a retired scientist – an engineer – who was instrumental in developing the first iterations of these robots. His speciality was mechanics and hydraulics, not AI. It’s his job to make the body do what the computer is telling it to do."

What's his story? "He retires from that, and goes and lives with his wife until she passes away. Then he lives with a first iteration domesticated robot named Odi. George himself then has a small stroke, which cuts him off from memories of her. Odi plays the role of being their kid, but really he’s a storehouse for memories of his relationship with his wife." 

And to make it more complicated... "The state starts insisting that George gets a new model of robot. Her name is Vera (played by Rebecca Front), and she’s a newer iteration." 

Where do you know Hurt from? The Big Chill, Altered States, The Accidental Tourist, Lost in Space, A. I. Artificial Intelligence, Damages

Katherine Parkinson

Who does she play? Laura Hawkins. "She’s a wife, a mother, a lawyer, she’s got a good career, a good salary."

What's her story? "She has a complicated past that she hasn’t revealed to her husband. This is despite the fact that she’s been with him for a long time – and the longer the relationship has gone on, the less able she’s felt to come clean about it."

Her husband impulse buys Synth Anita... "From the start, Laura is suspicious that this synthetic isn’t just a synthetic, because she says things and does things that feels too human. She plays it so well, it’s difficult not to be sucked in, Gemma’s so hypnotic when she’s in synthetic mode." 

And it all gets a little unsettling... "I love that psychological thriller element to this - Laura and Anita’s dynamic, and how f***ing frightening she is. The cuckoo in the nest element is brilliant – the feeling of being usurped by this perfect synthetic being who’s good at all the stuff she’s not good at. It felt very close to home!"

Where do you know Parkinson from? The IT Crowd, The Honourable Woman, In The Club, Sherlock, Doc Martin, The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff 

Tom Goodman-Hill 

Who does he play? Joe Hawkins. "He’s a dad and a husband... He’s a very straightforward man, he’s perfectly capable but he’s not particularly proactive, he’s just a good guy."

What's his story? "Laura is the main breadwinner; she is a lawyer and is away from home working on a case that is going to pay well. Joe’s at home doing his every day job; a good steady job, he works for a packing company but he is one of the few humans that regularly works there and it’s almost all synths working at the company. But he’s having to look after the kids as well, so he decides it would be a good time to get a synth, so that the synth can allow him to lead what he thinks is a slightly more normal life."

But it's not that simple... "With Anita there is a sense that there is an element of independence and consciousness and that is completely unexpected and unnerving. As you can imagine it would be. If your iPad suddenly started talking back to you, you’d wonder what on earth was going on or if your iPhone said ‘I don’t feel very happy about the phone call you’re making’, you’d start to worry a little bit."

Where do you know Goodman-Hill from? Mr Selfridge, The Imitation Game, The Hollow Crown, Black Mirror, Call the Midwife

Colin Morgan

Who does he play? Leo, "a man on a mission."

What's his story? He's "hunted, haunted, determined to get the answers that are bumping around inside himself. He needs to understand who he is, his place in the world and the reason for his existence and that’s what drives him through the show. He’s on a quest. He’s looking for answers and his irrepressible sort of determination to get those answers is what drives him."

Intriguing... "I think from Humans we question what consciousness is, because we very much view ourselves as being the authority on that: the authority of emotion, the authority of what it is to think and to analyse and assess and feel: all the qualities that humans feel are well, human...  this technology and new phenomena is affecting everyone in the series, it reaches into every characters’ lives, whether they are aware of it initially, or not."

Where do you know Morgan from? Merlin, The Fall, Testament of Youth, Quirke


Humans starts tonight at 9:00pm on Channel 4

Humans preview: bringing science-fiction to the domestic level

First look at Colin Morgan in Channel 4’s Humans

First look at Gemma Chan in new sci-fi series Humans


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