Neil Maskell, who plays Pete Drummond on AMC’s HUMANS, discusses the struggles of a human-Synth relationship, how Pete’s decisions led to a heartbreaking reveal, and why he’s ready to ditch his smart phone.
A: Ruth [Bradley] and I get along very well, and it was good to know that we were going to work together a lot, so that was very positive for me. I was very happy about that because I think we work well together. It was great.
Q: How would you describe the dynamic between them this season?
A: There’s a lot more acceptance on Pete’s part. He’s come to terms with the situation and is now settled into it and learning to deal with it a lot more reasonably maybe than Karen even is. In a short space of time, there’s been quite a big shift in terms of their dynamic and the way that they’re dealing with each other.
Q: Pete even goes so far as to tell Karen she doesn’t have to pretend to be a human, but she doesn’t. What does he make of that?
A: I think that’s sort of common to people – that idea that sometimes what you love about a person isn’t what they choose to project to the rest of the world. That is difficult to come to terms with and you want the part of them that you see to be available to everyone else, and it can’t always be. It’s quite selfish, in a way, to expect that of another person. In life, for a lot of people, you choose to hang on to that thing that you pretended to be rather than be open and fragile in the face of the world. It’s very hard for anyone to do that. I think that’s what Pete’s asking of Karen, although I’m not sure he’d be comfortable doing that himself – to be as vulnerable as he’s asking her to be in the eyes of the world.
Q: Why do you think the case of the Seraphim becomes so important to Pete? Does he take it on mostly out of his feelings for and obligation to Karen?
A: In the dialogue, he says that if these things are out there, it normalizes their situation. I think as much as anything, although it’s unspoken in the series, he really would like the situation to be more normal than it is in his own head. I think by constructing this family, he is normalizing it in his own mind as much as he is in society.
Q: How would you describe what’s going through Pete’s mind when he discovers Sam, the Synth child, for the first time?
A: It’s an elemental, primal moment and he’s discovering a new species, in a sense. It’s almost biblical, really, when the child is there before him. That was a weird day, playing out that stuff and crossing the playground with all the other kids and finding what will be the new beginning of A.I. and Synths. That moment is seismic. I think, simultaneously, there is hope and fear. For [Pete], he sees the possibilities of a family but also [thinks], “My God. This is where we’re headed.” In a sense, it’s both surprising and unsurprising. That moment contains all of the opposites, and I suppose it’s not dissimilar to having a child yourself. You experience great hope and great fear and that’s magnified by that context.
Q: Why does Pete bring Sam home? Does he hope that he can help Karen find purpose in the fact that they could have a child?
A: Pete’s very quick to brush aside the things that stand between him and what he’d like the circumstances to be. It’s like, “Things need to be in this order and in the way that I want them, and anything that goes against that, I’m going to blank out.” He doesn’t entirely listen to Karen when she’s talking to him and trying to express her feelings. He just lumbers on. I’m not sure he does the most responsible thing by bringing the Seraph home, but it’s all forward momentum for him in creating a family.
Q: When Pete sees Karen at Qualia, attempting to become human, how does that make him feel? Does he understand her pain, even if he doesn’t agree?
A: I think, in the end, Pete feels that he’s failed the test with what happened previously with his wife and the situation he’s in now. He hasn’t fully understood and reached beyond his natural comprehension for something more with the women in his life – putting aside the technological aspect of the series. I think at the end, he’s as disappointed at himself as he is sad at the situation.
Q: Why do you think Pete tries to reason with Hester instead of just neutralizing the threat?
A: I think it’s professionalism. He’s essentially trying to talk someone down off the bridge, which is something he’s learned at a very early stage of being a policeman, and he applies that. That’s second nature and hardwired into his brain as he tries to cope with the situation. Of course, he’d normally be doing it with a human being and in this case he’s doing it with a Synth, which is why he ends up with a pen through his heart. [Laughs] I think he’s hoping to push on the consciousness of that Synth and get some empathy. In a last-ditch attempt, [he hopes] Hester will have some level of understanding of what it is that he’s saying and that by being honest and human, he will touch something human and empathic in her. But he fails.
Q: At what point this season did you know Pete wasn’t going to make it out alive?
A: We met a few months before we started work on the second season and the writers said, I suppose a bit nervously, that they wanted to kill the character, but that they thought it was the most interesting place to go with him. I agreed with them. It was a suitable and appropriate moment for the character, and I looked forward to tackling that stuff. They played out how it was going to happen. It was all good.
Q: Were you happy that he had such a noble death?
A: He tried his best. I don’t really ascribe stuff to my work like that. Even if I really like and care about my character, I wouldn’t say I need them to die in a certain way because in life, that isn’t how things are. Great people have sad endings to their lives and that’s not ever due to the way they live their life. It’s random, purely coincidental and sometimes horrific ironies, so if I’m subjected to that in any character, I’m fully accepting of it. He wouldn’t have ever dreamt he’d be involved in some sort of robot-pen massacre. [Laughs]
Q: In Pete’s last moments, he sees Karen can cry and is crying over him. Does he take any solace in that in his final moments?
A: I suppose there is a connection there in the end that’s special to him. In that moment, it felt like there were two people who cared about each other, and that it was truthful. It’s very hard to intellectualize or eloquently explain what was going on in that moment because you’re invested and it’s impossible not to be when you’re doing a death scene or anything around the subject of mortality. You don’t inject it with your own stuff and experiences. You just have to go with it.
Q: What has your experience on HUMANS meant to you? How has it changed the way you look at technology in the real world?
A: Obviously, the human experience is you work with a crew and cast and different directors that all become friends. You spend a lot of time in people’s company, and it was a particularly lovely environment with very good people who were kind to each other. I had a great time working with Ruth and all the directors I worked with. I’ll miss that, and I enjoyed that very much. In terms of my relationship with technology, I was already a bit of a Luddite, to be honest. I don’t have social media or anything like that. I’m getting to the point where the smart phones got to go because I find it such a distraction from doing other stuff. I’m going to have to replace it with an old-fashioned mobile phone. [Laughs] Of all things, maybe artificial intelligence is a concern, but I think the stuff that mankind has say over, like social media, is much more of a threat to us. That’s much more of a partnership between man and machine. You essentially get the feeling that – considering the first law of robotics is to not allow any harm to come to any humans – that maybe robots would have done a better bloody job at it. [Laughs]
Read a Q&A with Ruth Bradley, who plays Karen Voss.
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