Sam Palladio, who plays Ed Hooley on AMC’s HUMANS, discusses the real reasons Ed betrayed Mia, his character’s misgivings about falling in love with a Synth, and why Ed isn’t really a bad guy.
Q: How did this role on HUMANS come about for you?
A: I was really lucky that the filming work for HUMANS fell in my downtime between Season 4 and 5 of Nashville. It took a little bit of negotiation, but… I was really excited. There’s so much great work that comes out of the UK… and HUMANS was definitely on the top of that list for me. I haven’t had the chance to play many English roles, believe it or not. [Laughs] I’ve sort of been known for the last few years for playing a Texan on Nashville. Just to actually get back home and get my teeth back into a character that was a little closer to me, and a little closer in terms of someone I could relate to, was really exciting.
Q: Ed is kind of an everyman. What did you see in him that appealed to you?
A: He’s not particularly extraordinary. He’s just a young guy, struggling to keep his family business afloat and struggling to care for his ailing mother. He’s a guy with a lot of weight on his shoulders, but has a positive outlook and is in need of a bit of help, which comes in the form of Gemma Chan’s character. He’s naive to this Synth world. He hasn’t really been brought up around Synths, so he treats them differently, and we see that with Mia. That’s how their relationship develops. It was an exciting role to be a part of because I knew that it involved some sort of romantic entanglement of Synth and human, which we hadn’t really seen on the show up until this point.
Q: Why do you think Ed bought Mia/Anita? Is there more to it than just cheap labor?
A: I think there is a certain curiosity because we see him unconsciously cracking a joke or two or speaking to her in a way that a lot of the other humans in the world of our show don’t address Synths. I think, initially, it’s very much a practical solution to his problems, but of course being the beautiful machine that she is – and I guess Joe Hawkins struggled with that back in Season 1 – Ed is slightly enticed and seduced by her beauty as well.
Q: In Episode 2, Ed begins to realize Mia is no ordinary Synth. When he sends her away, do you think he does so more out of fear or anger?
A: I think there are a lot of things going through his head. He’s confided in her, without knowing it, and he’s shared a lot of fears about the business and his mother. He’s been quite compassionate towards her and has also opened up to her, thinking that his thoughts weren’t going anywhere. So, I think he feels a little bit betrayed in that sense. In the world of the show, there are reports of sentient machines, but I don’t think it’s made its way down to the little coastal village where Ed lives. It really is a bit of an awakening for him, realizing that machines can do this. It makes his head spin.
A: It’s difficult to process. They’ve been working together for a long time where we first pick up in the series. There has been a bond that’s definitely been established and it’s obviously a deep one because of the situation they end up in. Ed could just as easily say, “This is really weird. This is freaking me out,” and send her back to wherever she came from and have nothing to do with it. But there’s a curiosity. There’s an attraction that he thinks is slightly wrong, but is quite exciting in a sense. When something is forbidden, it always makes you consider it a little more, so I think there’s that tension there as well. There is an emotional connection, there’s a lustful connection, and there’s the companionship there, as well, that they’ve built.
Q: Although Ed struggles to understand how a Synth can be conscious, he does give himself over to a relationship with Mia. What makes him take that step, despite whatever fears or misgivings he might have?
A: There is a loneliness to him. His father’s not in the picture, his mother’s barely with us, and I think he needs Mia. I think he’s trying to see her as he would a human partner. He is in a bad situation and she has really helped that burden. There’s a connection and a need. He’s lonely and, up until this point, she’s been there for him even if he didn’t realize it.
Q: He even takes Mia with him to see his mom. Did Ed think this relationship is something that can become normalized?
A: I think he’s trying to normalize it as much as he can. He’s trying to pretend that she isn’t what she is. I think he’s trying to put a human face on her as much as he can. That fills him with a little anxiety and, of course, he’s got to cover for her when they get to the care home. She’s back to pretending to be a standard-issued Synth. There’s a little anxiety there, but normalization is what he’s trying to find and see how that feels. He can see that she’s very compassionate and caring with his mother and that adds to his predicament when the story starts developing further and he has some tough choices to make. He does have feelings for her, but he has to think about what’s best for him and his family.
Q: Ultimately, Ed shuts Mia down at the end of Episode 4. What’s going through his head in that moment? Has the fear won out after all? Was that moment a surprise to you?
A: It really was a surprise, actually. I was stunned to see the turn, but I could sympathize… It comes from a place of fear, but he’s wrestling with trying to find out where his priorities lie. At this point, it is with flesh and blood and it is with his mother. It’s family that might have to triumph at the sacrifice of other things, but it’s definitely not an easy decision for him.
Q: Do you imagine this is a decision Ed might come to regret?
A: I think we get to see that Ed’s in a lot of turmoil over the choice he’s made, but he’s been bold and he’s made one. There’s a lot of apprehension there and there’s a lot of fears about if he’s made the right choice. In his heart of hearts, he knows he hasn’t made the right choice. We’ll see where it takes him, but at the end of the day, he’s not a bad guy. He makes a choice. It might not necessarily be the right one and it’s definitely not an easy one.
Q: If you were in Ed’s shoes, what would you have done?
A: [Laughs] How could you turn [against] Gemma Chan? It’s just impossible! Ed made a big mistake there, I think. If I were faced with the situation, it’d be such a hard one to call, but I hope that Mia can find it in her Synth heart to forgive Ed.
Read a Q&A with Gemma Chan, who plays Mia.
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