Sam Vincent, Co-Creator/Executive Producer of AMC’s HUMANS, talks about Niska’s quest, saying goodbye to a beloved character, and the future between humans and Synths.
Q: What was it like exploring A.I. through Anatole’s spiritual lens this season?
A: We’ve always been interested in how an artificial intelligence would think about its place in the universe and in a wider sense. Many humans believe we have a creator, but it’s not an observable fact. An android would be able to look at the people who created it and we’ve always been fascinated by that dimension. We wanted to see an android at the early stages of developing its own religion and trying to make sense of its world.
Q: Why was it important for Niska to be the one to go on this quest to find the Synth Who Sleeps and be given this power?
A: We thought it was the most interesting choice purely because she’s probably the least likely character to go on a journey like this. That gave us the furthest path to travel. We always like to do something new with our main characters, give them a new challenge and the actor a new muscle to flex. We know Niska’s a badass, very cynical, very tough and pessimistic, so we thought we would take her on a journey that would open her mind and heart – not that she has a heart – to something larger than herself and something that required her spiritual and emotional investment.
Q: How early on did you know that Will Tudor would be returning?
A: We’re very sentimental and self-indulgent about our characters. We love them all and love to try to find ways to bring them back. Early on, we wanted to bring Will back. We started working on that very early. We all had to be on-board with it because the idea is pretty out there. It’s more mind-bending than anything we’ve done before. Once we had the idea in place to bring Odi back — but not quite as Odi — it was just a matter of getting Will on-board. Fortunately, he loved the idea and it all came together quite smoothly in the end. We enjoyed having him.
Q: Can you talk about building Karen and Sam’s relationship this season? How and why did you decide on Karen’s death?
A: We always knew we wanted to explore Karen’s identity as a parent because if you think back, she was built to replace Leo’s biological mother. She never got a chance to do the thing she was designed for. Finally, she has this chance to fulfill this purpose and yet, we see her feeling doubt in her ability to do that job because of her restrictions in her programming. She’s been programmed to never put herself in harm’s way. We thought it would be a beautiful story for her to transcend that limitation in a crucial moment to protect Sam and give her life for his. We thought it would be incredibly tragic, but a bittersweet thing. In that moment of sacrificing herself, she’s fulfilled her destiny and this void within her.
A: Mattie has very grave doubts about the pregnancy and is in a lot of turmoil about what to do. As for Leo, he doesn’t feel ready at all. Faced with something like that, Leo realizes he hasn’t had a normal life. He hasn’t had any role models in a conventional sense and he feels completely unequipped. It’s a case of him thinking he’s not ready to be this human. He hasn’t been given the tools to deal with this. He has a change of heart in that final moment, but it may or may not be too late for him.
Q: It’s Max who ultimately takes Anatole out after following a peaceful approach for so long. How would you describe his arc this season?
A: Early on, we shared the phrase with Ivanno [Jeremiah], “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” The pure and innocent Max that we know – we thought if he was going to become leader, he wasn’t going to be able to maintain his sweet formalities he kept in the first two seasons. He would have to start making difficult choices. We see him taking very passive approaches in the earlier episodes, staying quiet, being polite and believing everything will become good if you don’t resist. We understand why he takes that approach — he abhors any kind of violence — but ultimately, events conspire against him and he’s forced to take action. He lashes out and maybe he could have dealt with things better, but he’s doing what needs to be done. There really is no other way to deal with the threat that Anatole poses. If [Anatole] lives and gains power, that is the end of all the Synths that [Max] feels the responsibility to protect. It’s with a heavy heart that he takes another Synth’s life, but he can see no other course of action. Ultimately, it allows him to become the leader that’s needed in this darkest hour, but it’s a very high cost to his synthetic soul.
A: It’s literally an impossible choice that Anatole gives her. It’s a no-win situation. She has to choose one. Otherwise, both will die. What we wanted to examine is this idea that you see in politics and ideology a lot – that what matters most is ideological purity and if you’re not entirely and ultimately committed to your goal, you cannot be a true ally or defender of that cause. We wanted to explore that. In terms of Laura’s motivations for choosing Sam, there’s so much that goes into it. Possibly, she thinks that these Synths are much less likely to kill Sam if he chooses him. Possibly, she thinks that it will be much more trouble for everybody if a human is killed in her own house with all of the legal ramifications that go along with that. Ultimately, it’s a choice she makes under extraordinary pressure because it’s an impossible one. She doesn’t really choose Sam. She doesn’t want Sam to die, but she has to say something and that’s the name that escapes her lips. As we see later, it’s designed by Anatole to be an impossible choice, but it’s enough to sow this terrible doubt in her.
Q: Would you say Neil has changed his view on Synths by the end of the season? What ultimately inspires him to reveal the truth about Operation Basswood?
A: It’s Laura who opens his eyes. Laura’s most important piece of advocacy work probably is bringing him over to his side. He’s got profound and relatable reasons for hating and resenting Synths after losing his child on Day Zero. Nevertheless, Laura brings him around with her compassion and her insistence on the fact that they’re beings worthy of rights. Taking him to the railyard begins a process for Neil. Obviously he knows what Operation Basswood involves because he’s one of the architects, but he’s forced to see the consequences and that’s enough to push him back towards Laura and seeing them as equal beings.
Q: What was the decision process of killing off such a major character, Mia?
A: It’s an enormous decision. When we started to design her arc, we soon realized where the story could be heading. It was a story about her realizing that she had become the face of a movement and has to make sacrifices, put herself in harm’s way and become the lightning rod for the Synth rights movement. From the moment that we had the idea that she would go live in the human community despite the risks, the hatred and the anger she would face, this ending started to suggest itself. If we’re going to obtain some kind of resolution between the Synths and the humans and if we’re going to heal this conflict – or at least begin the process of healing – perhaps we need Mia to make the ultimate sacrifice. We said, “Would she do that?” and we thought, “Yes!” She’s always put others before herself. She’s an extremely sacrificing character from the get-go. She’s conscious. She knows what she’s doing. She’s got the political awareness and this amazing courage to do something like that, knowing what the stakes could be in the final moments. Making a decision like this is huge and Mia has been the face of our show and central to the show’s success, but the story feels right and true to everybody. We talked to the networks about it and once everybody was convinced it was the best possible story, we went to talk to Gemma [Chan]. Fortunately, she was on-board and she understood the power of the story. Without her, we wouldn’t be able to pull something like this off and she pulls it off masterfully.
Read an interview with Emily Berrington, who plays Niska.
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