Humans: Colin Morgan on AI and sci-fi themes

Colin Morgan discusses what it’s been like to work on Channel 4 hit Humans

Humans Colin Morgan--(None)
Colin Morgan plays the mysterious Leo in Humans

  How does Leo feel about the relationship between Synths and humans?

That’s one of his major things, actually, how he feels about that. Because what you’re dealing with here is the direct either threat or benefit to humanity. What is the effect of artificial intelligence, or, in this series, synthetic human beings?

And that’s a good thing for the audience [to think about], how do they feel about it? How would you feel if a synthetic human being was in your house, doing the things you do, but better? And everyone acknowledged that they were better than you at doing it. Or that you can’t do things with them that you want to do. Maybe you try to. There’s all these conflicts going on.

How did you develop the double-act between you and Max?

I wouldn’t say double act; that makes it sound a bit Laurel and Hardy. They’re friends, they’re good friends. It’s odd, we kept thinking about this as actors, when you’re preparing for a relationship with someone who is essentially a synthetic, what does that mean? Are they genuinely being friends or are they programmed that way? Or if you perceive it as friendship, does it really matter if it’s programmed or not, if it’s making you feel like you are?

It’s all those weird questions which are not just series questions, but actually life questions about what this technology would do if it were to come into play here and now. How would we feel about it?

Humans Colin Morgan--(None)-1
The relationship between Leo and Max is a core part of the show

How do you feel about AI?

I think having done the research into all this and discovered that what we’re dealing with in the series is not far off what is happening in reality right now, the technology is very much what a lot of people are working towards creating. Again, you can see the pluses, you can see the negatives.

There are things out there – like this show deals with the NHS Synth – which actually really could be useful for elderly people who lack company, who lack the ability to do things for themselves. Certainly within the medical field, for operations, it could be much more specific. And then I guess with the lonely hearts thing, the lonely people of the world.


Do you think you would get a Synth?

I wouldn’t be the first in line, no. I’m not a big techno-head in terms of having your iPad. In fact I think people are very much trying to do technology detoxes, aren’t they? Because essentially, right now, you guys are cyborgs because you need your Dictaphones to do your job, that’s an attachment you need right now to do your job.

You probably have your phones in your pockets right now as well. We’re all becoming part machines, because we can’t do without these things. If you forgot that today you wouldn’t be able to do your jobs. Or if you leave your phone at home you panic.

And this thing wasn’t always in your life. It shows how quickly you become attached to them and they become attached to us. So it’s a very similar thing. How much do you open yourself up to that? If it’s actually something you can develop a relationship with, not just on a work-based level or a communication-based level, but on an actual lifestyle level, then that could be worrying.

Morgan took a keen interest in the real-life themes behind Humans

What did you think the future would look when you were at school?

I don’t think I ever thought on a futuristic level, I think I just thought on a more sort of fantasy level. I think I selfishly thought about my own future. What would I do if I was an actor? I think now it’s come about and made me realise that actually this technology is real, it suddenly doesn’t seem so innocently childlike anymore. When you think about these things as children do, everything is quite dreamlike and idealistic. But when you’re thinking about it now and you’re reading about it and it’s real it’s somehow a little bit worrying. But for me as a child, I didn’t really think much about it.

What was it about Humans that attracted you back to TV after your time in films and theatre?

The scripts. That’s it for any project for me, when you read it and there’s just something about it. These scripts are just incredibly well-written. They’re addictive. I’ve very rarely been on a set where everybody here – cast, crew – everybody wants to know what’s happening next.

We get the episodes two at a time so I read the first two up front, but everybody’s talking about it on set and wondering where people are going, where the characters are going, and that’s always a really good sign. But for me it was when you first read it. Loved the script. Loved the character.

I loved the idea of something as high concept as this being told in such a gritty drama style, it doesn’t feel like a sci-fi show. While it has a huge sci-fi element to it, it feels much more on a human level and much more on a day-to-day basis. How does it affect the family? How does a synthetic human being affect the police force? And I think it does it in a really unexpected, intriguing and unique way that I’ve never quite seen before. And visually I think it looks great.

Humans is airing now on Sunday nights on Channel 4. For more on the biggest TV series, pick up the latest issue of SciFiNow.