Exclusive Interview With Emily Berrington (Niska) & Will Tudor (Odi) About Humans Season 2
A few weeks ago I had the chance to sit and chat with Emily Berrington & Will Tudor who play synths Niska and Odi in Channel 4‘s amazing drama Humans, which returns for a 2nd season, on Sunday 30th October 2016 at 9pm.
I was also supposed to chat with Gemma Chan, but were told she’d had to “rush off”… That wasn’t entirely true, but to see what happened next, you’ll need to tune into ‘How To Build A Human‘ on Channel 4, Saturday 29th October at 9pm, where you’ll see Gemma explore the frontiers of research into Artificial Intelligence, and build an AI version of herself.
But back to the interview… Set in the surrounding of a lovely London hotel suite, I open with the obvious question to Will…
GT: Will… Bit of surprise seeing you given the events of season 1! What’s happening with Odi?
Will: When we last saw him, he was being led off wasn’t he… Well I can’t say too much, but he is back! He has his jumper! And we he’s a lot more degraded when we next see him, so it’s interesting to see where he goes from there…
GT: Intriguing… Was there a certain amount of CGI involved in the degrading process?
Will: No no. It was just really…
Emily: Will doesn’t need CGI [Laughs].
Will: [Laughs] No it was just more of working out exactly how synths would degrade in certain environments, both mentally and physically as well, so it’s quite creative in that way.
GT: Right okay… Not giving much away… So how are the rest of the synths coping this season? Niska has just run off with the code, and the group seems to have been scattered, so where do we find them?
Emily: Well, you’re right, they did all scatter at the end of series one, so a lot of them are kind of on their own. But the good thing about that is, it’s an opportunity for them all to discover more about themselves.
GT: Sounds good! How was it coming back to the characters again? Was it difficult to get back into ‘synth mode’?
Emily: We had ‘synth school’ again for a week, which was a good reminder. It’s lovely to come back, because it means you haven’t got any of the nerves that come with starting something completely new. You do know something about what’s going on, and it’s such a chance to build on what you’ve already created. So, I loved coming back, it was so nice.
GT: Wait… What’s ‘synth school’? What do they put you through in that?
Will: In synth school we start right from the basics. How they would stand up. How they would view the world, their eyes lead first, that sort of thing. But it’s great to revisit it, I think it’s important for us to, because it’s so precise with all those movements. We had Dan O’Neil on set as well, who’s our wonderful movement director. So he was there every step of the way so we could ask questions.
Emily: And also there are new synths, so that they could do synth school as well.
GT: Yes! There is of course the Persona Synthetics website, which has been showing off some of the new synths, and you have some new non-synth characters coming onto the show as well, such as Marshall Allman and Carrie-Anne Moss. Have you been working with them?
Emily: Well… we came across them, but we can’t give away who’s worked with who… But we were so excited about all the new cast, but… Carrie-Anne Moss is a real legend, so everyone was pretty excited about her joining!
GT: You find a lot of actors who are better known for films are starting to come across to TV shows now. I think that says something about the quality of TV today.
Will: I think so. I think as a medium, it’s very versatile. As a way of telling a story episodically, it fits in our lives now much better than a three hour film does. When we have a spare hour we’ll watch something.
Emily: And as an actor, it means you have, say, eight hours to develop your character, rather than just two hours in a film. So you often get a chance to develop a much richer character.
GT: Obviously season 1 was an enormous hit, and the highest rated drama on Channel 4 for two decades. Did you get any indication of how big it was going to be when you were working on it?
Emily: We had no idea when we were shooting it, apart from the fact we knew the script was really good… But lots of scripts are really good, and don’t get the audience. So it was such a relief that we did, and just surpassed what any of us could have hoped for! It was really amazing!
Will: I think it just so happened that it hit at the right time as well. These questions are being asked, and the show tries to explore those, and this is why the script was so great. You read it and it really made you think about the technology and where it’s going. It was presenting answers that people maybe hadn’t thought about yet, but makes you think “actually that’s a very good point…”
GT: You are starting to see little bits of the technology catch up with things we’ve seen on the show, which is weird.
Will: True, true!
Emily: Yes, we were saying earlier that, when technology has properly caught up with the show, they’ll have to stop making the show, so I hope it doesn’t advance too far too quickly [Laughs].
GT: What was the biggest challenge filming this season?
Will: I think, further to what I said earlier, figuring out the inner workings of a synth, because I think in order to make choices which work, we have to, kind of, go internally, and work out what is the actual physical process going on inside their bodies, and that sort of thing. So for me, i’d say it’s that, but I love working on that kind of thing, it’s lovely that challenge.
Emily: For me it was the same as last season in a way, which is, within something that’s very physically defined, how can you reach the emotional and intellectual heights that are required from a conscious being, whilst not letting down the synth school training, which is a constant struggle.
GT: Yes, less so with Odi, but Particularly with Niska, who has very much got a mixture of human and synth traits inside her, so that must be really hard to find a balance.
Emily: It really is, because you are required to reach things in a scene that normally would go with being allowed to make more of a facial expression or use your voice in a different way to physicalize something, and you can’t do that. So that can be really difficult.
GT: Of course, one of the upsides of playing a synth, especially Niska, is that you get to really kick ass on set!
Emily: [Laughs] Yes! And I had some really ‘actiony’ days this series as well, where you get to release all the things that have been stressed about for the last three months! Just doing a bit of kicking and bashing things… yeah… [Laughs].
GT: You are filming long days and things can be stressful and a bit slow sometimes. How serious is the set? Is there much messing around, or pranking… Colin strikes me as someone who’d be up for a prank!
Will: [Laughs] I think it’s interesting, because that is a great sense of fun, but almost within the framework of this huge amount of creativity. There’s this buzz about being able to build something. It also varies between the different story strands as well, because of the different dynamics. My story strand in series one, I was with the great William Hurt, and that felt very isolated, and you have all the other storyline that didn’t necessarily cross. So the experiences I alway imagine is very very different for everyone.
Emily: Yeh, as you know from season one, Niska goes it alone, and I found during those bits of the storyline, I did get a bit lonely. I was just so relieved if it was a day when someone else was filming at the same time, or coming in to do their stuff! Just so thrilled to see someone else [Laughs]!
GT: What career do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t acting?
Will: I come from a family of doctors, so who knows… Maybe I would have become a surgeon or something [Laughs]. But I’ve always thought I’d like to do something in advertising maybe. Or psychology, that’s fascinating…
Emily: You’ve been watching Mad Men [Laughs]
Will: [Laughs] Yep, inspired…
Emily: It’s not like that you know… [Laughs]
Will: Or Writing… That would be my answer!
Emily: I used to work for the Labour Party, so i’d probably have stayed with them… Which would probably be quite a difficult job at the moment I imagine [Laughs]!
GT: What TV shows are you watching at the moment?
Emily: I have just finished Stranger Things, which I absolutely loved. And I’m just rewatching Friday Night Lights, which is a fantastic program, because it’s about to come off Netflix, so I have to catch it now!
Will: Yeah, I would definitely say Stranger Things, I just finished that last week, which is absolutely amazing. I need to finish off Walking Dead series 2, because I’m so behind the times with that. Then I’m about to start Narcos as well. So got a lot of good stuff coming I think!
GT: And finally, if you could get a part on any tv show, past, present or future, what would it be?
Will: Oooh… I’d be such bad casting for this, but i’d love to be in The Sopranos! I’d be awful casting for it, but [Laughs] You can’t quite imagine that can you?
Emily: I can! That is wonderful [Laughs]!
Will: Thank you [Laughs]!
Emily: Mine would be The Thick Of It.
Will: Oh yes! Good choice!
And with that, our time was up! Just want to say thank you to Emily Berrington & Will Tudor for their time, and remind you that you can see them both on Humans, when it returns to Channel 4 for season 2 on Sunday 30th October 2016 at 9pm.
Also, don’t forget to watch How To Build A Human on Channel 4, Saturday 29th October at 9pm, and you can see what happened to me after this interview finished…
Dave has over 20 years experience in the digital industry, and is founder and editor of Geektown. Obviously a huge geek himself, he can often be found in front of the latest tv show or movie, on various video games, or with his head in a comic book.