Interview: Katherine Parkinson Talks Orange-Eyes & Being A Single Parent In ‘Humans’ Season 3
‘Humans’ Season 3 is just around the corner, and we had a chance to sit down with Katherine Parkinson, who plays Laura on the show, about where we find her as we venture into the synth-filled world once again.
For those of you needing a little refresher of where we left things, Hester (Sonya Cassidy) destroyed the synthetic part of Leo’s brain and leaving him brain-dead. Mia (Gemma Chan) then retaliates wiping both her and Hester’s minds in the process. In an attempt to rescue Mia, Niska (Emily Berrington) convinces Laura’s daughter Mattie (Lucy Carless) to push her completed consciousness code to the global synth network on the hope it’ll revive Mia… It does, but it also awakens every synth on the planet causing the worldwide ‘synthpocalypse’ which is now referred to as “Day Zero”.
As we move into the new season, we know “Day Zero” caused death and chaos around the globe. Laura and Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) are separated, and Joe is living in the synth-free town of Waltringham. There has also been a new generation of synths developed, with distinctive “orange-eyes”, as opposed to the awakened synths which are “green-eyes”.
All caught up? Good! On with the interview!
It’s been a while since we last saw ‘Humans’, so where do we find Laura in Season 3?
Obviously, Mattie is in a bad state as she’s feeling very responsible and guilty. Laura is in a small house. She’s gone from a large, nice house, downsized, and separated from Joe. I think at the end of the first episode she realises they are running out of options so she agrees to something called ‘The Dryden Commission’ which is run by Lord Dryden, and she’s going to represent synthetics and synthetic rights. During her work there she meets a scientist and has some romance with him! So that’s what I’ve been doing the last few weeks!
Is that Mark Bonner’s character?
Yes. Although things are getting worse in some ways, as the green eyes have woken up globally and that has huge consequences, I feel like you’re seeing the journey of somebody become a zealot with Laura, because she’s gone from quite depressed, with a traumatic early life, and she’s disenchanted. But now that she’s got a cause, I feel like there’s a kind of re-energising going on. So even though the stakes are higher and things are sort of awful in some ways, I think she’s in an oddly good place in terms of feeling she might have a chance to have a positive effect on things.
Mattie quite literally changed the world by awakening the synths. How has Laura dealing with that? It’s a lot to take in!
I know! When we actually deal with the facts of that it is mind-blowing! But, if we’re going to be philosophical about it, every single person changes the course of events with every single action they ever make. I’m thinking in the context of someone like Marie Curie’s discoveries on radiation. What Mattie’s done is unlocked something that has untold consequences, good and bad, and wouldn’t someone else have gone there anyway? So you have to look for the light, even if you end up unlocking the dark.
And how is Laura’s relationship with the other children, Toby and Sophie, this season?
I like how the writers script Laura as she’s obviously a loving mother, but she’s not the perfect mother by any means, because she’s too distracted by what she’s fighting for. That takes up a large part of her brain space. I think that she feels alienated from Mattie because of what’s going on with her, and she’s in a very confused place. So when things develop with Mattie’s romantic life, Laura feels a sadness that she can’t share that with Joe. When you become a single mother and you’re having to experience landmarks in your child’s development alone, that must really exacerbate the loneliness. I think with Sophie, she is a bit of a sage. She says these incredibly wise things without realising it, like lots of children do. There are some nice scenes where she makes Laura just have clarity and see the bigger picture in things, so they have a good connection. But poor Toby! There’s a great scene where he goes to see a Careers Advisor, and the only thing the Careers Advisor can suggest is wine tasting [laughs]. Which I think is a great scene! So she’s still very much a loving mother, but she’s a separated mother which makes things complicated.
How does Laura feel about having Stanley (Dino Fetscher) in the house?
[Stanley is one of the new orange-eyed synths who is given to Laura to help around the house and protect her.]
That’s a complex thing. She has a bit of an argument on the phone [with her boss] about it. You know, how can she represent synthetic rights and then have one carrying her bags for her? But orange-eyes are different, and if that’s a rule she has to live by to get into The Dryden Commission she comes to terms with it. When Mattie sees Stanley she gets grief from her and is a bit paranoid if Joe knows about it. It basically feels hypocritical to be in the same sort of position again, where I’m in my house with Stanley – taking my coat and making spaghetti bolognese… It’s all a bit reminiscent of Anita in Series 1 but under very different circumstances. I love all the stuff with Stanley though. He’s great, and I spend a lot of time thinking how much I’d love to have Stanley at home [laughs], much like I did with Anita.
You mention The Dryden Commission and how she wants to be in it, but how much of that is driven by professional ambition versus the altruistic nature of helping the synths? Is there a conflict there?
That’s interesting. We were doing a scene which was a press conference for The Dryden Commission which had gone quite well, and I thought, is there a part of Laura which is going to get an ego kick out of this because she’s been fighting for so long with so little success. But I actually don’t think that’s really her motivation. There are some people who are preoccupied with the rights of others, not in a sanctimonious way, but just their ethical urge is very strong, and I think that’s Laura. It comes from her childhood and guilt from things that have happened in her family. So it’s not just coming from a pure place. I’m not suggesting she’s heroic at all, I’m suggesting she’s damaged and just driven to do the right thing. I think she also is privy to information other people aren’t aware of, so she can see the bigger picture, which is if they don’t do something, it’s going to be a global war! It’s important for me in some of these things not to forget just what Laura knows compared to everyone else. We’ve just shot a date scene with Neil [Neil Sommer, Mark Bonnar’s character], who suffered a loss following “Day Zero”. Obviously, as the mother of Mattie and because of her involvement in it, Laura feels incredibly responsible for that. The collateral damage was immense after “Day Zero”. Mattie is more questioning of that, whereas Laura has got the bit between her teeth more, and is more determined to follow things through.
With Laura now dating, what is the relationship with Joe like at the moment?
Well, I don’t like Tom Goodman-Hill and asked not to have many scenes with him [laughs], but no. It’s fractious. We had a scene together where Sophie starts playing up at school so we get brought in. He is living in a ‘synth-free’ community and is working in a grocers. Things have changed a lot for him and he gets annoyed because Laura is making jokes about this hippy-dippy world he’s living in. She’s really dismissive of it which, I think rightly, winds him up. I think they’ve drawn my character well because she’s not without flaws at all. Laura is… not so much self-righteous, but has a form of tunnel-vision sometimes, and he pulls her up on it. Although, I think she may let him back in the house at some point…
Is it becoming a struggle for Laura to juggle everything now without Joe? Does the responsibility fall to Mattie, as the eldest child, to help out more?
Well, Joe is picking Sophie up from Karate, and things like that. They are separated rather than estranged, so he is pulling his weight, but I think that’s the justification in Laura’s head for why she accepts Stanley because she really needs some help. But yes, Toby takes Sophie to school, then Mattie takes Sophie to school, so the responsibility is shared around, but I think more than ever Laura needs a synth to help in the house. So that’s why orange-eyes are a present sent from heaven for her really.
‘Humans‘ Season 3 gets it’s UK premiere on Channel 4 on Thursday, 17th May 2018 at 9pm.