The Version Interview... Colin Morgan on Humans 2.0

Humanoid synthetics have become an inextricable part of society, obediently serving and protecting the human population. But what happens when these synths are given the right to consciousness and their own free will?

Series 2 of Humans picks up several months on from the events of series one, Niska (Emily Berrington) is still at large and in possession of the consciousness code. Her synth family, Mia (Gemma Chan), Leo (Colin Morgan) and Max (Ivanno Jeremiah), unaware of her location, are each trying to find their place in the world while Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) and Laura (Katherine Parkinson) attempt to mend their marriage.

As unconfirmed reports of synths behaving inexplicably surface, the ripple effects of one simple yet seismic decision sees the past return dramatically and surprisingly to the door of the Hawkins house. Joe, Laura and the entire family are faced with a difficult choice that will put the family under an intense spotlight.

In the US, Milo Khoury (Marshall Allman), a young Silicon Valley billionaire, founder and CEO of a leading technology company is pioneering new research. But he needs help and attempts to recruit Dr Athena Morrow (Carrie-Anne Moss) - the country’s pre-eminent Artificial Intelligence expert. Suspicious of his motives and focussed on her own work Morrow is single-minded in her drive to create a new kind of machine consciousness.

As an emerging form of intelligent life – the synths – and an established one – humanity – fight for their places in the world, a thrilling multi-stranded narrative evolves which continues to ask: who has the right to determine what it means to be alive?

Colin Morgan tells us more.

Is it nice to be able to talk with a little more freedom about Leo now, given how shrouded in mystery his past was last year?

Yeah, that was a big thing. You only find out halfway through the first series that Leo isn’t quite what he seems, with all the technology inside him, and then there’s his connection to Mia [Gemma Chan] and the synth family, and also that he’s playing an International Man of Mystery. It was difficult being asked the question, ‘Can you tell me a bit about Leo?’, and having to be answer, ‘Well, I’ve been told I can’t’! Now I can speak more openly, which feels good. Leo’s in transition in series two.

How does that come about – is he reconciled to who he is now?

He feels quite different. While it was once about trying to find his place in his small family world, now it’s about finding his place in the wider world. He has to be more open and driven, and I think he is – he’s more passionate about achieving his goals of having a conscious synth family. It feels achievable.

Why does it become his mission to bring in all these newly conscious synths?

He’s got huge abandonment issues after being let down by humanity. His mother and father were utter failures to him. His mother was mentally unwell and unable to look after him, his father was more interested in technology than his son. And he’s part-human, part-machine, so he wants to seek solace in someone who can understand both what it’s like to be part of the world, and to not be. Conscious synths are a bit like him in that sense, and he feels he’s the only one in the world who can help them, who can understand that internal conflict of what it means to deal with that technology and be human.

He and Max [Ivanno Jeremiah] have been close for a long time. How does Hester’s arrival change that dynamic?

Max, Mia and Niska [Emily Berrington] were wired and developed from scratch to be conscious, but Hester [Sonya Cassidy] was programmed to do menial work and suddenly becomes conscious – she’s unequipped to deal with it. Max is learning to be a part of the world and wants his independence. He’s much more proactive and decisive, more leader-like, over and above Leo’s head in some cases. For Leo, the family he grew up with have served their purpose – everyone is now realising that. He doesn’t need them and they don’t need him as much as before. It’s like growing up naturally – you leave home and make your own future.

Hester and Leo are both quite damaged, so it makes sense that they would find common ground.

Definitely. Hester remembers being mistreated and abused, so she has a very logical approach to things. Max has been Leo’s moral compass for so long, but without him around to say ‘no’, Leo has to act on his own and question whether it’s about being moral and righteous, or doing whatever it takes to get what you’ve always wanted.

Is Leo at peace with moving on?

He’s never fully at peace – whenever he’s away from his family and comes back to them, it feels good. But somewhere in Leo’s head, he’s hearing that calling and trying to live up to it.

What does happiness look like for Leo?

I don’t think he knows exactly, but he knows it’s not where he’s been and it’s not with the human world. By accumulating a group of newly conscious synths, they’ll look to him for everything. Somewhere in him, that level of responsibility and love is close to what happiness could be for him: he could be the father and mother for others that he never had for himself.

What are the new questions and themes raised in this series?

The idea that people are looking for their place in the wider world – it’s much more about grand ideas. The most fascinating thing about this series is the variety of relationships between everybody, between Leo and Hester, each of the Hawkins family having very complicated new relationships, humans trying to be synthetic.

How have your views evolved regarding synths after two series?

We could say it’s a sci-fi show, but this is not far removed from reality at all. The technology we show in the series is being worked on as we speak. It’s such a comment on how willing we are to hand ourselves over to technology and become enslaved by it. You see people walking around like zombies, glued to their screens – if you took someone from ten years ago and put them on the tube, they’d think it was weird that everyone was staring at a screen. It is weird, and we’re telling ourselves it isn’t.

Are you now recognised for shows like Humans and The Fall as much as Merlin?

Merlin was five years of my life and of people’s lives who watched it, so it’s had a head start, but the success of the shows you mentioned and various films I’ve done have given me a variety of roles. People only ever have nice things to say, so far. But that can change!

You could argue that the fans have thought harder about Humans than anyone except the writers.

Yeah, meeting the fans allows you to become aware of a whole new idea that you’d never even contemplated. They’ll ask about something and you think: Yeah, I wish I’d known about that when I was shooting that scene, I’d have done it completely differently…

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