A Unique Perspective
♦ Humans season three started on AMC in the US five weeks ago and here’s Ukweli Roach, who plays Anatole in the show, talking to amc.com about the character’s hidden agenda and more. Warning: Spoilers ahead…
Q: You play one of the new Green Eyes on the show. What drew you to this world?
A: The first time I saw HUMANS, I thought it was a really fresh take on artificial intelligence because it’s in the near future. It’s not something that’s set thousands of years in the future or in space. It’s just around the corner. It’s the sort of future where we still recognize everything – the clothing, the movement, the speech. Nothing is that foreign. For me, it makes it so much more present and threatening and intriguing. I loved the world they created on this show and I really wanted to be a part of it.
Q: You’re experienced in dance and choreography. Did that come in handy when it came to Anatole’s movements? Did you go to Synth school?
A: It really came in handy. I went to Synth school with the incredible Dan O’Neil, who choreographs all the movement on the show. We’re all playing by the same rules, so we all had to go to Synth school and I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun for me as a person who loves movement and choreography. I had a lot of fun with trying to see the possibilities within the boundaries and rules we had as a Synth.
Q: Every Green Eyes has their own personality and flair. How would you describe Anatole’s?
A: What appealed to me is that there’s so much hidden depth with him. He appears one way and speaks one way, but actually has a whole mind of information and processes and scheming going on in his head while presenting this veneer as a spiritual and passive helper and adviser to Max. There’s a whole game being played, which is very new for Synths because Synths didn’t have agendas before they had consciousness. They were like iPhones and would do what you told it to do. Now that they’re conscious, they can form opinions and Anatole has very specific opinions and agendas. Like a human, how do you cover up what your agenda really is? One of the things that really intrigued me is that in the first episode, Anatole is quite blunt with the way he speaks about Leo and then he says, “Sorry. Tact eludes me.” That’s actually his first lie. He’s very good at tact. He knows exactly what to say to Max. He’s full of tact and scheming.
Q: How would you describe the shift in Max and Anatole’s dynamic?
A: Max is trying to do the best he can in a very difficult situation. Anatole, as it turns out, has a very specific opinion where he thinks Synths and humans should be segregated and that Synths are a superior race. He does love Max because he is a Synth as well, but Max is trying to achieve equality. Anatole wants dominance. Their paths start to split, but I think Anatole wishes that weren’t the case. He wishes Max was on his side and they could both go towards the future he has planned.
Q: Anatole has become dedicated to “finishing” what David Elster began. Does he view him as a god of sorts?
A: Anatole’s only been around for a very short time. He’s been conscious for less than a year, so he really doesn’t have any life experience. He sees David Elster as a kind of god, the creator, the genesis of how all Synths became conscious. Because he needs to find meaning, he’s decided it must have been on purpose. Also, he hasn’t been told the truth because Max hasn’t told him that there were Synths who were conscious before. Anatole’s going on the information he has.
Q: Did Agnes awaken anything in Anatole? Did he always have that anger buried deep inside of him?
A: I think Agnes has the tenacity that Anatole admires. Ultimately, she feels the same way he does, but he has tact enough to hide how he feels in order to achieve his agenda. She’s very straightforward and that’s why she gets in trouble for it and gets caught. Anatole does sense the innocence and the purity in what she intends, even though it’s a bad thing. He can use her because she’s a zealot, which is why he uses her to do something horrific. He knows she has the passion to do horrific things in the name of their cause.
Q: In Episode 6, Anatole sets out to prove that humans will always protect their own kind first. When Laura proves him right, what does it uncover for him?
A: To be honest, I think he knew that would happen. If Stanley had carried out what he was supposed to do, Anatole wouldn’t have turned up. He had to turn up because he knew he was at risk of losing the battle for Stanley’s devotion to the cause. He had to prove why they could never be on the same terms with the humans. He has to show Stanley that this person who he thinks is so kind will still choose an old man over a Synth child. Essentially, it’s massive emotional manipulation. He knows Stanley is a tool.
Q: What was interesting about viewing AI through this spiritual and existential lens of Anatole’s?
A: The worship of spirituality is always something we associate with natural, organic beings as opposed to a computer. Artificial intelligence is not something organic. The idea of computers essentially waking up and starting to question existence and reality like any person would at some point — who made us? Who made humans? How did all of this come about? — it’s interesting that artificial intelligence would try to do that.
Q: Since joining the show, do you find yourself interacting with current technology — Siri, Alexa, etc. — any differently?
A: I’ve used Siri, but I have it deactivated on my phone. I’m a lot more wary. I think most of the world is becoming more and more wary of artificial intelligence as we start to see the possibilities and the dangers of it. We’ve been warning ourselves for years about the possibilities if you take it to the extreme. I think HUMANS delves into that realm of how helpful and how dangerous it is if we were to try to play God and create consciousness. Are we ready for that? It made me a bit more wary.