Interview with Carrie-Anne Moss who plays Dr Athena Morrow in Humans
Why do you think Humans has been so successful?
It’s such a relevant time for the story. What I love most, and why I’ve been telling people to watch it, is because the writing is so layered: it asks so many questions that we can all relate to. I think it’s incredible, I’m so proud of it.
Athena is caught between enjoying the independence to plough her own furrow with her research, and having access to the huge corporate resources of Qualia offered by Milo Khoury [Marshall Allman]. How does she resolve that?
She has a lot of integrity, but for reasons you’ll discover over the series, she ends up doing things she might not feel comfortable with. She can’t be bought, but she hopes she can do something good with her work and makes a few compromises to make it better. Her mission is basically altruistic, but also very personal for her.
How does Athena react to this dawning synth consciousness?
She's intrigued by the possibilities it opens up. Stuff is happening that she doesn’t think is scientifically possible, and she sees ways in which it could serve her. She’s not in it for the glamour, she’s very much in the basement or the back room, but when she gets the chance to experiment she feels she has to say yes. If she wasn’t dealing with the issues in her personal life, I don’t think she would have got on board with Milo. It wouldn’t have crossed her mind. She feels like it’s a bit of a racket – too many people with too much money doing things that don’t seem to benefit anyone. It’s ego-driven and power-driven, and she’s not that person. She’s humble, strong and has a very strong point of view about what she wants.
Does she have a personal life, to speak of?
Well, that all becomes clearer over the course of the series – you discover why she is who she is.
What does playing Athena offer that you haven’t experienced before?
I had quite a few scenes with some software – a character that’s basically a computer program. That can be challenging because I tend to like to look people in the eye and have conversations. I needed to make the computer program feel like a real person, so I didn’t feel like I was just talking to a screen. I like to play smart, strong women, so playing a scientist was perfect. It’s a challenge to find the truth in every character you play, but with good writing to support it and good actors to work off, you can do it.
How did you find working opposite people playing synths?
The exchange is so unusual, but I enjoyed it. Just having synths in my world became the norm for me as an actor, just as it’s the norm now for people to walk around looking down at their phones. It stopped being jarring very quickly.
Have you ever spent any time in Silicon Valley?
No, I haven’t. I don’t know what it’s really like. It was interesting working with Marshall [Allmann], because he’s really hooked into all that stuff and soaks it all up. He’s very up to speed with everything, but I didn’t feel like I needed to be in order to play Athena. You don’t need to go to medical school to play a doctor. It’s all about finding the humanity of the character.
Was that an easy process with Athena?
Yeah, she felt very real and I understood the journey she goes on, because she’s stuck and remains that way for a while. The writers wrote a stunning breakdown of her for me, which is very rare in television – you don’t usually know what the heck a character is going to do next, but Athena’s story was made very clear to me. A lot of the time as an actor, I have to make that up, which is difficult because often the stories that are eventually told will conflict with story I’ve created for the character.
Athena is a tech genius. Are you quite tech savvy?
I’m not. I rely on technology like my phone and tablet, but I’m one of those people that’s worried about the role of technology and how we’re losing our humanity in all of this. I lie awake at night, concerned about the place technology has in our lives, while trying to keep my mind open to all the wonderful things it allows us to have. I worry about the lack of community and the human aspect. My kids are growing up and I worry about it for them.
Is the technology we see in Humans something to aspire to or be fearful of?
A little of both, I think. We’re so addicted to the technology we have, and the thought of a synth doing things for us… Even the most mundane tasks are still things that make our lives. Humans creates an opening for so many great conversations and interesting perspectives. They writers are exploring important themes in a really intelligent way. I haven’t seen all of the second season yet, so I’m crossing my fingers I feel about it the way I did about the first. I’m in it now, so it’s harder for me to watch in the same way.