Tiffany Chu stars in Bernie Su’s Emmy winning Twitch series, Artificial, as the AI robot, Sophie. Earlier this summer we had the chance to speak with her about the series and its new direction after the Season 2 finale and now having to shoot remotely due to the COVID-19 quarantine.
Tiffany Chu On Her Role In Twitch’s Artificial
Before you took this role on, how nerdy were you? Are AI and technology things that you’re into? Or was this a new world for you?
Tiffany Chu: I kind of knew about it. All I really knew about AI was Sophie the robot, and a little bit about that, but I’m not as much of a nerd as Tohoru [Masamune] is because obviously he’s read up on a lot of papers. So, that’s all I kind of knew. Obviously, I had my own ideas about like what AI technology could do, but I didn’t know about the specifics of it.
His knowledge level is off the charts. I’m a nerd, but his answers were something else.
Tiffany Chu: Definitely. Because when we were rehearsing and stuff, he would tell me [about it]. Because of his character, it makes sense for him to read all those papers on how AI technology works.
How did how did that affect your interactions with him? Because in Season 1, there were a lot of scenes where he was teaching you various things. Did that help you?
Tiffany Chu: It kind of helps, but as far as approaching my character, it was more because of how Dr. Matt Lin had programmed me through learning and experience. Basically, it was coming off a blank slate, and just being a sponge and absorbing and learning through either Matt or the other characters that he brought on, or the Twitch audience.
Speaking about the Twitch audience, this show is a combination of scripted and audience interaction helping you form your narrative. How hard was it for you to get into that mindset of paying attention to the audience while also remembering lines and being this completely different character?
Tiffany Chu: I think it’s being really adaptable. Obviously, in the very first season, episode one – I’ve never done theater before. I’ve done improv, but I’ve never done theater before, so I’ve never performed anything live as far as theater goes. But it was interesting, because I’m not literally performing in front of physical people; I’m performing in front of a screen. So, that helped a lot more.
And obviously, as our episodes went on, I was more familiar with the format. Same thing with all the other cast.
Moving into Season 3, with COVID being an issue, it’s taking that whole aspect a step further. How do you feel about now doing this from home? How’s that affecting how you’re approaching the show?
Tiffany Chu: It’s definitely really different [from] when we worked on set with other people. There’s other people physically in front of you, and when you’re rehearsing and reacting awesome in real time and all that. Instead of that, because of all the situations, we have a virtual holding room.
I don’t know if noticed, but for Season 3, we’re actually – as much as we can – looking straight into the camera. Below the camera, where I’m sitting, there’s a screen where I can actually see the other characters. But the thing with that is we’re doing it live, not really able to see their reactions, because we’re trying look straight into camera. And that’s what rehearsals are for, where I could watch the reaction – and I try to do it as best as possible and react off them.
I guess the thing is, while we’re doing it live, I’m not really able to react often as much as I would like t. But that’s what rehearsals are for. Instead of rehearsing with a person in the room, we’re forced to rehearse through a screen or through a phone.
How is your new character of Lilith different from Sophie?
Tiffany Chu: Lilith is definitely different than Sophie, without giving up too much. If you watch this season, you’ll see that Lilith is, in my opinion, far more advanced than what Sophie was.
Because, obviously, Lilith is now in the hands of Sebastian. Without giving up too much, you just have to watch this season to find out.
How are they both different than Tiffany? How are you and your characters similar or different?
Tiffany Chu: Well, I am definitely not an artificial intelligence. Actually, funny side note, in my very first acting class – I haven’t really taken many acting classes, but in one of the first acting classes I went to – the coach actually called me a robot. And now, years later, I am playing a robot. So, haha!
Lilith is here because Sophie was disabled at the end of Season 2. Would you personally have chosen to deactivate both Ada and Sophie, or would you have tried to teach them?
Tiffany Chu: I think initially, without knowing what the consequences were, I would probably have chosen to give her free will. But given the fact that I know what happened, maybe wasn’t the right choice. That’s if I was invested in the story like that.
But watching from another perspective, knowing that I’m watching a show, sometimes I do like to see conflict. It’s fun.
I want to touch on Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics: a robot can’t hurt a human for any reason and can’t let a human be injured through an action. Why do you think Matt didn’t program these into Sophie? Do you think that was to give her that sense of free will, or do you think he should have?
Tiffany Chu: I think, from one perspective, Dr. Matt Lin is a scientist and is trying to build a robot. But in a selfish sense, he was also trying to create this robot as a daughter, because of the loss of his own daughter. And so I think that he may not have programmed these rules into Sophie because, maybe for selfish reasons, he wanted to raise a human replacement.
I don’t think Matt as a father put these restrictions on his daughter. And so, I think in the same sense, he didn’t want to program that into Sophie because he didn’t want to raise just a robot. He wanted something that he could grasp on to, like his daughter.
Obviously, AI is kind of blowing up. We’ve got Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft has Cortana type – and they’re all getting more and more advanced every day. Do you think we’re ever going to get to the point where artificial intelligence beings are not a product for people to own, but more a part of everyday society?
Tiffany Chu: I think part of that depends on where AI technology is. But it’s AI technology to a certain point, kind of like how Sophia the robot has citizenship in Saudi Arabia or something. But if AI technology does get to a certain point if we are programming these robots to learn and build and react to experiences just like a human does, then maybe we do go down that path. We just don’t know what the unknown is. I think it’s like a double-edged sword.
Are there any events you can talk about or things that are coming up soon that you’re really looking forward to tackling?
Tiffany Chu: Actually, I do not know what’s going to happen, because we don’t get our next episodes till the live that happens. Live is on Thursday, and I won’t get my next script until maybe Monday. Because future events are based pretty much on what happened during the live.
But what was really interesting about this season is Justin’s character. Obviously, we knew he was this podcast host. So, before our first episode started the season we had a live where the audience helped build Justin’s backstory about him having an ex-girlfriend and what his ex does. That was really interesting, building that with the Twitch audience.
And also with Dante Basco, we had already chosen an actor, but the Twitch audience got to choose and help build who this character was. And then we will incorporate that into our future episodes. I think that’s really interesting.
That seems like a really innovative way to do scripted content. Twitch is this really interesting cross between people playing video games and just chatting; and now with you, more scripted content. This show feels like a really interesting blend of all that put together. I saw that you’re doing world-building Twitch streams, where people are going to help decide the story going forward outside of the episodes. That seems like both a really cool idea and a really dangerous one too.
Tiffany Chu: It’s really interesting, because, you get to actually participate in it. And it’s based on majority vote; you actually get to participate in seeing your choice to fruition.
Artificial airs on Twitch with new episodes every Thursday at 5 PDT.
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