In season 3 of Bernie Su’s Emmy winning Twitch series, Artificial, Jennifer Field joined the cast as Dr. Ruby, a psychiatrist brought in to help with Lilith’s development. We had the opportunity to sit down with Jennifer earlier this summer and discuss the show, shooting from home, her love of science fiction, and her thoughts on ‘raising’ an AI vs an actual child.
World Building With Jennifer Field And La Trice Harper
Jennifer Field On Dr. Ruby
So, before you got involved with the show, how familiar were you with current AI or robotic technology?
Jennifer Field: Yeah, you know, fun question, because I don’t know anything about it other than being a total sci-fi nut.
Current sci-fi is definitely – recently there’s been several TV shows and movies that have covered similar themes to those we see in Artificial.
Jennifer Field: Right. Right. Yeah, no, it’s – I mean, it’s a cornerstone you know, science fiction. Right. And I think we’re getting closer to that right. This example, you know, you’ve got Blade Runner, the original from the 70s. Right, then now you have the other year, I think a year or two ago, Blade Runner 2049 came out and you know decades later we are slowly getting closer to these things becoming a part of our reality hopefully it within our generation.
Yeah, you can see all over the internet videos of robots that don’t necessarily have AI, but are super, super realistic looking, so I can only imagine that by the time the AI gets integrated those. . . like I’m sure you’ve seen the videos of these dog-like robots that are walking around and opening doors or doing backflips off boxes or whatever. . . I don’t know that I’m ready for a sentient technology to have that kind of ability.
Jennifer Field: I know! That’s what these stories are for right to sort of, be cathartic and just prep us for what could and could not happen and yeah, it’s beautiful. I mean it’s coming and it’s the future and yes, hopefully we have control over it and they don’t take over like in Westworld.
You know I loved Westworld Season One, Season Two I was I was kind of iffy with, but then this last season blew me away.
Jennifer Field: I love this last season too. I really did. I mean, and I’m a super fan of the original source material, the movie with Yul Brynner. So, I was super excited when they were making the show and yeah, I can’t wait for the season four.
It’s interesting, on top of Westworld, just this past year we also had Devs on Hulu and Picard was also dealing with artificial intelligence and the nature of humanity. All these studios are putting out this really heady content that kind of asks a really interesting question. So, say we get to the point where these robots or androids do have some semblance of sentience. How would you feel about them actually being integrated with regular everyday society and walking around? Like, do you think you’d know the difference?
Jennifer Field: I sure hope so. I have to say though, like my character, Dr. Ruby, I am one for adventure and risk. And I like the dark side. I like things that could possibly disrupt the system. And so, I like the idea of androids, you know, getting integrated into our life, whether they’re, you know, a dog or a maid or a boyfriend. So, I’m down for it, whatever the consequences.
Can you tell me a little bit about your character on the show?
Jennifer Field: Yes, yes. So, I am a therapist or psychologist, but with a doctorate, therefore I’m technically a psychiatrist. And, you know, my study is of the psyche. I am a scientist of the psyche. And she was written already on paper as eccentric and sort of unorthodox and I did my spin on it, where maybe, perhaps, maybe I’m not all good. That I have my own agenda or I don’t care what happens to people in the process, All I care about is what’s the most I can maximize from this project, no matter the human costs. So, I am happy to be at the forefront of this experiment. Basically, I don’t have ethics in terms of medical ethics, I would say. That’s my choice.
So, your character was brought in by Sebastian and Sebastian seems to have. . .I don’t know that I would say from what I’ve seen of him that he doesn’t have ethics, but he definitely has his own code that he’s living by. Do you think you align more with him? Do you think you’re like even beyond what he’s doing?
Jennifer Field: I think you’re right on the nose. We are two peas in a pod. And we’re buddies, for sure. So, I mean, in terms of like, we have the same long-term goals and visions and values. You know, I don’t want to reveal all my inner Super Objectives. But I do have my ideas for what could happen by the end of the season for Dr. Ruby, which could possibly include usurping Sebastian. But I don’t know. I mean, it’s up to the writers, right? They’re the masterminds with the story and with the audience, who knows what will happen with my character, but I do think that there could be some world domination, secret hopes here.
That’s actually something that I wanted to bring up, the format of the show, not only is it new as far as it being a scripted show hosted on Twitch, which obviously lends to a level of interactivity, but the audience is also helping shape the story itself. It’s sort of like a choose your own adventure, but not quite. How, as an actor, is this different for you than regular scripted productions might be? Also, with everything happening remotely I’m sure that’s just another level of complication.
Jennifer Field: Yeah, that that is definitely another level of complication because we’re remotely filming. So here I am juggling seven or eight different hats and jobs which are normally taken care of by seven or eight people. So yes, that’s a challenge, but it’s been a really great learning experience for me and making me more of a self-sufficient artist and creator in general.
But, back to the story stuff with the audience interaction. Yes, I am realizing how much the chat influences me and it’s not just the polls, it’s not just the audience questions, right? Because the poll, you have a direct influence, choose your own adventure style. But with no turning back, right?
You can’t go back and say, wait a minute, actually, I want to choose this, that they don’t go into the jungle, right? And so, you don’t get to go back. So, if they decide, you know, the robot’s name is Lilith and some audience members later on are like “Why is her name Lilith?”, right? So then, yep, that’s what we chose.
So, because it’s not just the polls where you have a direct influence, I’m realizing the chat is sort of formulating for me, what my choices as an actor are, how are they working? And how are they bouncing off the audience. So I’m able to see like, basically live critics like I’m able to see live comments instead of waiting till after the movie has come out or after previews, where you get feedback and market research and critics, instead I’m having people tell me as I go, which are going to inevitably have influence on my choices as an actress for sure.
One of the basic things that I was told before getting into doing this online stuff was never go into the comments section on YouTube, never look at replies on Twitter. Just kind of do what you’re doing and go forward. But with this, you’re kinda forced to look at that and watch what’s going on. Is what’s happening in the chat being curated for you on your end or are you seeing the unfiltered direct Twitch chat?
Jennifer Field: Well, I thankfully am not seeing stuff that’s getting filtered out that might be, I guess, inappropriate or abusive. So, I think that whoever is moderating, I’m getting the same thing the main audience is getting, so I do see that. But I haven’t gone live yet. So, I am only seeing as an outside viewer, I’m just tuning in and watching my archival clips, and watching the live stream.
When I go live, who knows what chat I see, I mean, definitely once I’m acting live, I won’t be able to pay attention to the chat the whole time. Right? But I am, as I’m watching the streams and the episodes, I am paying attention and you know, maybe I shouldn’t be looking so much. Reading every comment, but it’s just that I’m dying to see what people say.
It’s sometimes like a train wreck, you have to watch just to see what people are doing. I was reading in the bio I was sent that you have a seven-year-old?
Jennifer Field: I do. I do. He’s doing his homework right now in the other room.
. . .I do not miss homework, one nice thing about doing what I do is that I guess my homework is watching TV and movies, so can’t really complain.
Jennifer Field: That’s amazing. Kind of an awesome job.
Within the world of the show, you’re helping raise this AI that’s already kind of been programmed with a base knowledge. So, it’s got a head start from where we are when we were born like, you know, we had to learn everything from scratch. Do you think it’s harder to raise an AI who already has this base knowledge but not necessarily with the needed context or raising a kid from scratch where they learn both at the same time?
Jennifer Field: Yeah, I think it’s probably easier with the AI because you can kind of program or you have some basic sort of normalized code, hopefully so whereas with a kid it comes out with preprogrammed genetic quirks and things you don’t want your kid to have.
If I was mothering right. . . if I was like the Doctor Matlin, I would love that because I feel like I could sculpt my AI nearly exactly to what I want it to be. Whereas with my son, I’m trying to sculpt him and make him take these hip-hop dance classes because I’m explaining to him that it’s a great social skill to have and he’s doing okay, but he’s not loving it. It’s like there’s some. . . it’s not resistance, but there’s some preprogrammed stuff in there you just can’t avoid.
Yeah, it’s funny you mentioned that, whenever I would go to some kind of event that had some sort of a dance aspect to it. . .I was like. . . I have no rhythm. I can’t dance. So I’m always the guy who’s just off to the side watching people. I’m like, I wish I could do that.
Jennifer Field: Exactly you just need to have some base. Never too late. Never too late.
So, last question, between yourself and your character. How are you two similar and how are you different?
Jennifer Field: I would say she’s an exaggerated wishful version of me. Like the ultimate sort of magnified version of me, so all of my little secrets and weird tendencies and. . . and freaky thoughts are on display. So normally I’m so worried about making friends and, you know, being polite and making people feel good.
I don’t like to make people feel bad about themselves and I’m just like. . . a cheerleader. I like to always brighten up people’s day. Whereas with her, she doesn’t really give a fuck and she likes actually digging in the knife, turning it even deeper into you and so, she just lets that all out and uses it for a purpose. So, you know, she’s not afraid to sort of explore people’s personalities and she’s not afraid of rubbing people the wrong way. There’s something admirable to that because sometimes I just want to say what I feel, but it’s not the right time and place.
Oh, yeah, I’ve definitely been there so many times. Hold your tongue. . . Don’t say anything. . . Don’t do it. . .
Jennifer Field: Yeah. Like, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ll be like, I don’t know approached by some guy somewhere and I just want to be like, dude, you’re doing this all wrong. I know. All you want to do is sleep with me. So just like stop doing this. But you don’t want to say that.
Maybe the world would be a different place if everyone did just kind of say all that stuff.
Jennifer Field: Well, sounds like you got something to learn from Dr. Ruby.
Artificial airs on Twitch with new episodes every Thursday at 5 PDT.