Artificial Factions is the latest season of Twitch’s scripted Sci-Fi series, ArtificialNext. Forced to start over with a new AI once again, Sebastian and Xander compete head-to-head to see who has developed the superior AI. We recently had the opportunity to sit down for a chat with Stephen Chang who portrays Sebastian. Over the interview, we discussed how Sebastian’s world has changed since the end of Season 3, how you prepare for a weekly, live, scripted show, and beard care. You can watch the interview below.
ARTIFICIAL FACTIONS’ STEPHEN CHANG DISCUSSES THE NEW SEASON
The Illuminerdi: I actually spoke to you last year ahead of season three. We had a long conversation about, I guess, the existential impact of AI and what it means for humanity as a whole. I got into a little bit about your kids and how raising them in AI is kind of similar. After season three, things are a lot different now. Your new AI is more of a virtual system. Lilith is out there on the run. What can you tell me about where Sebastian is now, ahead of season four?
Stephen Chang: I’m sure I told this last year, because everything’s kind of developing week to week, so it was kind of a surprise at the end of last season, especially that last episode of last season, I did not see that coming either. I’m sure with everyone else that was watching I was blindsided by that interaction, and I feel like when reading the script so far for this season, I’m impressed with Sebastian’s character because he’s back in the ring again, because for me it was a big slight, I was very upset by the end of last season.
This is now the second time that you’ve had a reset.
Stephen Chang: Yeah. I’d be ready to just call it quits now, but I love the tenacity of Sebastian that he’s back in the ring again, and he’s not afraid to keep pushing forward, and that’s what I really like about his character, that he’s such a go-getter, doesn’t let things really knock him down. With the new AI, I like it.
I had no clue where Bernie was going to go with that. I said we’ve done everything. What are you going to do now? Then I see this virtual AI, and I think it’s just a very creative idea. I feel like it’s a new avenue of exploring versus this physical body, having an AI in a virtual form. I think it shows a lot of Sebastian and Bernie’s creativity of, okay, this didn’t work, so let’s bounce back and let’s try something else.
Stephen Chang: I don’t feel like Sebastian feels defeated at all. I feel like he’s ready to go to battle again. I think it’s more of his beliefs in AI versus his ego. I’m sure there’s ego involved, but I was like, why do it again unless you really believe in what you’re doing? I guess that’s why I would say Sebastian is coming from in season four, entering the ring again.
All I’ve done so far is some of these flashbacks. The gloves are off right in the get-go. The characters coming back and I was like, man, things are going wrong right from the beginning. I said, man, this is going to be a rough season. It’s only the first two episodes, it’s already like this.
Yeah, it looks like, at least from what I’ve seen so far, you’ve got a lot of returning characters that at the end of season three seemed like they were just out in the wild, so I’m definitely excited to see who’s going to be popping up again because it seems like all bets are off.
But you did bring something interesting up about how you guys are filming this, it’s kind of week to week; what happens with the audience changes that. One of the things I was thinking about while I was watching season three, was that it kind of felt almost like working on a soap opera because I know with them, they go in, they shoot every day and sometimes they get the scripts the night before. How do you prep for this?
Stephen Chang: You don’t. You jump into the fire, man. You jump into the fire. Prepping is interesting. I have another work conflict, so I don’t know how much I can do lives this year, but I can tell you from past experience with lives, it’s like you say, a soap opera, or doing live theater because you’re there, you’re rehearsing.
I know of all-day rehearsals on Tuesday and then Thursday, you’re rehearsing all day and up to the performance, and you’re rehearsing alternative routes where the show can go, if the audience votes this, we have to go this way. If the audience votes this, we’re going to have to pivot on a dime and go this way.
I’ve known from last year, there’s times when those votes, Bernie is saying, it’s so close to call. It’s too close to call. Too close the call. I said, Bernie, we’re on in five seconds, which way are we going? It’s like, ah, ah, ah, this way, go, and you just got to wing it, and go and fly. It is challenging for actors, especially when you come from TV and film, you’re used to, you’ve got your scene, you know what’s going on, you got to do it a million times.
This, you’re just like, it’s live theater, because you’ve never really done it before and you don’t really know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if there is a way to really prepare. It is, it’s jumping into the fire, man.
With the new dynamic this season, from what you know, and not spoil for people, what do you-
Stephen Chang: Don’t worry, I don’t even know what’s going on here, so I can’t spoil anything for you.
What are you looking forward to? What’s the most exciting part about what you guys are doing this season, for you?
Stephen Chang: For me personally, I’m always excited to see a storyline because the storyline is always week to week, I’m like, where can you go? I feel like you’ve done it before, but they always keep coming with new things. I’m like, oh shit, I didn’t see that coming. I always think storyline and the writers, I think they do a marvelous job on the show; A, just being able to be creative week-to-week; B, there’s a lot of research they’re doing, and a lot of technical stuff that goes on in the dialogue and things like that. They must be experts in artificial intelligence and coming up with this stuff, because they have some really very clever ideas.
I’m interested to see where the Lilith storyline and the Elle storyline will kind of come back into play, because I’m curious, I’m like, what happened? What happened to these people? Will he get his AI back? How will that progress if Lilith came back and there were multiple AI’s in this whole thing?
Personally, I look forward to working with the actors again, especially in a different setting, because last year I was in my closet, basically, acting, and this year, at least you get to be in person, but that would be the things I’m looking forward to most probably. I love the Sebastian character. I don’t ever get to play anything like that in my normal life, I feel like, so it’s always fun playing.
Yeah. Sebastian has gone through, I don’t want to say a lot of changes, but from the moment that we met him, through the end of season three, and even now, from what I’ve seen at the beginning of season four, he’s a different guy.
Stephen Chang: That’s true.
I recognized him, but he’s grown a lot, just with everything that he’s been going through and just the situation in general. Over season three, both you and Dante Basco’s character, Zander, your feud seem to be like amping up each week. Sebastian, specifically, seemed like he was getting more aggressive as the episodes went on. Where do you see that relationship heading this season?
Stephen Chang: Yeah. It’s funny, because it always seemed like when I first was reading about Zander and Sebastian, I was like, oh, it’s like this kind of playful rivalry, but the more it get deeper and deeper, I’m like, this don’t feel very playful at all. It feels like they’re going after each other, and it’s very competitive. I don’t know.
Like you say, I always thought Sebastian, when I first started playing the character, because I don’t know how the real professional actors do it, I’m just kind of a rookie at this point in time, but how they’re able to flesh out a character so quickly and give multiple layers and depth to it, because I find when I’m acting and especially with a repeat character, I’m learning more about the character the more I’m doing it, and so I feel like he’s always evolving, because when I first was reading Sebastian, I was like, oh, he’s just such a playful guy.
He’s very fun, a little manipulative here and there, but the more I’m getting into it, there’s like this onion you’re peeling back. This year I feel like, man, after everything that’s happened, I almost feel like he’s like Pacino in the Godfather. He’s like this guy who’s sitting over watching these things and he’s not afraid to, well, I’m not going to kill nobody.
I don’t know. I feel like there’s a danger to his character now, that I would never have said from day one when I read it, I was like, oh, he’s kind of dangerous, but I feel like he’s kind of dangerous and very mistrusting now. Yeah. It’s very interesting where he’s come from. I don’t know. I’m excited to see where it goes too.
Artifical Factions Stephen Chang Will Also Appear In The Bosch Spin-Off
I know you said that you’re working on another project right now, so before we log-off, is there anything that you could talk about with this new project that you’re on, or anything that you’re working on outside of Artificial that people should be looking out for you on?
Stephen Chang: Yeah. I don’t think there are any rules where I can’t talk about it, but there’s a show called Bosch,
They’re going to do a Bosch spinoff, so I play one of the characters in this Bosch spinoff, which has been a great opportunity for me, so it’s been really fun. Unfortunately, it’s filming at the same time as Artificial, so it’s a little bit back and forth, but I’m blessed that Bernie’s like, yeah, go do it, and do Artificial as well, so it’s been really cool.
Artificial Factions is produced by 96 Next, an interactive media studio focusing on narrative experiences for new platforms. 96 Next was founded by Bernie Su, an interactive mixed-media showrunner known for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, the first two YouTube distributed series to win Primetime Emmy® awards.
The series is co-created and written by Evan Mandery, the author of six books, including Q, and is a regular contributor to Politico. Executive producer Bonnie Buckner is best known for producing CNBC’s “The Profit,” USA’s “Chrisley Knows Best” and “Yo on E!”. In season four, Su is joined by Jen Enfield-Kane as co-showrunner. Writer/Producer Enfield-Kane has been working on Artificial since season one.
Artificial Factions will air live every Thursday at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET through November 18, 2021. Will you be checking out Artificial Factions? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!