TV’s happy humanoid family

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IOL Extant Halle Berry, Goran Visnjic and Pierce Gagnon

Voted People magazine’s Sexiest Import in 1999, Croatian actor Goran Visnjic has done a string of pretty impressive movies and TV series since he gained a foothold in Hollywood. Now he is in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi Extant playing Halle Berry’s husband, writes Debashine Thangevelo.

SOME TV series can be all hype and gutting disappointments. Thankfully, Extant has been spared that fate – despite the story snaking its way at a leisurely pace.

The characters are fleshed out so fascinatingly that you forgive the slow-brewed story arc and feeding subplots.

Also, the casting of Halle Berry (Molly Woods) and Goran Visnjic (John Woods) to play happy family with their humanoid robot son Ethan (played by Pierce Gagnon) is exceptionally believable with those cleverly interspersed bouts of emotional outbursts and heart-warming moments.

In the series, which is currently a few episodes in, John’s determination to create more sentient human-like robots following the success of his prototype son consumes him to distraction. And he is particularly protective of Ethan, despite his veiled rebellious streak, especially with Molly.

Visnjic explains, “She’s (Molly) trying really hard, but you know when you see her talk to this little kid, she knows these are programs. These are like zeros and ones behind actually giving you all the answers, up to the point that Ethan almost becomes so human that she doesn’t know what to think and she is getting, ultimately, confused.”

On John being elated after being given the green light for his project from Hideki Yasumoto (Molly’s boss), he says, “There are people who need companions. There are people who can’t stay pregnant.

“There is usage in his brain for something like this. But then, the other side sees the Humatics Project as a danger to humanity. First, they are going to be much smarter and much faster than humans eventually, but also there’s a huge potential of opening a Pandora’s Box with, like, artificial armies, with human trafficking, sex slavery, and all kinds of things like that.”

Of course, this entire project was inspired by his personal life with Molly unable to get pregnant. However, that status quo has changed since her return from space, which throws an unsettling light on the situation.

As for how they are going to deal with Ethan acting out, the 41-year-old actor offers, “We are going to start seeing some unusual changes in him that are going to start provoking him to start making much faster, bigger leaps in his development.

“And that’s going to be interesting because then you are going to be asking questions like: ‘Is this child leaving his parents?’ I mean his creator. It is a bit of a Frankenstein story.”

And Visnjic, a father of four in real life, is bowled over by the powerhouse eight-year-old actor playing his son.

He praises, “Pierce is just an amazing little kid. He is eight years old and I see him more as 11 or 12. He is really one of those kids: he can focus, he can memorise his lines, he comes so prepared – so well prepared that sometimes he is correcting my lines. And when we are finished filming, he goes back to doing what kids do. That’s what makes him a really great partner, great acting companion…”

That admiration is extended to Berry. He notes, “She is genuine. There is a nice feeling around her. She is one of those people when you see her in the morning she is always in a good mood and transferring that on to everybody. We have been really blessed to have her around.”

Interestingly, John and his right hand Julie find themselves at loggerheads over how they programme the robots as the season gains momentum. The underlying suspense, mystery and secrets – lots of secrets – definitely work in Extant’s favour. And Visnjic couldn’t be more chuffed about his role in it.

Extant is on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Wednesday at 9.30pm.


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