HBO’s sci-fi epic Raised by Wolves, the biggest international TV series ever shot in South Africa, is now available to stream first on Showmax.
In Raised By Wolves, two androids are tasked with raising human children on a virgin planet, after Earth has been destroyed in a religious war.
Raised by Wolves has already been nominated for three 2021 Critics Choice Super Awards: Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series, Best Actor: Sci-Fi for Travis Fimmel (Vikings’ Ragnar) and Best Actress: Sci-Fi for Danish actress Amanda Collin, whose character, Mother, was hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “the most memorable female/female-like space entity since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Alien.”
Filmed in and around Cape Town with Film Afrika, the 10-part series is executive produced by four-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott (The Martian, Alien and Blade Runner), who also directs the first two episodes.
As Inverse put it, Raised By Wolves is “phenomenal… Ridley Scott’s best sci-fi since Alien… there’s no TV show quite like it.”
We asked Amanda and her co-star, Abubakar Salim (Jamestown, Fortitude, and the voice of Bayek from Assassin’s Creed: Origins), about wearing latex suits during summer in Cape Town, working with Ridley Scott, and playing androids.
How would you describe your characters, the androids Father and Mother?
Abubakar: I think Father is almost a flawed, loving comedian. He’s trying to do his absolute best to help the mission of raising children, knowing that Mother is capable of doing pretty much everything herself. The way I approached it was thinking of Father as a counterbalance to Mother’s nature. Mother is a parent who loves her children and sees them as children to be protected, whereas Father tries to see them as human beings and see what they can become as they grow older. You always have parents like that, don’t you? My mum still thinks I’m two years old sometimes.
Amanda: So much happens to Mother. There’s such a transformation going on, in what she thinks she is and what her mission is about. Originally, she is programmed to be a loving mother, doing her best at all times. I had fun with that because I’m a mother and you try to do your best, but when are you ever perfect? That’s an important topic to talk about because more and more in this life, as everything becomes computerised, all we have to compare ourselves with is perfection. We have to remind ourselves that it’s human to have flaws. The process Mother is going through, discovering who and what she is, is very scary and fascinating. I think it’s a beautiful journey of combining your darker and lighter side and hopefully becoming a whole person.
You’re playing androids, not humans, but they have emotions. How did you approach playing something that isn’t human?
Amanda: Mother feels so much. Mother feels like a kid or a teenager, where all their feelings are so accessible. She has no idea how to control all the stuff inside her. She’s discovering everything. That was so interesting to discover with her, with every scene. There is the birthing scene in the first episode, which is very emotional. She has a baby that is about to die in her arms and it suddenly starts breathing. That would be a huge emotional relief. I remember asking, ‘Is it appropriate that I’m crying?’ They used the crying, so I guess it was appropriate.
Abubakar: That’s what was so exciting about the process of discovering what it means to feel as an android. Rarely do you get to play a character feeling something like that for the first time. It’s like kids, feelings just coming at you and you have to deal with it. Even though we’re responsible for raising humanity, we’re still feeling like teenagers. What a dynamic! What a thing to explore!
How did you prepare for these roles?
Abubakar: I looked at a lot of video games. That was my way in. It’s always been my process of dealing with characters, through looking at characters created in games. You have a lot of room to play with them, because you’re literally playing in their shoes. On top of that, the process on this was really quite collaborative. I would have a hundred conversations with Amanda about where we came from and how we were created. Then I would talk to Ridley Scott and he was very much about the cadence and musicality of the voice and how that influences how you move.
Amanda: Being in the hands of someone like Ridley, who makes it so playful and like a big discovery game, it’s like nothing I’ve tried before. It was so fun and free and amazing.
Ridley Scott is a master of the screen and sci-fi especially. What were your feelings about working with him?
Abubakar: I remember going in thinking, ‘Oh god, I’m about to meet the godfather of sci-fi.’ But he doesn’t wear it like that. To him, it isn’t about a big sci-fi world. It’s about the stories and connections. It’s about what grounds it and what brings it to the world of today. I think that’s what’s so brilliant and genius about it. We’re not stuck on this idea of sci-fi. If we did that, you’d negate a large part of the audience. Not everyone is into sci-fi. But if you bring it to a level of humanity, that Ridley does so brilliantly and naturally, you just fall in love. It was wonderful working with him. Just brilliant. He’s so grounded. He’s got nobody to impress.
Amanda: To have a boss of it all who sets the tone – he’s so present and instinctive – that’s very inspiring to be around. He gave us a lot of freedom to share our opinions. I remember calling my husband after the first two weeks and saying, ‘What am I doing? It’s Ridley Scott and I just told him I don’t think my hair should be red!’ Then of course we did the hair red and of course it’s amazing. But that’s what’s pure genius about him. He has such a good way of making you feel important and listened to. I’d be happy working with him for the rest of my life.
What was it like filming in those latex suits in the heat of a South African summer?
Amanda: Well, we certainly know the nature of latex and how it sucks up the heat whenever there’s even a tiny bit of sun on you. Temperature was a thing. And you need about three people whenever you need to go to the loo. Every morning there was about 20-30 minutes of getting into the suits. But I’d much rather wear latex than a corset.
Abubakar: I was so hot. I’d be raising my arm up and a big trail of sweat would follow. There were many, many learnings from wearing latex for eight months in South Africa. They help the performance, though. It’s another way for Amanda and I to relate to each other. Those suits were a big factor. We understood the madness of it all and it was great to have someone to share that experience with.
Amanda: Also, oftentimes we didn’t have to do much in a scene because the suits made us look so android-y. That gave us a freedom to be more human in our expression. That was such a gift, to explore how much was given to us just by the suit. Often in a role it’s the shoes that give a character some spark, but here we had a whole suit!
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