'Humans': Mark Bonnar like Neil Sommers could never trust AI for his emotional needs, for that he has red wine and deep-fried chocolate
Mark Bonnar is man of diversity, and in his latest role as the sombre Neil Sommers he explores a character who is full of disdain but otherwise rational
BAFTA-winning actor Mark Bonnar has appeared in some of the best TV series, both comedy and drama, of the last decade. In 2017, Bonnar starred in 'Apple Tree Yard' opposite Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin on BBC One and then in 'Unforgotten', winning the BAFTA Scotland Awards for Best Actor for his portrayal of ‘Colin Osborne’. He also received wide praise for his portrayal of Eric Morecambe in BBC Four’s 'Eric, Ernie, and Me'.
This year, Bonnar joined the cast of Channel4/AMC’s 'Humans' for the key role of Neil Sommer, an intriguingly charming scientist on a government commission with whom Laura Hawkins (Katherine Parkinson) develops a strong personal connection.
He also returned to the stage in a lead role in the Royal Court’s new production 'Instructions for Correct Assembly', written by Thomas Eccleshare and directed by Hamish Pirie. Since 2015, Bonnar has appeared alongside Sharon Horgan, Rob Delaney and Ashley Jensen in the Emmy and BAFTA nominated series 'Catastrophe'. The comedy series has been recommissioned for a fourth and final series by Channel 4 and Amazon Prime Video, January 2019.
Bonnar's further TV credits include 'Line Of Duty', 'Undercover', 'Vera', 'Grantchester, 'Doctor Who', 'Shetland' and 'New Blood'. His theater credits include 'The Duchess of Malfi' at the Old Vic, 'Philistines' at the National Theatre and 'Parade' at the Donmar Warehouse. In an exclusive conversation with MEAWW, Bonnar spoke about what attracted him to Neil Sommer, and teased fans about whether it will return for a fourth season.
Could you walk us through getting the role of Neil Sommer in 'Humans'? What attracted you to this role?
My agent called me one day and told me I had had an offer to play this character in 'Humans' (straight out offers happen rarely, I’d like to point out!) and if I would like to read the scripts they had so far, then talk to the show's producer (Vikki Delow) and creators (Sam and Jonathan).
I had a character synopsis and I think 3 episodes. Neil immediately resonated with me as he is a behavioral scientist whose behavior needs examination! He was conflicted, emotionally raw, but bottled up - in the way that we are sometimes as humans. Playing a character with big internal conflict is always gonna be interesting.
What is it about Neil do you think makes him such an interesting character? How do you identify yourself with Neil?
That internal conflict. Having to balance his rational self with his overarching sense of disdain and contempt for the synths.
Can we expect 'Humans' to return for a 4th season? If it does, what do you think will happen this time? Are the Synths ganging up against each other? What will the real humans do?
I have no idea if 'Humans' will return! I think what’ll happen is Neil will break out of jail with the help of the synths, he will become their leader, and oversee their successful integration back into humanity. He will start a progressive electronica group called Synthia.
Do you, too, scorn synths or AIs the way your character does? Do you think that a time will come when we will actually depend on AI for our emotional needs?
I'm always suspicious of new tech- only cos humans make it though. There's no way I’d depend on any machine for my emotional needs - that's what red wine and deep fried chocolate are for.
Could you share with us your experience of working with Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin in 'Apple Tree Yard'? Which other actors would you like to work with in future?
Working with Emily and Ben was really special. Apart from being a couple of class acts, they are bloody great fun and I enjoyed my time on set immensely. It took me a week to stop watching Emily and start acting with her! The only actor I have on my ‘work with’ bucket list is Jack Nicholson.
'Catastrophe' is returning for its final season in 2019. Could you tell our audience what they can expect?
To laugh like a drain and sob like a donkey.
What will your role be like in the fourth season?
Sharon and Rob have, again, expanded the emotional breadth of the Beesley's characters - we see Chris being a dad more for example... It's always such an exciting day when all the scripts arrive for the first time! I'm sad that’ll never happen again.
You have been known to be the cold, green-eyed man in most of the series you worked. Personally, what kind of characters do you like to play? Would you like to play characters who are less complicated than the ones you have been playing?
I don’t feel I've been cold! It's certainly true that I've had my fair share of lunatic/ broken/ Machiavellian men with hang-ups and secrets plenty, but they are, more often than not, by far the most interesting to play. You have to find the humanity in the worst of bastards.
What are your plans for the new year? What other projects we can expect to see you in?
There's a new project that starts in April which I'm very excited about. Not allowed to squeak just yet though.