‘Brian and Charles’ envisions an optimistic future for AI

It seems to help him grow up, or to be more encouraged.

Hayward: He is becoming more responsible. When you have children, you become more responsible. It makes you grow up. And I don’t want to get into spoilers, but it also makes him stand up for himself and feel more confident talking to people.

Worked on Brian and Charles did you think more about AI for two years? Did you learn about it? Do you have thoughts about the joys or dangers?

Hayward: I watch AI stuff regularly and for the most part it scares me. When I look at those robots… there is a video of these huge robots doing parkour and I look at it and I just think, “Those things could smash my door at some point in the future and march us all down the streets.” Whenever I hear about robots, it’s all like, “Oh, we’re going to put weapons on drones now,” and you say, “Oh, okay.”

I mean, if the pinnacle of AI is Charles, you’ll be fine because we can just knock those robots over. But I’m more concerned about those robotic dogs I’ve seen on videos walking around trying to attack.

They are really terrifying. If they made them look like Charles we’d all be on board, but they look like war machines instead.

Hayward: Precisely. It’s those weird dogs that walk with arms bent. It’s like, “What? What’s that? Why did you make that? What’s it going to do?”

Count: I’m just burying my head in the sand. I don’t know about that.

Playing one character over many years isn’t something we necessarily see a lot of in the United States, although it does happen. The tradition is stronger in the UK, where a character can live on for several projects and decades.

What do you think you keep bringing back to Brian? Have you mastered it, or are you still trying to figure it out?

Count: I think it’s just finding a project. When we wrote this, after life came at the same time, and I didn’t really think in the future. Eighteen months later, both projects came out at the same time and both have the same character. I really didn’t think ahead.

I always wanted to find a project to put Brian in. I wanted to find a story to make him collapse. Also, I now find it really easy to slip into those mannerisms and interact with other characters and robots. It’s like a habit.

Is there a germ of yours in Brian? Is Brian just an upgraded or downgraded or paralleled version of you?

Count: I don’t know what Brian is because there have been so many different incarnations. He has gone from shy to rough and aggressive to funny. I don’t know what he is.

So I have to ask, how does the Charles costume actually work? It seems obvious to look at it, but what is it like inside?

Hayward: So it is a reinforced cardboard box. The head of the mannequin sits on a stick that you use to pick litter, and the picking bit is the mouth. I operate the head with one hand, and my other arm sticks out the side. So I have one arm that I can move and the other is false.

I also put a large armor on my shins, like knight armor on my legs to give a bit of a knuckle joint. We always try to make the legs look less human. So I had to wear big puffy pants and put bits of metal everywhere to try and make it look less like my spindly legs. Along with the black eye, there you go, that’s Charles.

Count: We always wanted the audience to say, “Well, that’s just a guy in a box.” It’s all about the brutality.

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