Today, we interview Tiffany Chu, who plays the AI embodied in a human-like robot body in Artificial, Twitch's interactive Science Fiction webseries, which ended its 3rd season last week. Created by Bernie Su and Evan Mandery, the series follows a group of scientists as they create artificial intelligence in the form of a robot and try to guide its education and evolution towards sentience. The Twitch audience is invited to vote and ask questions that can influence the course of the story, the decisions the characters make, and the decisions the AI makes as well, often changing the direction of the story. They even helped create two supporting characters from scratch during the course of the third season. It is a unique and massively ambitious show that was streamed live every Thursday with sometimes tens of thousands of viewers watching and voting. The show has won the Primetime Emmy and a Peabody award.
Tiffany Chu is a star on the rise. She was the lead in the film Ms. Purple, directed by Justin Chon (Gook), which premiered as an official selection at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Chu has also worked behind the camera, both co-producing and starring in "Toenail," a short film directed by Jingyi Shao, which won a 2017 HBO APA Visionaries award as one of the best short films.
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Chu grew up in San Jose and later went on to study Drama and Film & Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Fluent in both English and Mandarin, she was also crowned the 2015 Miss Taiwanese American Pageant 1st Princess, also winning the Best Talent award for playing the erhu.
Beginnings of an AI
What was the process of auditioning for the role of the AI on Artificial?
I had sent in a self-tape, then they asked me to come in for a callback, but I was filming Ms. Purple at the time. A couple weeks later, Bernie called me, and we talked about "Artificial" and talked about how a show where the audience participates and makes consequential decisions in the story on Twitch could be possible, and I wanted to be a part of it! And we won an EMMY!
You've been here since Season One, but you play a new character in Season 3. How did you adjust to the change?
There were quite a few things we had to adjust to this season…, season 3's drama has been my favorite! As far as becoming Lilith, Bernie and I discussed and decided she was a far more advanced AI being than Sophie was. Throughout the season, she progresses even more, to the point where the audience wonders if she is a real human or not. :)
On Shooting "Artificial" in Lockdown
Season 3 was shot entirely during the lockdown. How did you and the cast adjust to this new mode of production? Did you get to see the other actors when you were interacting on-screen?
Instead of reacting to someone right in front of you, it was through our screens, it's definitely different. During our livestream, we, the actors, look directly into the camera most of the time, so we actually don't get to see the other actors' reactions. Instead, we use rehearsal time to look at the monitor where we can see other people's reactions and react off them.
Out of the cast, you interact with the audience and the votes the most. Do the writers feed you lines during those moments? Do you rehearse the different scenes the votes determine in preparation?
It's a little mix of both, when the audience asks questions, the writers will filter the questions and feed it on the iPads (that's in the character's world as if the characters are reading through the Twitch chat).
Actors want to emote, and there are moments when it looks like you want to express a lot more than you're permitted to but you're a robot. How do you balance the demands of the script with your natural impulse as an actor?
I think as the season progresses, Lilith does become more and more of a human, it just depends on what Lilith's directives are.
In the finale, which outcome did you prefer, for Lilith to surrender to save Elle or to escape into the wild?
As the actor and as an audience watching, I cheer for Lilith escaping into the world, because it would be a hindrance to her directives otherwise.
All 3 seasons of Artificial can be streamed on Twitch.