Today, we interview Justin Lee, who plays Justin in Artificial, Twitch's interactive Science Fiction webseries, which ended its 3rd season recently. He serves as the show's moral conscience. Created by Bernie Su and Evan Mandery, Artificial 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.
Justin Lee is an actor, producer, and MMA nerd. Having worked on a variety of films and television shows, Justin, is widely recognized for the role of Annyong Bluth in Arrested Development. His film Toenail was a winner at the HBO Visionaries competition and available on HBO. Justin also stars as Cole on the Netflix series, Sneakerheads as well as appearances on Sneaky Pete, Get Shorty, The Interview, Shameless and more.
How did you come to star in "Artificial"?
Bernie and I hung out quite a bit during season 1. As in, I was always hanging out there while he was working on season 1. Come season 2 he wrote me a role and asked if I wanted to be a part of it.
How would you describe Justin's transition from Season 2 to Season 3?
Season 2: Positive, hopeful, naive, humorous, innocent, and idealistic. Season 3: Guilt, miserable, negative, paranoid, traumatized, erratic, and realistic
I'm asking all the cast members this question. How did you find shooting in lockdown where the actors didn't get to be in the same room together and even didn't always get to see each other?
That was the most challenging part. We have to look directly into the camera when we shoot, so we're not able to see or work off our co-stars' reactions. Not being able to look at facial reactions makes it a huge challenge.
Even shot in lockdown, Season 3 is even more thematically and philosophically ambitious than previous seasons. In many ways, Justin embodies all the moral dilemmas and the guilt inherent in the debates. He also ends up suffering for them. Justin comes off as an earnest guy, extremely loyal, desperate to do the right thing, which isn't always what the other characters would agree with. He's one of the more recognizable and relatable characters in the cast. He also gets put through more shit than any of them in season 3. How do you see him and what was your approach to playing him this season?
I think Justin embodies this because of what happened in season 2. He feels a duty/responsibility to make sure it doesn't happen again. I think Justin feels his path to redemption is making sure AI and humanity safely integrate. Yes, he does suffer for it. It's not always easy to do the right thing. I think it's this quality that makes him recognizable, but it's his messiness that makes him relatable.
By the end of season 3, Justin seems to be broken. He's paid the price more than any other character. If and when season 4 begins, do you think he'll be back? If so, what do you think is next for him?
I have no idea. This is one of those shows where I really don't know what's going to happen next. I would be very interested to see what happens to Justin next and where the writers decide to go with him.
All three seasons of Artificial can be streamed on Twitch.