One element we love about Netflix’s Lost in Space TV series is the updated robot. Following events that happen after the Jupiter 2 spaceship crashlands on the planet, the youngest family member, Will Robinson, bonds with the robot and the pair become inseparable. If – like us – you were wondering if there really is someone wandering around in a hulking great suit, it depends what mood the ’bot is in…
“It’s a combination of CGI and practical effects,” Max Jenkins, who plays Will Robinson, tells MyMBuzz’s Matt Chapman. “When he’s in his nice form, there is a man in a suit and when he’s in his angry form it’s completely CGI.
“But he’s such a good actor and there’s so much technology that goes into it. There’s literally 500 individual pieces on the robot suit that all have their own different functions. When we’re interacting, it feels like you’re talking to my childhood hero – a robot. I grew up loving robots so it was really cool to be able to act off one.”
While some actors might worry about playing off a man in a suit, the creators came up with a solution to help them in their interactions.
“It’s pretty blank-faced so it’s kind of this inanimate object that you have to yell at or cry to or be scared of,” says Taylor Russell, who plays Judy Robinson in Netflix’s Lost in Space. “The actor inside is quite a lovely gentleman so he does his best to elicit as much emotion as he can under a robot face. It’s kind of like acting on green screen and is a different challenge.
“But they have these beautiful lights,” she continues. “The special effects team and the people who are doing the robot made its face light up with different lights for different emotions. This sounds so actory but it’s weird that you can connect to the different colours and if you hold an emotion to the different colour, then it helps. Then you can have an intense scene with the robot.”
Will’s special relationship with the robot also creates an interesting problem for the scriptwriters. We point out that onscreen he has a kind of Luke Skywalker/R2D2 thing going on, where he understand the robot but the audience can only hear one side of the conversation.
“That’s an interesting point because the other day Kevin Burns our executive producer mentioned the relationship and said when you compare Lost in Space and Star Wars you have Doctor Smith as C3P0, you have Will Robinson as Luke Skywalker and the robot as R2D2,” Jenkins reveals.
“But there’s no scripted dialogue for the robot. It’s just when we were filming it, you could feel this connection and it felt as if you understood what the robot was saying, thanks to the body language.”
“Max is such an emotionally available young actor,” Russell says of his onscreen relationship with the robot. “He does a lot of work and he knows what he wants in a scene like that and there are a lot of conversations back and forth of what the creators want and what he thinks is important. So when he’s having those one-on-one scenes with the robot, it’s very thought out and he’s able to get a lot of the emotions he needs from the work that he does. It does add something more but Max does a lot of that work.”
“The relationship between Will Robinson and the robot is an unspoken bond that they will have for life,” confirms Jenkins. “It’s really special because they’re both outcasts of society and don’t feel like they fit in. But they look past each other’s exterior and they see the good and the helplessness on the inside. And I believe that’s a really admirable quality and is something that we all could use. In a perfect world, we’d all have that quality.”
All 10 episodes of Lost in Space are now airing on Netflix.
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