'Morgan' Stars Find Genderless Roles Liberating

by Taylor Ferber

Morgan is the latest artificial intelligence thriller to make us reevaluate patterns of human behavior and our own existence. Directed by Luke Scott (The Martian) and produced by father Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien), the film stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Morgan, a non-gender, emotionless “it” and product of human science that so desperately wants to experience human life and emotion, it will stop at nothing to break free in attempt to feel alive. Kate Mara, who plays the ruthless Lee Weathers, is hired by “corporate” to investigate the mission, which has caused a handful of fatalities, and ultimately put an end to it. In a Q&A session with Mara and Taylor-Joy in Los Angeles upon the movie’s premiere, fans called the female leads “savage” and “badass.” When sitting down alone with the stars the next day, I learned that they don’t necessarily view their roles as “badass” as they do “freeing.” Here’s why.

Major spoilers below!

In watching Morgan’s tale unravel, viewers see an eerie, emotionless similarity between “it” and Mara’s character, Lee, and we eventually learn that Lee’s ruthlessness stems from the fact that she’s a product of A.I. as well, just a different breed. Mara admits watching their characters in action makes her think, “Yeah! They are badass.” But neither she nor Taylor-Joy felt that way initially.

“They’re just doing their thing,” says Taylor-Joy. “There’s no conscience of, ‘Oh my god, I’m being so badass right now!’… I think they’re too cool to think that way.” She continues to explain how Mara’s character is simply determined to fulfill a task, while her character just “wants out.” If that means they’re being “badass,” so be it.

If anything, the two may view the gender-less aspect of their roles as badass. Mara describes not being tied to any specific gender as “freeing.” “Who cares?,” asks the 33-year-old. If anything, it was a challenge. “That’s the opposite, really, of what most roles that we play are like,” she explains. “It was exciting to do that. You have to hold yourself back a lot. There was something about it, having to switch your brain off… it was fun.”

Although anyone watching the film would be terrified of Morgan, Taylor-Joy has an appreciation for her character, especially the fact that it’s neither male nor female. “I never thought about Morgan’s gender because Morgan doesn’t think about her gender,” says Taylor-Joy. In fact, the actress thinks the world would be a lot simpler if people thought like Morgan and didn’t put so much weight on gender. “We live in a world where people place a lot on gender and dictate what you can and cannot do on that basis, and I just think that’s absolutely ridiculous. I think people would benefit from having a Morgan-like [gender]. A girl, a boy, it doesn’t really matter,” says the 20-year-old.

More over, both actresses understand that human emotion, as difficult as it can be at times, is worth fighting — and in Morgan’s case, killing — for. “One of my favorite expressions is: Any feeling that you’re having right now is a beautiful example of your human experience,” says Taylor-Joy. “That includes feeling like utter shit, to be honest. If you don’t have the lows, you can’t really have the highs and the highs are so good.”

Speaking of highs, Taylor-Joy and Mara both say the time they feel most alive (which Morgan eventually experiences for a brief moment towards the end of the film), is on set. “It’s that magic moment… Everything goes right. And when they yell, ‘Cut,’ you’re just there, in the moment. Unbelievable,” says Taylor-Joy. Mara agrees, adding, “It’s one of the reasons that we act, or want to be an actor.”

Any of course, neither ladies mind whipping out their savage sides if they have to. “If anyone f*cks with my dogs. I will f*cking hurt someone,” says Mara. “Yeah, I’m the same. I’m very difficult to anger,” adds Taylor-Joy. “Apart from three things: Cruelty to animals, prejudice, I also just don’t do well in heat. If I’m hot, I’m either crying or I’m screaming at someone,” she says.

And while both actresses seem to wholeheartedly understand Morgan and its intentions, would either of them be brave enough to face Morgan alone in real life? “I’d be too curious, so I would be the cat killed,” says Taylor-Joy. “Hell yeah. I would definitely, love to go in with her.” Mara, on the other hand, wouldn’t take her chances. “I would be way too smart to do that. No,” she says. I’m with her on that one.

Savage, badass, empty, or whatever you want to call Morgan, there’s no denying “it” makes us think about human life and how we could benefit from being less categorized ourselves.

Morgan is in theaters September 2.

Images: 20th Century Fox (6)