She bumped into sets and crew members. She even tumbled down the stairs. Playing a robot in the new AMC drama "Humans" was awkward at first for British actress Gemma Chan. "I honestly thought my head would explode," she said with a laugh.

Her character, Anita, is an exquisite specimen of artificial intelligence — or "synth" — one of the must-own gadgets populating a present-day London in a parallel universe. Anita is purchased by an exasperated husband (Tom Goodman-Hill) after his wife's work schedule proves more than he and their three messy offspring can handle. But with her ability to charm man and child alike, Anita isn't exactly the kind of help a frazzled middle-age woman (Katherine Parkinson) wants to encounter at the breakfast table before she's had her morning shower.

What's even more disconcerting, Anita seems to make un-synth-like errors — like bumping into the wife with a hot pan and hiding a giant spider. And sometimes there's a hint of emotion flickering behind her eyes. So is Anita a good synth or a bad synth?

"It's a bit of a mystery, because the writers have been quite playful at the start," said Chan, 32, who, after studying law at Oxford, traded a legal career for the Drama Center London, which led to roles in "Doctor Who" and "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit."

"I don't think the show presents either a utopia or a dystopia," she added. "It leaves it up to the audience to decide."

New York Times