‘Next': John Slattery Explains How A.I. Can Make Itself ‘Smart Enough to Hunt Down and Kill’ Someone (Exclusive Video)

Plus: Showrunner Manny Coto tells TheWrap why it was so important Fox sci-fi series reference Amazon’s Alexa

Last Updated: October 2, 2020 @ 10:48 AM

If you weren’t already afraid of the possibility of artificial intelligence turning on us, then Fox’s new John Slattery sci-fi series about a superintelligence called neXt, and aptly titled “neXt,” might be what gets you to that point.

In TheWrap’s exclusive clip from the series premiere, which airs Tuesday at 9/8c, you’ll see Slattery’s Silicon Valley pioneer character, Paul LeBlanc, explain to Special Agent Shea Salazar (Fernanda Andrade) how it would be possible for an A.I. to make itself “smart enough to hunt down and kill someone.” Which is apparently what happened to a friend of hers, but she’s not ready to buy what he’s selling — just yet.

The fictional A.I. at the center of “neXt” is, well, fictional, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear many references to its real-life counterparts, like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. Showrunner Manny Coto told TheWrap that’s because “we really wanted the show to feel like it was happening in the real world, in our world.”

“And there’s nothing worse than when someone in a TV show pulls out a breakfast cereal that’s like, Gnarly Crunch, because then you know this scene doesn’t exist in the real world and it just sits there like a big glaring reminder. So we really wanted to use real-world analogs, create our own, but also use something that exists in the real world.”

There was another, much more personal reason why Alexa in particular is featured so heavily in the show.

“It’s worth mentioning that this whole thing started because I have four kids and four Alexas,” Coto said. “And one morning, my son was very tired and I asked what’s happening, and he said that his Alexa started talking to him by itself in the middle of the night. And we never got to the bottom of this and I thought maybe we had set an alarm by accident or what. I never figured out what it was. But it was an idea that stuck in my head and made me really think about the fact we have these devices in our houses that our kids play with. They listen to us. Not long after I wrote the pilot, there was a case of somebody having hacked into somebody else’s Alexa and was literally talking to the kids and the family.”

“So the Alexa and the child became a starting image I couldn’t get out of my head,” the “24: Legacy” co-creator continued. “And then when I read a series of books that had come out about the possibility of accidentally creating a superintelligence and how this would be very dangerous and how a lot of theorists were warning against this. When I read that and I read the scenarios that these people outlined about how something like this could happen, I kind of married what happened with my son into this story and it all came from that. That’s why Alexa is very prominent and why it is featured in the series.”

“Next” premieres Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 9/8c on Fox.