Gail Barringer, Producer of ABC's Hit Sci-Fi Series Emergence Shares Her Take on AI

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At first glance, Emergence may seem like just another sci-fi series contemplating the future of machines.

It has all the typical ingredients of a good AI story -- new technology that has the potential to destroy the world, a brave and selfless hero/heroine, and a villain with possibly good intentions. 

The difference, however, lies in the nuances.

Protecting The Girl - Emergence

Unlike many other sci-fi series that contemplate the future of AI, Emergence Season 1 is a character-driven series that delves into the complexity of the human experience.

The show compels its audience to ask tough questions about what it means to be alive.

At times, the AI character on the show, Piper, seems so human, you forget that she's a machine.

I had the opportunity to talk to the incredibly accomplished Emergence producer Gail Barringer about her experience working on the show, her take on the future of AI, and her love for storytelling that creates excitement and wonder.

Piper's New Family  - Emergence Season 1 Episode 7

Emergence has been compared to hits like E.T., Stranger Things, and Westworld. Those are some pretty impressive comparisons. What doe you think makes the show different?

I think the main difference with Emergence is that we've placed our AI character in a very familiar and typical world.

It's a world we can all recognize. Makes you stop and think, "Could I love something that's not human? Would I invite that into my day-to-day life?

Don't Leave - Emergence Season 1 Episode 3

Emergence is such a fascinating take on what it means to be human. In your opinion, what lies at the essence of humanity?

Well this is the question that has always made the notion of AI so fascinating and frightening.

Philip K. Dick, the renowned science fiction author, felt that empathy above all else is what separates us from other life forms. I feel the essence of humanity is being conscious of your existence in the larger framework of the world.

It's what all humans have to do as they grow and learn. What makes Emergence so interesting is that you have AI trying to exist like humans, trying to answer the same question for themselves.

So really, there story is the same as ours and makes us think about ourselves and our own values. 

Alexa Swinton on Emergence Season 1 Episode 1

For all of the Emergence fans out there, what has been your favorite part of working on the show?

I love working on a genre show. Being able to tell an unusual story about the very nature of what makes us human, what makes life worth living. What's worth fighting and sacrificing for.

The answer is always love and family. The families we are born into and the families we create along the way. 

A Mysterious Illness - Emergence

From Marvel's Luke Cage to Law & Order: SVU, you've had what many would say is a very successful career. What attracted you to the Emergence script?

I've been lucky to get a lot of my favorite people together on this show. People I worked with on the Marvel shows and on SVU.

We have a wonderful shorthand which makes the day-to-day go much more smoothly. There's always a problem to solve, but with the group we have I know that we can always find a solution.

Our show runners are extremely talented, and they are colleagues from SVU. I enjoy seeing the story unfold just as much as the viewers.

I can't wait to read the scripts and see what's going to happen next. There's great stuff coming!

So Scared - Emergence Season 1 Episode 2

As both a writer and a TV Fanatic, I have a great respect for storytelling. What legacy do you hope to leave behind in the stories you help tell? 

I strive to create the same excitement and wonder that I felt as a kid while watching my favorite movies and TV shows. 

What and/or who inspires you in your work?

I'm inspired by anyone out there who is trying to make the world a better place. It sounds simple, but it's not an easy thing to do.

I'm also inspired by anyone who brings a measure of kindness and caring into the world. I feel our show reflects this attitude.

Jo tries to protect this girl who she inherently feels is a good "person." Piper is real to Jo. Jo follows her heart and takes that leap of faith. She says, "To me, you are real and alive and worth fighting for." 

Piper Smiles - Emergence Season 1 Episode 1

What are the greatest challenges you face as a TV Producer?

My job is a constant stream of challenges that you have to systematically and efficiently solve, but in a way that best serves the story and creates the magic we all want to see on screen.

It's knowing when to compromise and when to dig in and fight for something. It's a balance you learn over time, and somehow at the end of the day it all comes together. 

Family Dinner - Emergence Season 1 Episode 5

You were working in an accounting department before you became a producer. What advice do you have for people who may be struggling with what they want to do with their lives?

I always knew I wanted to make TV & Film. But I didn't know in what capacity. As the great teacher of world mythology Joseph Campbell famously said, "follow your bliss" and keep chasing those things that you like and love to do.

Stick with it, do your best, and know there's going to be good and bad days. If you really pursue the thing that you love, a path will present itself.

Emergence airs Tuesdays on ABC, or you can watch Emergence online!

Kiara Imani is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Emergence Quotes

Benny Gallagher: I know what the report is going to say. They're going to say it was an unmanned drone. Monitoring pollution. Mapping forests. Some rubbish like that.
Jo: How do you know that?
Benny: I have sources. Sources that you don't have. You and I can share information.
Jo: I doubt very much that you'd have any information that I'd want.

Ed: Piper? Piper! Did you forget your new name already?
Piper: Oh, I didn't hear you, sorry.