INSPIRED by family sitcoms of old such as Mork & Mindy and Small Wonder, filmmaker Datuk Afdlin Shauki has come up with a localised sci-fi family comedy series, AI.5YA.
The 10-episode Viu Original show, which airs every Thursday on the streaming platform, follows the exploits of video streamer Jehan, played by Zizan Razak.
Things get interesting when his last crew member decides to quit after a stunt gone wrong, forcing the online streaming prankster to turn to technology.
Having been assigned an artificially intelligent android codenamed AI.5YA, Jehan decides to turn the android programmed to become a companion, to become his all-in-one film crew and supporting actress.
But when his videos go viral and people start clamouring for more of AI.5YA, Jehan needs to find ways to divert attention away in order to preserve the secret that his assistant is not human.
SCI-FI DREAM COME TRUE
"I've always been a fan of the sci-fi genre from Star Trek to lots of other TV series and movies. I've actually nursed a desire to act in those types of stories," says Afdlin, who serves as creator, writer and director for the new series, during a recent chat.
The director of films such as Papadom, Sumolah, Buli Balik and the upcoming Baik Punya Ah Long adds that the inspiration for AI.5YA came during the pandemic.
"The idea came about during the MCO when I stumbled upon YouTube videos of this AI robot Sophia created in Hong Kong which was getting a lot of news buzz.
"So, I tried to imagine how this would be and how it would affect people and society, our acceptance towards these new developments.
"There's a lot of fish-out-of-water situations that provides for many comedic avenues to be explored, as well as the chance to examine the human condition," says Afdlin, who also has a supporting role in the show.
He says that fans who like his previous works will feel at home with this new one since it also goes through the gamut of human emotions.
"Don't be surprised if you feel moved by some of the dramatic moments," he says.
A DIFFERENT ZIZAN
Also present was Zizan who says that he's grateful to work with Viu for the first time and with Afdlin.
"It was great to work with Viu and Afdlin since they gave me the opportunity to do something new.
"The script was relatable and well written and many people including the younger generation will be able to relate, since we now live in the era of social media and streaming.
"Viewers will be able to see a different side of me and follow the development of my character over the episodes," he says.
The star of the Police Evo and Abang Long Fadil action movie franchises adds that he also loved that the multi-layered storytelling of the show provides lessons on what it means to be human and to have family.
The titular android character is brought to life by Mia Sara Shauki who is known for her recurring role in the series, Wizards Of Warna Walk.
The 23-year-old actress explains that the challenges she faced during the production actually helped to make the role memorable.
"The process of finding the character was a challenge since there were new scripts every day during filming and I had to speak in Malay which I'm not really fluent in.
"But it made me push myself to do the best and it actually helped in the role since the robot behaves in an awkward manner with people. It worked out and brought the character to life," she says.
Afdlin jokes that he had Johnny Depp in mind for the role of Jehan but since the Hollywood actor was busy, he settled with Zizan instead.
On casting his own daughter as AI.5YA, the long-standing filmmaker adds that there was no cronyism involved.
"I've always encouraged Mia to act in Malay series just so that she gets more comfortable speaking in the language.
"We had tried auditioning many others for the part but no one was free, the timing was just right with Mia and I think she nailed it.
"After filming the series and seeing the product, her poise and performance was suitable for the role. She presented the right personification of the character," he says.
AI.5YA, which is the third Viu Original Malaysia title in 2022, also stars Farahdhiya, Ozlynn Waty and Elly Arifin.
Catch the new show on the Viu app or via www.viu.com.