Michael Fassbender delivered one of his most memorable performances as the hyper-intelligent android David in in Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus. Inspired less by previous android characters in the Alien franchise and more by 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL-9000 and the replicants of Blade Runner, David’s all-encompassing intelligence and human-like self-awareness led him to develop insecurity and jealousy toward the humans he served aboard the titular vessel.
Fassbender is set to return as David in 2017’s Alien: Covenant, and he’s expected to retain many of the same human qualities that were both a blessing and a curse for him in Prometheus. But in a curious casting twist, he is also portraying a second android, named Walter. It’s unclear why Fassbender in particular is playing the role of Walter, who is a more straightforward android with a similar appearance and role on the ship to David’s. But the actor is more than willing to describe the characters and their roles in Alien: Covenant ahead of the Prometheus follow-up’s release.
Speaking with Screen Rant in a visit to the set of Alien: Covenant, Fassbender opened up on his dual roles as two distinct androids. Fassbender described David and Walter’s stark differences while hinting at what to expect from each of them. Here’s what he had to say when asked if it was like doing two movies at once:
“Not really. Just different costumes. [Laughs.] It’s pretty straightforward in the fact that Walter is very much a synthetic minus any of the human traits. So when the David 8’s came out, there was a resistance from people to that model. Because it freaked them out a little bit. Because he was demonstrating a lot of human qualities, and his programming was veering towards human characteristics, like ego and vanity and pride. They found that to be not so much useful as opposed to making people uncomfortable, so they designed the following models with fewer of those human traits. Well, none of them really.
“So Walter is just a very straightforward, logical synthetic really. He’s more like a Leonard Nimoy/Mr. Spock type character. Whereas David is…it’s been ten years since we last saw him, without any maintenance. So those human qualities have sort of gathered momentum a little bit, I suppose. They’re as much a part of him now as his synthetic qualities. But Walter’s just really there to serve the ship, and its crew.”
It’s certainly conspicuous that Fassbender was cast in a second android role who will closely resemble David. Regardless of each character’s role in the plot, it appears important that Fassbender in particular was chosen to play the role of Walter. Here’s what he said when asked why it was important for him to play two roles:
“Because it’s cheaper. [Laughs.] I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Fassbender may have been acting coy about why he was chosen to play two different roles. With both androids aboard the same ship in Alien: Covenant, David and Walter are ostensibly bound to cross paths at some point. Fassbender’s comments about the “momentum” of David’s human qualities suggest that the presence of Walter will only further drive him to resent the humans who programmed a less intelligent version of him.
It requires a gift for nuance to portray two distinctively different characters who look so similar to each other, but Fassbender certainly has the acting chops to pull it off. David’s likely interactions with Walter will serve as an intriguing subplot for Alien: Covenant’s story and the actor can be relied upon to deliver another memorable turn. Fassbender’s presence in two roles suggests that the battle between humans and aliens will not be the film’s only conflict.