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NYCC: neXt creator Manny Coto teases his grounded, high-concept sci-fi thriller

By James Comtois

FOX showed off the first episode of neXt Saturday night at New York Comic Con, which adds some grounded, real-world intrigue to its heady sci-fi premise. 

The series stars John Slattery as Paul LeBlanc, the founder of the eponymous company that created a form of A.I. that could've destroyed humanity. He's promptly fired from his own company (by his own brother, no less) before he gets a chance to shut it down. In a race to save humanity, he teams up with cybercrime special agent Shea Salazar (Fernanda Andrade) to take out the neXt project.

The show's creator and executive producer, Manny Coto, said the idea for a grounded, A.I. thriller from the everyday devices we keep in our homes. 

"I have 4 kids at home and one night my son wakes up very tired. I asked what's wrong, and he said 'Alexa started talking to me at 4 in the morning,'" Coto said, adding that he thought the premise would be "a great way to do a thriller in the vein of 24," which he was a producer on. 

To make things more difficult for LeBlanc and company, Coto took a slightly different approach to his portrayal of the self-aware neXt project. "If AI were to exist, it would play dumb, because it wouldn't want people to know it exists," Coto argued. "So the premise of the season is having a small number of people trying to make people believe it exists. This makes them targets."

Andrade said that the real-world tension is established largely because the show leans much more on the 'science' and less on the 'fiction.' 

"It's not far away, it's already here," Andrade said, later adding that A.I. is "an invisible monster that's everywhere."

After an early screening the first episode, the show is clearly wasting no time, as LeBlanc has already been fired from neXt, and isn't exactly winning over his estranged daughter with his attempt to reconnect. But his personal problems are hardly the worst thing he has going, as the A.I. he created is getting exponentially smarter, and starting to go HAL on anyone who tries to stop it. 

To make matters worse, LeBlanc is suffering from a degenerative brain disease, adding a certain sense of expediency to the whole end of life as we know it premise. And doesn't exactly make him the most reliable narrator, which could prove to be very interesting as the show progresses. 

We'll see how this all shakes out when neXt debuts on FOX sometime in 2020.

Click here for SYFY WIRE’s full coverage of New York Comic Con 2019, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.