This interview is spoiler-free for Future Man season 2.
For some, the name Haley Joel Osment will always be associated with the “I see dead people” cultural touchstone of his childhood role in The Sixth Sense, but in recent years, the actor has taken on some fan favorite comedic roles including that of Stu Camillo in Hulu’s Future Man, which returns for its second season on January 11, 2019. Stu has had a range of personalities depending on the version of history in which he has appeared in the time travel series, but the insecure megalomaniac has always been portrayed as a humorous antagonist. Osment spoke about how his role has grown and what we can expect to see from him in Future Man season 2.
The new future in which Josh (Josh Hutcherson), Wolf (Derek Wilson), and Tiger (Eliza Coupe) find themselves in Future Man season 2 is marginally better than the one they were trying to avoid in the first season thanks to Stu Camillo, but Osment assures fans that they will not exactly be seeing the tyrannical version of the scientist to whom they were first introduced at the start of the series, which may have reminded some of Osment’s role as the selfish and manipulative Travis McCredle in 2015’s Entourage.
“Yes, there is a little bit of overlap with Travis and Stu, the worst versions of him,” Osment admits. “And that was what was so fun about season one is that I ended up playing like five or six versions of the same character. In episodes two and five when I’m at the top of the company and bullying Dr. Kronish around and everything, there’s definitely some Travis stuff. But it’s such a complicated show; the character has really evolved.” Part of that evolution, of course, involved an infatuation with “Ty-Anne,” a Tiger alias from season one that may have softened Stu a bit.
“Luckily the ‘nice guy’ Stu from episode 11, I think it was in season one, ended up being the one that survives the biotic apocalypse and being in the timeline that they find themselves in in season two,” says Osment. “There’s definitely real concrete motivations for all of his plans and his desire to be the benevolent dictator to save humanity from itself, and that is kind of wired into him in the same way that he cannot let go of this obsession with this woman that he met for one day in 2017… that one day with Ty-Anne in the previous century is just something that still haunts him and excites him.”
Osment’s portrayal of Stu as an earnest believer in the importance of his position in the world of Future Man season 2 may surprise some viewers. “For every character, as it is in pretty much everybody’s life in their own heads, you’re definitely the protagonist of your own story and the hero of the story, so anything that a character does that most of us on the outside might see as being immoral or wrong is justifiable to them,” explains Osment. “And Stu is an extreme example of that throughout the entire series where he’s willing to do a lot of immoral things because he thinks it’s good for people, and he often doesn’t think that people know what’s good for themselves.”
Stu does have a larger role to play in Future Man season 2, which Osment wasn’t necessarily aware of when filming the first season of the series, but the world in which this more important version of the villain exists is much less subject to change by means of time travel. The TTD, for one thing, won’t be as accessible to Josh, Wolf, and Tiger as it was in season one.
“I think they developed that towards the end of 2017 after season one came out, and in the early part of last year,” Osment speculates. “I ended up going in for a meeting with [series creators] Kyle [Hunter] and Ari [Shaffir] and [showrunner] Ben Karlin and everybody in April. It was this two-hour session just explaining everything that happens in season two. It’s a pretty complex story, but then we add a bunch of jokes and comedy to it, too… Having seen the running and gunning way that we did season one where they’re jumping around to all these timelines, in season two we all exist in this one world.”
Much of the humor of Osment’s portrayal of Stu comes paradoxically from how serious the character is about his desire to determine the fate of humanity; he doesn’t even seem to realize how manipulative his supposed benevolent rule is. But the comedy also has its roots in how much fun Osment and the other actors have had now that they’re more familiar with and confident in their roles.
“It was a very fun set!” Osment says. “It was a grueling season just because whenever you deal with clones and holograms and stuff like that, you have to shoot scenes a lot of times in a lot of different angles… but it was made easy by the fact that it’s a great team, and we were all coming back after working with each other in the previous season… So in all these things when you’re reading it, and it’s absurd and very silly in certain ways, when you’re playing it just totally straight, that’s the reality of the character. I think that’s where we got a lot of the comedy out of it.”
Osment did share hints of a favorite scene in Future Man season 2 in which Stu and Tiger indulge in a musical number, the circumstances of which must remain mysterious for now. “It delves a little bit into the fantasy world, and that was something that we knew was coming early on in the season,” says Osment. “So both Eliza and I were like, you know, we’ll take however much time we have available to us before to learn some dance moves and go into the studio and lay down this track. And that was a very fun field trip outside of the normal day-to-day working of the show. So yeah, that’s definitely a standout episode for me.”
The prospect of a song and dance performance from Osment is certainly enticing enough on its own, but fans of Future Man are also chomping at the bit to find out Josh’s fate and the consequences of Tiger’s biotic secret among other things. Answers will be revealed and Stu’s role in the world will become clear when Future Man season 2 releases all 13 of its episodes on Hulu this Friday, January 11.