TV’s First Deepfake Comedy Show Stars A-Listers In Everyday, Petty Situations
By Mikelle Leow, 19 Jan 2023
Tom Holland, Beyoncé, Idris Elba, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj star in the new ITV television series. Except, they don’t.
The leading characters are played by pro impressionists from the UK, the latters’ faces superimposed by artificial intelligence to realistically mimic famous people, whose physical involvement would have cost more than an arm and a leg.
The sketch program, Deep Fake Neighbour Wars, is the “world’s first long-form narrative show that uses Deep Fake technology,” according to the press release. It’s produced by Tiger Aspect Productions, with StudioNeural handling the deepfake side of things.
Deep Fake Neighbour Wars places celebrities in the same neighborhood and depicts them as living very humdrum lives and facing very ordinary problems, like having to deal with broken tiles and the lack of hot water. Celebrities—they’re just like us!
The stories bring to mind @DeepTomCruise, a TikTok account that imagines the titular A-lister as a regular person.
Other “stars” appearing in the bizarre sketch show include Rihanna, Adele, Kim Kardashian, Jay Z, Olivia Colman, Stormzy, and soccer star Harry Kane.
It goes without saying that developing a show with deepfaked celebrities comes with its own set of challenges. Spencer Jones, the show’s creator who’s also filling in the shoes of Tom Holland, tells the Guardian that creative freedom is restricted to whether faces will turn out naturally. Comedians can’t, for instance, pull an exaggerated look or cover their faces, or it may interfere with the delivery.
It also helps if an actor has a similar facial structure to their counterparts. “I was a 95% facial match with Olivia Colman,” lauds Katia Kvinge, who also plays characters like Greta Thunberg and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
As for whether the impersonations will land the show in hot water, Jones stresses that none of the characters are committing any wrongdoing. “Everything is silly,” he points out.
Deep Fake Neighbour Wars debuts on ITVX on January 26.
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