The Actor Who Plays the Robot in Lost in Space Has Been in All Your Favorite Sci-Fi Films
As expected, one of the most memorable characters in Neflix's reboot of Lost in Space ends up being the mysterious robot. Like the rest of the characters, including the Robinson family and the is-she-or-isn't-she-evil Dr. Smith, the robot receives a major makeover from the original '60s sci-fi series that aired on CBS. Instead of the original's blinking silver accordion, or the friendly, almost toy-like appearance of the robot in the 1998 film, the latest iteration of the robot is slick, futuristic, and reminiscent of the creatures in Alien and Predator. Inside of the hulking metal exterior, however, is a regular human being, one who you might not realize you've seen before.
Brian Steele plays the show's robot, which ends up being a surprisingly sympathetic character despite its lack of dialogue (save for "Danger, Will Robinson," of course) and its unfortunate tendency to transform into a hulking, whirring, killing machine when threatened. Will (Maxwell Jenkins) bumps into the robot first shortly after he and his family get sucked into a black hole and crash land on a mysterious "goldilocks planet" — basically earth, but through the looking glass — where the robot's ship is also stranded. The pair develop an unbreakable bond over the course of the sci-fi series's thrilling 10 episodes, involving many near-death experiences for both.
Like The Shape of Water's Doug Jones, Steele brings a humanity to the character, despite the robot's occasionally stilted movements and the swirling, nebulous screen that occupies its face and changes color with its mood. Steele has had a lengthy career playing some of Hollywood's most iconic creatures, including a werewolf in Underworld: Evolution, Sammael in Hellboy, the titular Harry (aka bigfoot) in Harry and the Hendersons, a Predator in Predators, and more.
While Steele and the robot share few physical similarities — as you can see above, he doesn't have metal plates covering his body or a high-tech mood ring for a face — the Lost in Space team likely didn't have to do much to ensure that the robot appeared far taller than all the other characters in the show since Steele clocks in at around 6'7".
Showrunner Zach Estrin touched on why Steele's performance as the robot is so integral to the show during a recent interview with Express.
"It's not so much the technology, it's not so much the design, it's the soul and the artistry of him – the stillness, the aura, the energy that he creates," he said. "When we first saw the Robot it was pretty incredible because we viewed it through the eyes of Max Jenkins who pays Will Robinson. We wanted him to be there the first time the Robot came out in all his glory. I have never seen a boy light up like that. It was this really genuine reaction of everything that Will Robinson would have felt."
While a second season of the show is still up in the air, hopefully Netflix will do us all a solid and bring back Steele's robot for more episodes.