By Derek Lawrence
July 17, 2019 at 09:30 AM EDT
Kerry Brown/Skydance Productions/Paramount Pictures
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While much of the talk about Terminator: Dark Fate has been the long-awaited return of Linda Hamilton, the new film, which serves as a direct sequel to the two original Terminator films, also introduces powerful new characters, including two Terminators on the opposite sides of the battle for humanity.

Recently speaking to EW, director Tim Miller shared new details about Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a human-machine hybrid who teams up Sarah Connor (Hamilton), and an advanced Terminator (Gabriel Luna) who is sent to eliminate Dani (Natalia Reyes).

“There’s this new future because of what Sarah did at the end of Terminator 2, and it’s worse than ever,” reveals Miller. “And that gives us the opportunity for these new characters. Gabriel comes from something that is not Skynet, but it’s like Skynet. And Mackenzie comes from something that Kyle Reese and the Resistance did. I tried to keep Gabriel a bit grounded while still interesting; I feel his new weapons and abilities are right for our times but not so ridiculous that it just turns into a visual effects superfest. And the same with Mackenzie’s character — I really liked her origin story. We did an early writer’s room and Joe Abercrombie came up with her as this super soldier from the future, but it comes at a cost to be one of these people. They’re the first people to die, they’re the shock troops who protect the rest of humanity, and her readiness to sacrifice is a really interesting way to come at a character.”

With what appears to be a possible star-making role in Grace, Miller cast Davis, previously best known for her dramatic turns in Halt and Catch Fire and Black Mirror. “It would be easy to go, ‘Okay, you’re going to get some woman who’s an ex-MMA fighter or all about fitness and fighting,'” explains Miller. “But I knew that she really had to connect. Because Sarah in a lot of ways is broken, and I knew that the audience would relate a lot to what had happened to humanity’s future, and as you’ll see in the film, the audience has to really feel for Grace by the end of it. And so I knew first and foremost, she had to be a great actor and Mackenzie is definitely that.”

With Davis already possessing the tools to pull the audience in emotionally, she was then tasked with physically transforming herself. For Hamilton, who did the same for Judgment Day, she was proud to see her costar follow suit.

“I was very happy to see Mackenzie take the mantle of turning her body into a fighting machine,” shares Hamilton. “Hopefully she will get all the attention that I got in 1991 for what she has done to make herself ready, to make herself a warrior.”

Miller also raved about Luna’s “fantastic” performance, which the director says will only expand with upcoming reshoots. “This Terminator is a lot more human than a regular Terminator has been, which makes sense because computers are human, they understand us more every day,” says Miller.

Speaking of past Terminators, not much is known of how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 will factor into the story, with Miller simply teasing, “I don’t think people will be ready for what Arnold has become either, because it’s very different.”

Terminator: Dark Fate opens in theaters on Nov. 1. Members of the cast will be on hand Thursday to promote the film at San Diego Comic-Con — stay tuned to EW.com for more from that panel.

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