From Emmy Award-winning executive producer J.J. Abrams and creator/executive producer Joel “J.H.” Wyman comes “Almost Human,” an action-packed police procedural set years in the future, when police officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids. The year is 2048. Detective John Kennex (played by Karl Urban), a cop who survived one of the most catastrophic attacks ever made against the police department. After waking up from a 17-month coma, he can’t remember much, except that his partner was killed, he lost one of his legs, and he is now outfitted with a highly sophisticated synthetic appendage. Suffering from depression, mental atrophy, trauma-onset trauma-onset obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and the “psychological rejection of his synthetic body part,” John returns to work at the behest of longtime ally Captain Sandra Maldonado (played by Lili Taylor).
By mandate, every cop must partner with a robot. And despite his passionate aversion to androids, John is paired up with a battle-ready MX-43. But he abruptly terminates his partnership after the robot discovers incriminating information about him. So technician Rudy Lom (played by Mackenzie Crook) introduces John to Dorian (played by Michael Ealy), a discontinued android with unexpected emotional responses. Although such responses were deemed flaws, it is in these “flaws” that John relates to Dorian most. After all, John is part-machine now, and Dorian is part-human. John and Dorian’s understanding of each other not only complements them, it connects them.
As he adjusts to working with his new partner, John also must learn to get along with his new colleagues, including the sharp and insightful human intelligence analyst Detective Valerie Stahl (played by Minka Kelly) and the distrustful Detective Richard Paul (played by Michael Irby), who does not welcome John back with open arms. “Almost Human” follows the week-to-week missions of John and Dorian, as this buddy-cop duo solves cases and fights to keep the lid on dangerously evolved criminals in this futuristic landscape. The first episode of “Almost Human” premiered at Comic-Con International 2013 in San Diego. After a screening of the episode at Comic-Con, key members from “Almost Human” (Urban, Ealy, Taylor, Kelly, Wyman and executive producer Naren Shankar) gathered for a panel discussion in which they answered questions from a moderator.
Joel, how did this idea for “Almost Human” come to be?
Wyman: I wanted to keep “Fringe” fans still happy. We were directing the “Fringe” finale as we were getting [“Almost Human”] done … We did make it because, like all people who love “Fringe,” this is a group of like-minded people who are all concerned with the same things we’re all concerned about (at least “Fringe” fans are): the humanity and where we all stand and what it looks like for us in the future. So that’s what we all have to look forward to. It has lot of great things that “Fringe” had in it, but it’s going to be a little different but also something special.
How did you get this cast together for “Almost Human”?
Wyman: We had to sacrifice our souls. And that was hard to part with, but it worked out in the end, because look at this [he points to the “Almost Human” cast members].
Karl, why did you pick “Almost Human”?
Urban: I was working with J.J. [Abrams] on “Star Trek,” and he called me on set: “I’ve got this most amazing project. I want you to read it. Just read it.” And I read it and was immediately attracted to the character of Kennex and his relationship with Dorian and everybody else in the cast. I just thought, “This is good. I would be a fool to turn this down.”
And just the opportunity t work with Joel, whose work I have deep admiration and respect for, and to be in business again with J.J., and to be on a great network as Fox, it all lined up. I’m so thrilled to be a part of this and to be working with these wonderfully talented people. I can’t wait for you guys to see what we have in store for you. It’s going to blow your mind!
Michael, a lot of actors tried out for the role of Dorian, and Joel Wyman said you nailed it. How does one play an android without coming across as Vicki from “Small Wonder”?
Ealy: It was such a delicate character, just the approach to him. I tried to model this character after three particular characters: Jason Bourne, Robert Patrick in “Terminator 2” and Jeff Bridges in “Starman.” So that’s kind of what got me started on this whole thing. And I had numerous, numerous conversations with Joel about the fine line between making Dorian real and making him cliché.
Minka, there’s something about Valerie Stahl that doesn’t seem entirely trustworthy. What do you think?
Kelly: I think you will discover that there may be sides of her that you may be wary of. How’s that?
Is there a robot/human romance on “Almost Human”?
Urban: Anything’s possible. Whatever floats your boat.
Lili, how did the “Almost Human” executive producers pitch the Sandra Maldonado character to you?
Taylor: First, the character was a man. They were open to him becoming a woman, which says so much about them. I think, for me, Kennex and Maldonado are almost like brother and sister. There’s something really special and warm about their relationship. It’s not typical at all.
We can trust Maldonado, can’t we?
Taylor: You can trust her.
Naren, you came from “CSI.” Would you say that “Almost Human” is a procedural crime drama?
Shankar: Procedural is definitely a part of it. Joel brought me in after the pilot [episode of “Almost Human”]. He rescued me from dismembered corpses and autopsies and brought me back to my science-fiction roots from “Farscape” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
What kind of twisted crimes will we see on “Almost Human”?
Shankar: If I tell you too many details, [“Almost Human” production company] Bad Robot will have me killed! We have cases of the week that deal with future crime and technology, but the continuing elements are these guys right here [he points to the cast members], relationships and people and dealing with the world of the future.
Wyman: It has all the [elements] of a great procedural, but we need to solve crimes in ways you’ve never seen before. We had simple criteria: If it’s not a crime of the future, or if it has been created some technology that we don’t know yet or we don’t know why [the crime] was committed, then we’re not going to tell the story. So we’re going to tell really great stories that are identifiable, but we’re still going to have a future that is cool.
Did the “Almost Human” cast have to go through “future boot camp”?
Wyman: [He says jokingly] They did, for seven months. We used the “Fringe” thing to put them in the future. [Karl Urban] has a great condo in the future.
Urban: I had to buy an iPad!
What else can we expect from “Almost Human”?
Wyman: At the end of the day, we’re always writing about the same thing: Life is all about the connections you make. It’s about people; it’s about humanity. Right now, I think it’s very interesting where technology is going. It’s on people’s minds what’s going to happen. “How are we losing our humanity?”
We love technology. We’re sort of promised this incredible utopia of computers and tech, but there’s another side to that. There’s a dark side. There’s a “what if” side. There’s a “we have to be cautious” side. We’re going to examine that.
We’re going to examine all things technical, but I truly believe that the best science fiction, it always reverts back to what it’s like to be human. It’s just new ways to talk about the human condition and examine why we’re here and what we’re doing here., what is the world, what is our place in it, and why we’re here.
For more info: “Almost Human” website