What does it mean to be human? Does it have to do with physical attributes or is it something intangible? And if it’s the latter, does this mean a non-organic object can become human? Those are just some of the questions posed by Fox’s new sci-fi/crime drama “Almost Human.”
From creator J. H. Wyman (Fringe) and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, Almost Human is a cop drama set in the not-so-distant future, where police officers are partnered with human-like androids known as synthetics. John Kennex (played by Karl Urban) is an emotionally broken detective who doesn’t trust androids, so it’s only fitting that he be partnered with an old-model synthetic named Doran (Michael Ealy), who considered “broken” because he was programmed to feel emotions.
The audience for the Almost Human panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego reacted positively to the pilot screening, laughing and cheering at all the right moments. Urban is terrific in his role, and Star Trek fans should be happy to see the actor in a weekly sci-fi series. The true surprise, however, is Ealy: His character walks a fine line between robot and human, and based on the response of the crowd, he’s found the right balance.
When the pilot ended, Wyman, Urban and Ealy walked out, accompanied by co-stars Minka Kelly and Lili Taylor and executive producer Naren Shankar. They cheerfully answered questions about their involvement, and gave a few hints about what to expect from the first season.
Urban began with an explanation of how he came to the series. “Obviously, I was working with J.J. on Star Trek, and he called me upstairs and said, ‘I’ve got this most amazing project. I want you to read it.’ And I read it, and was immediately attracted to this character of Kennex and his relationship with Dorian, and thought, ‘I would be a fool to turn this down.’”
However, Ealy’s path wasn’t as simple. The production team saw a lot of actors for the role of Dorian, but his performance was the one that attracted them. The actor explained that he saw the character as a combination of Jason Bourne, Robert Patrick in Terminator 2, and Jeff Bridges in Starman. Judging from the pilot, that’s clearly a winning formula.
Kelly plays a detective in Urban’s precinct who, unlike the other copes, doesn’t shy away from Kennex. “I think you will discover that there are sides of her that you may be wary of,” the actress teased.
She was then asked whether some android-human romance was a possibility on the show. Urban quickly jumped in and said, “You know, with J.J. Abrams, anything’s possible.”
Taylor was questioned next, and it was pointed out that between The Conjuring, Hemlock Grove and Almost Human, she’s becoming a staple of Comic-Con. The crowd gave a loud cheer in response, and she said, “Oh, man, I love you, too, Comic-Con!”
She plays Urban’s boss Captain Maldonado, and brings a tough-yet-motherly attitude to the role. “At first, the character was a man in the script, and they were open to him becoming a woman, which I think says so much about [the producers],” Taylor said. “I think for me, Kennex and Maldonado are almost like brother and sister. And there’s something really special and warm about their relationship.”
As a producer and writer, Shankar was brought on board because his experience includes both science fiction (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Farscape) and police procedurals (CSI). “We have cases which deal with future crime and technology,” he said, “but the continuing elements are really all about relationships and people – human beings dealing with the world in the future.”
Wyman expanded on that notion, saying, “I truly believe that the best science fiction always reverts back to what it means to be human, so this show is a way to talk about the human condition and examine why we’re here, what we’re doing, and what’s our place in the world.”
Almost Human premieres Monday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.