The Fox drama series Almost Human, from creator J.H. Wyman (Fringe) and executive producer J.J. Abrams, is a high-tech, high-stakes action drama, set 35 years in the future, when police officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids. An unlikely and intriguing partnership is forged when part-machine cop, John Kennex (Karl Urban), is forced to pair with the part-human android, Dorian (Michael Ealy), to both fight crime and uncover the larger mystery surrounding the attack that landed John in a 17-month-long coma. The show also stars Lili Taylor, Minka Kelly, Mackenzie Crook and Michael Irby.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Karl Urban talked about the great balance between this futuristic world and maintaining a very human story, the appeal of having the luxury of time to develop a character, what drew him to this particular character, how naturally the bromance between Kennex and Dorian developed, what he likes about the relationship between Kennex and Maldonado (Taylor), and the experience of working with someone as collaborative as Joel Wyman. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
KARL URBAN: That’s what drew me to it. I wouldn’t have done the show, if it was some high-concept science fiction. To me, it’s futurism, and that’s different. This is a world that’s recognizable. It’s our world, today, but it’s infused with technology that’s just around the corner, and that makes it accessible. It’s humanity, 40 years in the future. The show deals with the evolution of humanity and how we struggle to maintain our humanity, in the face of that technology and those advancements. The thing that I liked about the original Star Trek was that it was humanity striving to be the best it can be. With this cast – this core group of men and women who are charged with the responsibility of protecting society – we are striving to be the best that we can be, and we’re striving to protect civilization from ourselves. For me, that’s a really interesting and exciting place to be.
When you read this pilot, did you immediately see it on the page, or did you want to talk to Joel Wyman and find out where it would be going?
URBAN: It read incredibly well. When you pick up a script and you can’t stop reading it because it’s a real page-turner, that’s a good sign. I was made aware of the project, initially, through my relationship with J.J. [Abrams]. And then, talking to Joel, it was pretty clear to me that I’d be a fool to turn this down. It’s an opportunity to explore the narrative arc of a character over potentially 22 episodes, and that interested me. With film, you get a pretty limited amount of time, comparatively. I was aware that nowadays, audiences are so prone to watching box sets. I thought, “Wait a minute, I’m going to do a 22-hour movie, and I’m going to have the luxury of the time to develop this character,” and that was really appealing to me.
Did you breathe a sigh of relief when you read the script for Episode 2 and it was just as good as the pilot?
URBAN: Absolutely! And not just as good, but better. The characters continue to get developed and explored, and the human dilemma is central to the story. If it’s a good Almost Human story, it’s going to force the audience to question their morality, and think about what it means to be human and what it means to strive to be the best that we can be.
URBAN: I was really drawn to this because here’s a character who wakes up from being in a coma for two years to discover that the previous year of his life was a complete fraud. The woman that he thought he was madly in love with was actually planted by a criminal organization, and as a result of that weakness, 11 men were killing, including his best friend and partner. So, the fear, the anger, the self-loathing and the guilt that Kennex feels, to me, is just a wonderful, fertile ground for the show. The Kennex that we met in the pilot was not the real John Kennex. He was just the starting point of a very damaged individual who’s going to evolve and slowly reclaim the life that was stolen from him.
Did it take some time to find your performance with Michael Ealy, and discover how the relationship between Kennex and Dorian worked best?
URBAN: It came naturally, and that’s probably just a testament to the writing. It was an extraordinarily well-written first episode. We had good touchstones that we could reference, whether it be Lethal Weapon or Midnight Run. Kennex finds himself in a situation where he’s partnered up with someone who he doesn’t want to be partnered up with, who he doesn’t necessarily like and who gets under his skin, and who just happens to be a synthetic life-form, which he has a prejudice against. That’s really fertile ground, and it’s funny ground and entertaining ground. It’s going to be very interesting to see the development of that and how that goes back and forth, as we continue to develop both of these characters. There’s great humor. We have very dry humor, and I like that.
URBAN: I love that relationship. I really do. Out of all the characters, Lili’s character is a sanctuary. It’s the one character he feels truly comfortable with letting it all out. He’s a character that’s pretty repressed. He’s a character who has the walls up. But when he’s with her, he will tell it how it is. On the other side of that coin, the reason why she needs him back is that he is the only cop that she can really trust. And not just trust, in terms of the fact that there’s dishonesty within her precinct, but Kennex, for his unorthodox methods, at times, is actually morally centered. He’s gonna keep her on the straight road, if she veers ever slightly off to the right, for whatever political agenda. He’s gonna go, “This is wrong. This is morally not right.” And she needs that.
What’s it like to get the fan response that you’ve already gotten for the show?
URBAN: The pilot did its job and set up this world and these characters, and hopefully the hook has been set and people want to continue to see more. I want to see more, and I’m in the show. I want to know where these characters go and what they do. I know, to a certain extent, what my character’s evolution and journey through the first season is, but I deliberately don’t want to know too much. In life, we don’t know what’s around the corner. I don’t want to know what Lili’s story is. I don’t want to know what Mina’s story is. I don’t want to know what Michael’s story is. I’m excited, every week, when I get a new script. I’m like, “Oh, wow! Cool! That’s really, really interesting.” I just look at John like he’s a character who’s trying to find himself. He’s a character who’s trying to regain elements of his former life and find his humanity. The irony is that he’s learning lessons in humanity from a synthetic life-form. That’s such a genius idea.
How is the experience of working with someone like Joel Wyman, who has such a crazy genius mind?
URBAN: What I love about Joel is that he’s open. He’s open to collaboration, he’s smart and he researches the heck out of what he’s doing. You know that, if it’s in the show, he’s had a conversation with a professor at M.I.T. This is not science fiction. It’s science fact. It’s coming, around the corner.
Almost Human airs on Monday nights on Fox.