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 Michael Ealy talked about what it was that made him decide to sign on for this show, that it took him time to find a connection to the character, how he found his performance, that he sees a bit of Jason Bourne in Dorian, how he approaches the humor, how taken aback he’s been at the interest in whether Dorian will have a love interest or any sex scenes, and what he’d most like to learn about his character. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
MICHAEL EALY: Great writing. Reading the script and being engaged in a network script was an incredibly good start. That got me in the room with Joel, and my first meeting with him was three hours. Joel can sell you anything. And he didn’t even hit me with a hard sell. He just started talking about his passion for the show, and I was hooked. And then, I started getting creative and feeling good about it. His passion made me want to collaborate with him.
With all of the layers to this show, did any one of them stand out the most for you, personally?
EALY: I did not see a connection with Dorian, when I first read it. It wasn’t like that, for me. It was the meeting and the conversation about what Dorian is. What is a human-like droid that operates from a place of free will and has been designed to have a soul? That’s fascinating stuff that you just can’t quite comprehend quickly. It’s not like playing a fireman with a wife and kid. You can gauge where that’s going to go and what’s going to happen, and you can talk to other people who have done it. I don’t know another Dorian. I don’t have a Siri. I had to figure out what would work. So, the acting challenge was there, in terms of what I could bring to the character that Joel had conceived in his head. That’s been a constant source of strength, in playing the character.
Was there a lot of tweaking, as far as your performance and how you wanted his interactions to be with the different characters?
EALY: There was some tweaking, definitely. The first thing I started thinking about were things you don’t do, as a robot. You can’t think of yourself as a robot, but you have to remember that you’re a droid. You have to remember that you’re not human. Giving yourself over to the fine line of a human-like droid means that sometimes you make choices that don’t make you feel good, as an actor, and you have to learn to embrace that. No actor will tell you that that’s a good place to be. If you don’t feel good about what just happened in a scene, you want to do it again. I’ve had to learn to let that feeling go because it’s not going to be human. It’s gotta be different, in some way. Could it be perceived as bad acting? I hope not. I have done some takes where I thought, “That was bad acting,” but then you see it and you’re like, “That was Dorian,” because it’s not natural. I have to embrace that awkward feeling about the character.
EALY: I looked at guys who came before me and played these human-like droids. They all made choice that were relevant, at that time. I think Brent Spiner did a great job, at that time. I don’t know if that would work now. There were some cliche things that I tried to avoid, like the tilting of the head and little things like that. Jeff Bridges did that in Starman. That’s where the Jason Bourne in me took over. If you think about it, Jason Bourne is a genetically engineered human. What does he do when crisis comes? He calms down and handles it. He goes into almost a robotic, instinctual mode that is almost mathematical. You never see Jason Bourne wincing in pain because he’s learned to compartmentalize that. That’s fascinating to watch. I still watch the movies sometimes, just to get composure of that again. When we do the action sequences, my thing with Dorian is to keep him Bourne-esque during those moments. When the shit hits the fan, he becomes calm. With everyday human interaction, he can be demanding. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t have the life experiences that teach you to gauge when it’s a good time to interact and when it’s not a good time. When a woman says, “Do I look fat?,” you say, “Absolutely not!” Dorian might say yes ‘cause he doesn’t have that experience of learning that you say, “Hell no!”
Does that make it especially challenging to find the humor?
EALY: Good question. The only reason I would say no is because I don’t try to find humor. I try to play everything as normal as possible and as in-the-moment as possible. The irony of that is that there’s humor in that. It just comes out because of his innocence, naivete, or just sheer earnestness to be human.
EALY: I’ve been taken aback by the interest of, “Will Dorian get it on?” Did people care if Brent Spiner got it on? It keeps coming up, and I don’t know what to say to it. I genuinely don’t think it will happen. If it did, that would be weird. Why does he have to fall in love and have sex? I don’t understand that. What could be interesting is if he were to develop a connection with a human, with a droid or whatever it may be. If he develops a connection, that would be cool to play. Call it love or whatever you want to call it, but I don’t know if sex is necessarily in the cards. I don’t know if we’re ready for that. When I first read the script, I thought that was impossible, and I still think it’s probably impossible.
Is there anything you’re most interested in learning about Dorian and his history?
EALY: One of the things I’m interested in is what happened to the other DRNs, and we’re dealing with that now. We’re going to get into that. We’re all the same, and we all look the same. There’s one model of the DRN. Dorian was supposed to go work at the airport. That’s where he was on his way to, before Kennex came and brought him back into the force. Dorian has got nothing to lose, so he’s gotta just go out there and put it all on the table.
Have you thought about how freaky there might be to see a whole bunch of DRNs that look like you?
EALY: I think it was freaky, but at the same time I think it would be the coolest thing ever. Our special effects department is that good. They can make a thousand Michaels and say that it’s a legion of DRNs. They can make it look realistic. The places we can go with the effects on this show are incredible, and it wouldn’t surprise me, if we went there.
Almost Human airs on Monday nights on Fox.