Before every fall season starts, I watch all the pilots for all the networks, to see what stands out and to determine what I’ll cover. One of the best and most promising pilots that I watched was for the upcoming Fox series Almost Human, from creator J.H. Wyman (Fringe) and executive producer J.J. Abrams. It’s 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 investigate what is clearly a deep cover-up.
Collider, along with a couple other outlets, recently had the opportunity to chat with show star Michael Ealy, about this exciting new role. During the interview, he talked about what drew him to the show, where he’s taking his inspiration from for his performance, having to audition and test for the show, how he wasn’t going to return to television for awhile after the cancellation of his last series, Common Law, but the pilot script was that good, what it’s like to work with someone as passionate as Joel Wyman, what viewers will be drawn to with the show, and how excited he is to see what people think of it at this year’s Comic-Con. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
MICHAEL EALY: I had a meeting with Joel [Wyman]. At first, I was worried about playing a synthetic, or droid because I had never done that before. I thought, “Well, where does this droid go? Can he have a love interest? Can he have sex?” You start thinking, “What is there left to do?,” especially over five or six years. What’s he gonna do? For me, it was sitting down with Joel and understanding everything from the design to when he was in existence to how his model was terminated. Then, you see him come back, which he views as a second chance. Obviously, the script and the pedigree of the producers – J.J. [Abrams] and Joel and Bryan [Burk] – was just on a whole different level. I’m really looking forward to where this thing can go, and not knowing. Right now, all I know is my character’s background, and that can take me so many different places. But, it was a challenge, definitely. I didn’t want to do what other actors have done. I don’t want to say names, but I wanted to avoid certain clichés, as a droid.
So, you didn’t find inspiration in things like Blade Runner or Battlestar Galactica?
EALY: I looked at Blade Runner, and definitely was inspired. But Dorian, to me, was Jason Bourne and Robert Patrick in Terminator 2. I tried to mix those two together, with just an ounce of Jeff Bridges in Starman. Those are the three characters [with which] I tried to make Dorian work. So, it was quite the challenge, needless to say. Obviously, acting opposite Karl [Urban] was when I really started to discover Dorian, because he’s almost human, as well. Then, it worked.
Did you audition for this role?
EALY: I was forced to audition. I was forced to test for this show. It wasn’t like, “Michael, here’s a great offer.” Joel loved me, and then I still had to earn the job. So, I’m very proud of that. That makes it more endearing to me, and that makes me want to work even harder, to see where I can take this guy, and make the show really work, on so many levels. These guys are very talented at what they do, and I like being able to play with them because I can just do what I do.
EALY: You know, at this point in my career, I don’t want to say that I don’t care, but you almost expect it. It’s devastating. I feel worse for the fans because they get connected to the characters, and they really wanted to see it go on.
But, at least your fans didn’t have to wait too long to see you again.
EALY: I swear to you, when Common Law got cancelled, I was like, “I don’t want to do pilot season. I don’t want to read scripts. I don’t want to get involved in another television show. I’m taking a year off from TV, if not more. I’m good.” Then, I got the call about Almost Human and I was like, “Alright, I’ll read it.” It was the only [pilot script] that I read. I read it and was like, “Dammit! Alright, I’ll meet him.” I just went on a different journey.
What’s it like working with Joel Wyman?
EALY: Joel gives a lot. I’ve learned that about Joel. He’s not afraid. You can call Joel at two in the morning, and he’s up. And he’ll tell you whatever you want to know. He is very, very forthright. Oftentimes, a conversation with Joel will last an hour, easy. Our first meeting, was like three and a half hours. I had my wife in the car. I thought it was gonna be 20 minutes. And it was on Valentine’s Day, man! I’m not joking. The meeting was on Valentine’s Day, and I had my wife in the car. Literally two and a half hours in, I was like, “Okay, but is he more like a Mac or a PC?” It felt like we were rehearsing, at that first meeting, because we just got to a point where we started collaborating on this guy.
When I walked out of there, I remember I got back in the car and the first thing I did was apologize, profusely, and then I was like, “I think I’m gonna get this. And I think I’m gonna love it! Wow! If I can work with this guy, he cares about it. He pays attention.” I told him that my cousin was a big Fringe fan and he said, “Oh, dude, I’ll send you some swag. I’ve got plenty of it.” I was like, “Seriously?!,” and he said, “Yeah, no worries.” So, I’m looking forward to this and what we’re gonna do. I really hope you guys like it. I saw the trailer at the Fox Up-Fronts and I remember I was like, “Yeah, this looks good.” I was nervous, but finally I saw [the pilot] and was like, “Whoa!”
We have such a good cast. It was interesting when they cast Lili Taylor. They went in a totally different direction. You think of that character, Captain Maldonado, and you’re thinking about a tough broad, like Angie Harmon. They went with Lili Taylor, and Lili’s amazing. The first thing I said to Joel was, “Listen, Maldonado is dirty, isn’t she?” And he was like, “No, no, no!” We still don’t know who’s who. This thing is just gonna get bigger and bigger. I’m excited.
Have you and Joel Wyman spoken about how deep the mythology goes? Do you know how Season 1 will fit into a larger picture?
EALY: Oh, yeah. Joel was like, “Listen, every season, I’m gonna tell you exactly where you’re gonna go. We’ve got it. Trust me, we’ve got it.” Then, when they start breaking down the background of how the whole project came together, and especially the background for Dorian, it was so compelling to me that it was like, “Yeah, let’s make it happen!”
What do you think will excite science-fiction fans the most about the show?
EALY: I think there’s definitely some mythology that will attract the sci-fi fans. There’s plenty of action that will thrill the adrenaline junkies. And honestly, the way that Joel broke down the story to me is that Dorian represents the humanity that we all take for granted. So, the action will be great and the sci-fi will be great, but you’ll actually find a connection. You’ll find it strange that you’re connecting with a machine. That’s the more broad appeal of the show, I think. And hopefully, that’ll bring the audience beyond the sci-fi, beyond the adrenaline, and beyond the cop show. It will actually broaden the audience with this question of, “What is almost human?”
Are you excited to bring the show to Comic-Con?
EALY: I’m excited about Comic-Con. I went for Underworld. I saw the madness that goes on at Comic-Con, and the excitement. It feels weird because we don’t even have a following yet for the show. It works on paper. We’ve just got to sustain it, from week to week. I look forward to Comic-Con 2014, when we’ve gotten that first season and people come dressed as Dorian.
Almost Human will premiere on Fox in late Fall.