Almost Human is one of the most original and exciting new show to come out of Fall 2013. A lot of the appeal for Almost Human comes from its two leads, Karl Urban and Michael Ealy who have fantastic chemistry. But most importantly, they have what has become quite the iconic car banter. With Urban portraying the human Detective John Kennex and Ealy, Dorian the DRN android, there is a lot more to be explored with these two in the show.
Both Urban and Ealy recently took some time to answer a few questions about Almost Human during the WB Mondo press tour. Some of the topics discussed included the tone of the show, the car moments, the themes to be explored, and more.
Below you can find first Karl Urban’s interview, followed by Michael Ealy’s.
On what’s coming up the rest of the season
Urban shared that we would continue to see the evolution of the relationship between John and Dorian, as well as see how their work affect them.
On how much he and Michael Ealy improvise their scenes together
Urban explained that what is on the page serves as a launching pad for them, because once they have given a take that’s on the page, they are given the freedom to play around with it a bit and bring new ideas to the table. He thinks that has lead to “many fun, wonderful moments in the show.”
On the tone and what they want the show to be
Urban shared, “we know ideally the type of show that we want to be delivering on a consistent basis.” He continued, “it’s got to be a fun show. We want the audience to have fun with the show. It’s got to have great humor. And it has to have an element in it that has depth and meaning and makes you feel. And I would cite the episode called “Skin” as a good example because it was just a wonderful balance of all those things. And I believe if we can deliver that on a consistent basis, then we are succeeding in what we’re trying to achieve.”
On J.J. Abrams empowering actors
When asked about J.J. Abrams, Urban explained how J.J. Abrams is “an empowering individual.” He continued, “he hires you to do a job, and he really hands you the license to bring it. He hands you the license to create. He’s like, “Well, that’s your responsibility”. And I feel like I don’t ever want to go to J.J. with problems because I know and he’s the type of man who is saying, “Hey, it’s up to you. You find the solution. You make it work. It’s your character.” And that’s what I love about him. And if it doesn’t work for him, he’ll let you know and say, “Let’s try this” or “Let’s try this.” Otherwise, he’s going to leave you alone and let you do your job.”
On reading positive and negative reviews of the show
When asked about fan reaction to the show, Urban said that the reaction so far had been “overwhelmingly positive,” but he also shared that he enjoys reading even negative things said about the show. “It’s like, “Oh, that’s a good point.” (LAUGHS) “I see that.” And sometimes I wouldn’t be inclined to agree with some of that.”
He explained, “I don’t mind if people love the show, if people hate the show. As long as they have an opinion and it’s an articulate opinion, put it on a page. Put it on a screen. I’d love to know what people think. And to me, whether it’s television or cinema, if it creates a forum for a discussion, maybe that discussion is going to go somewhere interesting.”
On his approach to Dorian
Ealy explained, “What I try to capture with Dorian as consistently as possible is the observance. He’s very observant of human interaction. So if John is talking to Captain Maldonado, not only is Dorian recording everything, but he’s learning. He’s learning things like chain of command. He’s learning relationship and how they waiver and how they change. If John is interacting with a child or something like that, Dorian is paying attention to see what exactly it is that John is feeling and trying to understand that, and why would he feel that way about a kid that he doesn’t even know? It’s about observing the human dynamic, and trying to play that requires a whole lot of listening and a lot of reacting. You can sit up here and act, or you can just react a lot. I think he reacts.
On whether he has become more observant as a person
With Dorian being such an observant character, some of that has affected Ealy personally as well. He explains, “I think what you do at work tends to carry over into your own personal life. I would look at the woman at the ticket counter at the airport now, and I’ll pay more attention to how she interacts with the other customers before I even get up to her. And I catch myself doing these kinds of things. So it definitely I mean, most actors will say they have a very close connection with their characters, and this is how it kind of overlaps and bleeds into your life.
On the extent to which Dorian will be able to evolve as a character
Ealy explained, “I think, because Dorian operates from a place of free will and he can learn certain behaviors and then react and act accordingly. What I don’t want to lose on the 110th episode is I want him to still be learning. I just think it’s important that, every episode, he learns, at minimum, one or two things. It’s what makes him him. It’s what makes him, to me, interesting in a lot of ways because, yes, there’s some things that he can do physically that are superior to the human race, but he was designed to do that. But he was also designed to learn. He was also designed to watch and observe and pick up on what he sees and make decisions according based on that.” He continued, “I never thought that Dorian would have perhaps a sexual connection. And after we did “Skin” and he got close to the other droid, he didn’t quite know how to deal with what she was saying to him. That’s something Dorian is going to have to rectify one day. So you’ll see that in another episode, where he comes to terms with death and what it means and saying goodbye to someone. But it was also just a glimpse into the possibility of him connecting with another droid, another person, whatever it is, that could actually go beyond the realm of just “I know you.” It could go into “I care about you.” And that, to me, is fascinating.”
On the difficulty of playing the balance between machine and human
While Dorian may feel very human, some might even argue that sometimes even more so than John, he is a robot and as such, Ealy must find the right balance between his human and machine qualities.
He explained, “it is a tough line because, obviously, there are a lot of droids before me that I wanted to try and avoid doing what they did. And I wanted to find my own rhythm with Dorian. Someone could look at what Brent Spiner did, obviously, and be like, “Wow, that was revolutionary.” I hope in ten years someone can say the same thing about Dorian. And that would make me feel like it was worth it because there’s a lot of insecurity daily when you’re not quite certain about how to play every single scene. I’ve never been in this position as an actor before because I’ve always been able to engage in some sort of human connection. But with Dorian what I’ve learned to do is embrace that awkwardness, that line of “Was that good?” So I’ll do a take, and I’ll be like, “I wasn’t sure about that.” And they’ll be like, “Do you want another one?” I’ll be like, “No, no.” Because if it had been perfect, it was probably too human.”
He then went on to joke, “so that’s where I’m at in terms of playing that line, I’ve learned to kind of embrace the awkward beats. And sometimes it’s going to be bad acting. Sorry. [LAUGHS]”
On how good he is with technology
Turns out that although he plays a pretty advanced robot in the show, Ealy is terrible with technology himself.
Ealy shared, “It’s actually quite fascinating to play someone who can process things so fast because it’s like a dream come true. I wish that Michael, me, could actually process things this quickly. The things that Dorian can do, in terms of hacking into systems and hacking other MXs and things of that nature, it’s just crazy. And it comes from the mind of a genius. So, me personally, I am one of those people who has a laptop that is highly underutilized. I don’t do any special things on it. I just check it for email and maybe the Internet. I put my photos on there. And I’m not even good at that.”
On the car moments between Dorian and John
Ealy shared, “In the car is where we’re kind of left alone, and I like to say that John can’t get away from me in the car. He can’t walk away. He can’t do anything else. He’s stuck with me. So to me, that’s where we have probably the most fun. And, we always know we did something right when the crew is laughing at the end of a take.”
On exploring potentially futuristic themes and race
Almost Human has already tackled a few philosophical themes, but something Ealy hopes they won’t deal with is race. He explained that as seeing the show takes place in 2048, he hopes “we’re past that at that point.” He continued, “I hope we have evolved but I felt like race was never something that came into play in taking the role. It wasn’t in the script. And I know that if Dorian were white, no one would ever say, “Let’s talk about race on the show.” But because he’s black, someone is going to say, “Well, when are they going to address it? He’s being played by a black actor. When are they going to address race?” And we had this conversation back and forth. And I was like, “I hope we don’t ever address it because I think by not addressing it, we’re addressing it.” If you look at Dorian and you see a black man, you’re not seeing the machine. You’re seeing a human.”
Almost Human airs on Mondays at 8pm on FOX.