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J.J. Abrams, Michael Ealy Discuss ‘Almost Human’

Co-creator and co-lead actor weigh in on Fox’s new sci-fi procedural

Fox is betting on “Almost Human” to become television’s next major science-fiction procedural show. And executive producer J.J. Abrams and star Michael Ealy are certainly excited about the project.

Ealy plays an android called Dorian in the show, which is set 35 years in the future. Dorian is assigned by the future Los Angeles Police Department to John Kennex (Karl Urban) as his partner — but John is very anti-android. Dorian was actually decommissioned for being too human-like, and Ealy has found portraying a character like this rather challenging.

“You tend to draw on your human instincts and your background, what you’ve gone through as an individual,” Ealy told OurWeb. “And the hardest things in terms of playing Dorian is to act like I don’t have that and to bring that kind of innocence to him that he doesn’t have the experience, the life experience that Karl’s character, John Kennex, has. He doesn’t have that. So he’s fascinated with that, and he observes it, and he learns from it.”

Bringing him to life presents a different set of challenges for Ealy.

“I hate to simplify it but I tend to try and reduce Dorian sometimes to make him somewhat childlike in that he’s just innocent in terms of observing what’s going on around him,” he said. “It’s interesting to play someone who’s constantly trying to grasp something that he’ll never have.”

Executive producer Abrams shared the differences between “Almost Human” and “Fringe” with The Hollywood Reporter, the previous collaboration between Abrams and showrunner J.H. Wyman on Fox.

“It feels very distinct from the world of ‘Fringe,’ which was a much more serialized show about this dysfunctional father-son, this romance that went over not just years but worlds,” Abrams said. “This is a show that doesn’t quite get into that level of serialized storytelling.”

What the shows have in common is that society is pushing the edge of technology, discovering what might be possible in that regard, Abrams said.

“But the series themselves are completely different types of shows,” he said. “What they’re dealing with in (‘Almost Human’) is much more a cop show that you might feel is familiar, with a wrench thrown into that, with the huge adjustment being that the cases themselves aren’t what you’ve seen before. The truths of the differences between these characters are atypical because of the world in which it takes place.”

“Almost Human” will be more like CBS’ hit show “Person of Interest” than one of Abrams’ other shows that didn’t do too well, “Undercovers.” Abrams co-created “Person of Interest” with Jonathan Nolan, who was involved in the Batman film franchise with his brother Christopher Nolan.

“I think this is a show that if you are a fan of sci-fi, if you’re a fan of ‘Blade Runner,’ if you’re a fan of Asimov or Bradbury, you’ll see this and you’ll go, ‘This feels like this is something in that universe,'” Abrams said. “But the truth is the show is being made for people who go, ‘I want to see a great procedural. I want to see a great crime drama, great characters in very unique situations.’ That’s the thrust of what we’re trying to do here.”

Although Ealy and Abrams are excited about “Almost Human,” showrunner Naren Shankar recently exited the project due to creative differences, leaving Wyman running the show on his own (as with the final season of “Fringe”).

“Almost Human” premieres Nov. 4 on Fox.

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