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Can synthetics grow and evolve? On 'Almost Human', Michael Ealy proves so!

Michael Ealy on 'Almost Human'
Michael Ealy on 'Almost Human'
(c) FOX, 2013

When a television show puts out a character breakdown that lists "synthetic" as the key trait, there is often cause to be concerned. After all, "synthetic" is just a fancy way of saying man-made or otherwise robotic, and if the character is literally a machine than it won't have a full range of human emotions, if any humanity at all. And if that character doesn't have emotions or room to grow with its experiences, there really isn't much of a journey to follow there at all. This is something J.H. Wyman understands better than many who have created programming with robots at the center before him, though, so his new FOX futuristic crime and technology drama Almost Human sees a different kind of synthetic in Dorian (Michael Ealy), an early version who actually was given some capacity for feelings.

Dorian is in a unique situation to every other character within the world of Almost Human, as he was man made for the specific purpose, only to be "recalled" and taken out of commission for a number of years. He may lack a lot of experiences that keep him seeing things through somewhat "innocent" eyes when he does now in the course of the story, but he has a quick ability to adapt to both situations and people. Dorian and his partner John (Karl Urban) are developing a bond that Ealy told LA TV Insider Examiner doesn't just have Dorian mimicking behavior but actually growing because of them.

"Every experience, every episode has a certain theme to it, like...friendship [or] partnership and covering your partner and this one was more about friendship and how friends are supposed to have each others' backs and you’ve got to get dirty sometimes to kind of solidify the friendship. It’s necessary. I think he’s just learning more about human behavior every episode; he just observes all of this stuff" Ealy said.

"I think he's growing...I think Dorian has definitely become a little bit more human. You definitely see more of a sense of humor, which is fun. A good, strong sense of humor. And a somewhat melodious voice."

Though the more recent models of synthetics often a very strong dichotomy to Dorian right from the pilot episode of Almost Human, they are not where the differences start and end. Just as any human's experience would shape them and influence their future decisions, behaviors, and actions, so are Dorian's experiences having his inner workings recalculate a lot of things. Dorian was "decommissioned," per Ealy, and seeing him interact with another decommissioned synthetic (who Ealy also portrays) will shed some light on the ever-expanding differences.

"In the pilot Dorian talks about being re-purposed for the space station and things of that nature. So this is a DRN that’s been re-purposed and he’s nothing like Dorian so far," Ealy said.

Dorian may just have the most interesting and unique journey of any character on television right now, let alone just in this one show for the fact that he is a being caught between two worlds. Waking up in the future doesn't matter much to a machine, but the fact that he doesn't fit with his own kind the more he taps into his humanity, but he will never fit fully with humans simply because he isn't one and doesn't have the capacity for all the complexity they do. Looking at Dorian early on, he definitely seems to want to be more a part of the human world, though.

"There is a basement in the precinct and [Dorian, like the other MXs] all go down there to power down and boot up the next day and everything like that, and it’s something that Dorian just despises. It’s something he despises," Ealy shared.

The fact that Dorian can actually grow and mature at all week to week is remarkable, but how much he can do so is a fine line that Ealy, along with the writers, is aware of walking.

"For Dorian, his range of emotions, depending on what they show, it can go to very, very, very emotional to pretty stoic and that’s been kind of fun to play. There are times, especially in action sequences, where he’s just unstoppable," Ealy said.

"I remember talking to Joel in our first meeting and I said, 'Is Dorian a Mac or a PC?' And he just laughed like that, and I was like, 'See because when I converted to Mac, the reason why I did it was because the PC took forever to scan viruses and to load or boot up and everything and Mac was just like boom! Done! In seven seconds, you’re up and running.' [And] the conclusion we came to was he’s more of a Mac and in that scene in the car where he was making noises and stuff, that’s him booting himself back up and getting ready and he’s starting to run through all of his programs and things. But ultimately once he’s back up, he’s pretty much back up. I would love to slow down Dorian’s growth as much as possible because I’m thinking, 'Maybe by season five, he’s wearing sunglasses.' Do you know what I mean? That’s where I’m going with it, but definitely we’re accelerating it. We’re definitely accelerating. And I think it’ll work. I think it’s actually going to work because you’ve kind of got to grab the audience these days and I think the longer we stretch it out, the more problem we might have with that."

Almost Human airs on FOX on Monday nights at 8 p.m.

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