On FOX's Almost Human, a new crime drama set just over thirty years in the future, technology has already advanced enough that society has created multiple generations of MXs-- a synthetic machine-like being that walks, talks, and looks like a human but is programmed to be a human shield if need be. These MXs are partnered up with every human police officer (and some are used for other technological purposes as well). John Kennex (Karl Urban) is a man who doesn't trust such machines and therefore is reluctant to work with them-- so reluctant that he throws his first MX partner out of a moving car and then takes an earlier model out of retirement so that if he's going to work with a machine, he's at least going to do it on his own terms. Kennex has been hardened by past experiences on the job and in his personal life, and even being in a coma for the last few years hasn't done anything to alleviate his gruffness or distrust. But his new MX partner Dorian (Michael Ealy) just may be the thing that cracks through his armor and lets a little light in.
"I think the one thing in the pilot is that John had a prejudice against synthetics-- against robots. And I obviously still feel that is there, but in the case of Dorian, Dorian [saves] John’s life and he’s proven himself to be a worthy partner-- a capable partner. And I think on those terms, John’s really accepted him for that. He trusts [his captain] Maldonado and she says, 'Hey. You guys are going to be good for each other,' so John’s like, 'Let’s see where this goes.' And there’s a bit of fuel for a fun bit of banter and stuff, but by and large, I think that while he still has issues with other synthetics or synthetics, particularly the models that he feels are responsible for part of the loss of life on the ambush. He’s definitely still got very strong feelings about that. But as far as Dorian goes, he proved in the pilot that he’s different and so it’s okay," Urban said when LA TV Insider Examiner was on set with him in Vancouver.
"I think that Dorian is a wonderful way for John to get in touch with his humanity. Dorian’s sheer inquisitiveness about why humans behave like they do-- or the main effect that Dorian will question John on his actions and in doing so-- provokes a bit of soul-searching and a bit deeper thought on John’s behalf. And I think it’s a two-way street. I think that Dorian learns lessons from John as well and I think that’s what makes the partnership so successful. And also I think it’s wonderful because these characters have fun with each other and it’s just a great sort of chemistry and report and there's a great banter. It's fun to not always get on and that’s funny and fun too. So there’s a lot of fertile ground."
Urban shared that as episodes unfold past the pilot, it really is the relationship between these two very different new partners that gets explored the most. Each has his own individual approach to the work and the cases they encounter, but it is in watching the other respond to those cases that helps each guy move forward just a little bit more. John, for example, will have to deal with a little kid in one key upcoming case, and that is not something that goes so easily.
"He's kind of obviously a bit more by the book and I’m a bit more, 'We’re going to go rogue here'. I’m going to go off the page. That’s the difference between dispensing law and dispensing justice that’s Kennex's territory. But I think for the most part, we fall into a pretty handy, useful duo, which isn’t to say that we don’t have our issues, because we do. We’re riffing a lot on Midnight Run and those characters, who are kind of at each other a bit, but need each other to get the job done. So that’s kind of a little bit of a template for us," Urban said.
Though John is all work when on the case, there are moments of levity or at least a little bit of a dropped guard that manage to sneak in when the guys are in the car together. It is in those moments when John is distracted by driving that he isn't so focused on all of the different things pulling at him-- from his past to his other precinct relationships to the fact that the technology he is up against is deadlier than ever and he is actually working alongside a piece of it. John can relax a little bit, and therefore, so can the audience. Almost Human may be dealing with some very serious themes, but it is the lighter moments in execution that entice not only the actors but also the viewers to keep coming back to this world week after week.
"John’s baggage and his past is there, but thus far we’re not letting the character be defined by that. So in other words, we’re moving into different cases and learning to work with each other," Urban said.
"At the end of the day the show is about fun. We want the audience to have fun. We want to deliver an action-packed, fun, intriguing episode every week. We’re dealing with cases that you’re not going to necessarily find on any other contemporary show and I think if we do it right and we do it well, then we’re going to give the audience a really kind of wonderful mixture, this combination of fun and action-packed cop show that’s a little bit different. We want to show in ways stuff that’s a little bit different than what you’re going to see on other regular shows. That’s the challenge," Urban said.
Almost Human will premiere on FOX on November 17th 2013 at 8 p.m.
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