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'Almost Human' stars Ealy, Urban fascinated by show's tech

SHOW PATROL

  • Kennex (Karl Urban, left) and Dorian (Michael Ealy) investigate a case involving sexbots in Monday's "Almost Human."
Kennex (Karl Urban, left) and Dorian (Michael Ealy) investigate a case… (Fox )
November 17, 2013|By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol | RedEye

The new Fox series "Almost Human" on Sunday introduced us to 2048 Los Angeles, where it is commonplace for robots to be partnered with human police officers to fight crime.

Yet detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) isn't quite ready to accept Dorian (Michel Ealy), his robocop partner who looks and acts so little like a machine he probably could fool others into believing he is human.

In a recent conference call with reporters, Ealy and Urban said the technology creator J.H. Wyman and executive producer J.J. Abrams present in the series is one of its most interesting aspects.

"We're dealing with concepts that obviously aren't present in our world," Urban said. "Concepts like Dorian, a fully functioning, life-like humanistic robot that in many ways is actually more human than my character."

The technology that makes Dorian almost human isn't as far-fetched as Urban might think. A recent story in the British newspaper The Guardian and Observer cites the iCub, a humanoid "child" robot being perfected in Lyon, France, that is so sophisticated it learns skills much like a child does--by exploring and interacting with its environment. The story claims a new generation of social robots is "changing perceptions of what human-robot interactions will look like in the future."

For Ealy, it's hard to believe that humanistic robots could become as common in our future as robocops are on "Almost Human."

"I think that's almost inconceivable to me right now," he said, "but it's fascinating to think about it when you really get there."

Beyond robocops, "Almost Human" will present other fantastic science that Urban says Wyman and his writers have researched that "are just over the horizon."

"I think that's going to be one of the fun and exciting elements about our show, is people are going to be able to tune in next week and go, ‘Oh my gosh, is that seriously two decades away? Is it 10 years away?'" Urban said. "I think from that standpoint it's going to be a thought-provoking element of our show, amidst all the fun and action and comedy."

Those other technologies include human cloning, synthetic organs and body parts and, in the second part of the two-night premiere airing at 7 p.m. Monday on Fox, sexbots. (Watcha video preview below.)

"That my friend is a little treat for the future," Urban said when I asked for more details about the Intimate Robot Companions in "Skin." "We have so many fun things in the show. I cannot wait for you to see it. The wonderful thing about the show is that it's full of limitless possibilities."

Ealy and Urban talked more about the sci-fi, comedic and buddy cop aspects of "Almost Human" during the call with reporters.

Can you just talk a bit about kind of how you prepared for these roles?
Karl Urban: The preparation for me was a multi-level process. It involved a lot of discussion with Joel Wyman, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk. When it got on the ground here in Vancouver we started shooting. We had a bunch of tactical training. I went on a bunch of ride-alongs with some cops just to get a sort of feel of what the reality is of their job.

Then there's also a physical component. Our show is a fun, action-packed hour of television. Michael and I both need to be in good shape to do our jobs. We pay a lot of focus, time and attention to keeping ourselves in good shape.

Michael Ealy: Basically kind of a similar situation in which I've spent a lot of time talking to Joel Wyman. As I said before, I try to model my version of synthetic droid or Dorian, in this particular case, after three particular characters in film. That's "Jason Bourne," the "Terminator 2" Robert Patrick's version and "Starman," played by Jeff Bridges. Those are all three movies that I kind of watched over and over again to try and find a good, strong foundation for Dorian.

What's the hardest part of this show for you guys, as actors? Like for Michael I would imagine it's the having to act like a robot that's acting like a human.
ME: I think originally it started out that that was probably the hardest part for me; to try and absorb the idea that a machine is being human or a machine is trying to act human. That was definitely difficult at the start. I'm starting to get the hang of that now.

So I think right now the hardest part is actually trying to understand and develop somewhat of a bible for the world that we live in. You know what I mean. So it's like, can you talk on the phone or do you talk through your com? Sometimes I can get a call from Mackenzie's character, Rudy, and Karl can't hear it and sometimes he can.

So it's like we're trying to find out what are the rules of the world that we set up. I think that's probably the hardest part for me right now.

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