'Almost Human': Familiar set-up with fresh twist


LOS ANGELES -- Actors rely heavily on their instincts -- based on life experiences -- when playing a role. Michael Ealy has to do just the opposite to play the android partner of a cranky cop on the new Fox futuristic drama "Almost Human."

"As an actor, you tend to draw on your human instincts and your background, what you've gone through as an individual. 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," Ealy says. "He observes it, and he learns from it."

The series -- premiering Sunday on Fox (WXXA-TV, Channel 23, Albany, N.Y.) -- takes place approximately 30 years in the future and being a cop has become even more dangerous, which is why every human officer is assigned an android partner. Karl Urban plays John Kennex, a cop who is forced to take on a partner and is teamed with Dorian (Ealy), an android from a discontinued line. Unlike all of the other robot partners, Dorian has the ability to feel emotions.

Ealy had fears about playing an android -- he would never have a love interest. He got past his misgiving by looking at the role in a larger spotlight. He realized he would be pushed in other areas -- such as the buddy cop elements -- and that would make the character fun to play.

"Almost Human" executive producer J. H. Wyman explains that the android element isn't new but every effort is being made to be different.

"I think we've all seen the robot that longs to be human. We felt that, to tell the story we wanted to tell, that it was probably better for us to have a robot that was more human than he could handle and sort of trying to understand what he is versus wanting and longing to be something he's not. So that was our way in," Wyman says.

And the human element of that examination will fall to Urban, who plays a cop whose broken both physically and emotionally.

Urban's happy his new series isn't offering a dystopian vision of the future.

"This is a future that is immediately accessible. We've still got mortgages. Mom and dad still take the kids to soccer. In this slightly futuristic vision, society is dealing with elements and difficulties that are just a little bit beyond the curve for us," Urban says.

"And the wonderful thing that I think the show does is it really sort of questions us. It makes us, as an audience, ask what does it mean to be human? And if I was in that situation, how I would react? And I think that's a key of all good shows."


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