‘Almost Human’ reinvents police partnership

Karl Urban, left, and Michael Ealy star in 'Almost Human.'
Karl Urban, left, and Michael Ealy star in 'Almost Human.'

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.

The series, which premiered Sunday, was the last launch of new network programming for the 2013-14 TV season.

“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 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 — best known for grousing his way across the cosmos as Bones in the updated Star Trek films — plays John Kennex, a cop who finds having an android partner as appealing as being given a blender to fight crime.

Kennex 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, last seen on the USA Network series Common Law, 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 is the latest series to launch on network television dealing with sci-fi and fantasy elements. The others have featured vampires, fairy tale characters, and headless horsemen. 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. “I think that it’s such an incredible arena to tell great stories about the human condition in ways that are unique and that you really haven’t seen on network television before.”

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, and I find that interesting,” Urban says. “We play characters who are really at the frontline of protecting the society against the misapplication of, whether it be genetics or robotics, or anything like that.

“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.”