Joel Wyman and Jeff Pinkner at the 37th Annual Saturn Awards | ©2011 Sue Schneider

Joel Wyman and Jeff Pinkner at the 37th Annual Saturn Awards | ©2011 Sue Schneider

In Fox’s ALMOST HUMAN, Mondays at 8 PM, Karl Urban and Michael Ealy play police partners in the near future. Urban is Detective John Kennex, a man with a flawless prosthetic leg, and Ealy is Dorian, an android with a flawlessly human manner, borne from the human instincts residing within his synthetic brain.

ALMOST HUMAN was created by J.H. (Joel) Wyman, who previously worked with the show’s producer J.J. Abrams on FRINGE, where Wyman served as show runner for that series’ last two seasons. Wyman is at an event sponsored by Fox for the Television Critics Association; he obligingly steps outside where it’s quieter to talk about his new series.

ASSIGNMENT X: When did the idea for ALMOST HUMAN first occur to you?

J.H. WYMAN: Well, I’ve been concerned with technology and humanity and this whole thing about humanity being left behind for a long time. Obviously, FRINGE allowed me to do research that sort of opens your eyes to some things, and you realize, “Wow, this is science, but look at technology, look at how that’s going to spin out of control.

My daughter, who’s twenty-one, used to text me, and I used to say, “Don’t text me. I want you to call me.” She said, “What are you talking about? You’re so old-fashioned.” I said, “Yeah, but when you call me, I can hear your voice, I can hear, ‘Hey, I’m okay.’ I can hear in your voice that you’re okay. And a dad needs to know that, a dad needs to understand that.” She said, “Okay, okay.” And she says she’ll do it. But this generation – they don’t even understand what that means, really. They don’t interact – they talk on the text. If you and I in the old days – or today – if we had a fight with each other, we would say, “Hey, as friends, let’s work this out.” You would tell me, “Hey, you hurt my feelings when you did this,” and I would say, “Oh, my gosh, I really understand your point of view now, let’s move past this.” But while we’re talking, there are all kinds of things going on in your mind chemically, and we’re connecting. But really, on text, it’s just like, “Hey, sorry, man. You okay?” And it’s like, “Yeah, okay, cool.” I didn’t get any of that, I didn’t get any connection.

So I’m just terrified of how we use this technology, and that’s how it came about. So when I was sitting around, I said, “I want to tell a story where I can talk about the future that I really think where the world is going to be, I could talk about a future where humanity still has a chance, and that I can show people slight morality/cautionary tales on a weekly basis while completely getting invested with these great people.” So it came up like that, and I was going to go direct to feature film and after FRINGE, I wanted to take a break. I was very tired. But when an idea comes – I talked to J.J. about it and we loved it and we did it.

AX: Now are there any elements of the technology and science from FRINGE that will show up in ALMOST HUMAN, even in the background?

WYMAN: Yes. Look, I’m always going to do a couple of nods. But there are a lot of similarities in that science was dangerously out of control in FRINGE and I think that that was interesting. Technology is right behind it. So now, truthfully, science could cause destruction, let’s say. But the technology can do mass destruction. So it’s like it’s a little bit more dangerous. I think that a lot of the same concepts – how we use technology, do we abuse it, how is it abused – those things are really interesting.

AX: Are there going to be any instances of technology doing unintended damage?

WYMAN: Yes. Because I think that’s interesting. It’s funny you say that, because there’s an episode that deals with that, but that’s the point. Who’s minding the store?

AX: Kennex originally gets Dorian from Mackenzie Crook’s character Rudy Lom. Going forward, what’s Rudy’s plot function?

WYMAN: Well, he’s like the motor pool, where it’s like he’s keeping all these incredible robots functioning. And he’s a very interesting character, and so many things are going to be revealed about him that will probably make him a lot more understandable for people, but he sort of has a very special interest in Dorian, for reasons that you’ll learn. But when you start to understand the story, he’s going to pop in – he’s always interested in what they’re doing, because he’s interested in Dorian’s well-being and success, so anything that they want to send out, he intercepts [laughs] – he wants to do it so they don’t mess it up. So he sort of sticks himself into situations, which is fun and plausible.

AX: There seems to be a question as to whether Dorian is anatomically correct …

WYMAN: I’m not saying he’s not anatomically correct, but they don’t drink, they don’t eat, therefore, there’s no need to urinate. There’s no need for any of that stuff. When you look at it like, what are you designing the robot for? Why would I spend money designing that?

AX: If the androids don’t function exactly like normal humans, why are they designed to look exactly like normal humans?

WYMAN: They’re designed to look like people because they’re there to make us feel comfortable with them and to make us understand that they are us. But to me, it gets a bit preposterous when you start to think about, does [Dorian] have sex with somebody? I think what’s more intriguing for me is not the sex, but the connection. That’s what I like. What happens when he starts to form human connections and meaning for somebody who is a human, and he can’t even understand what those are? Or what happens when somebody he saves on a case has feelings that are for him that she can’t qualify or understand, but it’s really a protector sort of scenario? He wants to feel things and wants to connect, but is always skirting the idea of, “What am I?”

I think he wants to understand – “From where I came” is very important. “What am I?” is very important. But unlike the other science fiction shows, where they’re like, “I want to be human, I long to be human,” he is more human than he can handle. Look at us. We’ve taken hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years to evolve, let’s just say. So basically, if you’re a dinosaur, if you’re a dog, if you’re a human, whatever, you’ve evolved. You’ve become this way, and you’ve become good and adapt at handling human loss, handling emotional stresses. When you don’t have all that evolution that whoever gave you the experience, are you going to be able to deal with those things in the same way? No, because we’re humans making a version of a human, which is not the same.

AX: Is Dorian able to process experiences? I mean, once he experiences something, can he learn from it?

WYMAN: Yeah. He’s got what they call a “synthetic soul program,” and you’re going to learn a lot about that, but it’s basically why he’s differentiated from every other robot, is that he actually has passion, thinking, and it’s really cool. And the idea is that he’s trying to qualify those feelings that he has from that.

AX: If Dorian has a synthetic soul, do you get into the metaphysics of what a real soul might be?

WYMAN: Yeah, I think we talk about that, because I’m interested in consciousness, what that is it. What is it to be human is exactly what I’m trying to examine.

AX: To ask a FRINGE question, were you happy with the way that series wound up?

WYMAN: Yes, of course. I am happy. I absolutely feel we were very lucky to get five years. I think that the fans made that happen. I’m so thrilled at the way Fox and [Fox executive] Kevin [Reilly] treated the show with respect. Even though it was not a huge earner for them, they really respected it, they loved that you guys got behind it. They didn’t have a lot of shows that had critics behind it and rallying it like that. They don’t get that often, so when they see that, they’re like, “Wow.” So I think it was one of those cases where the good guys won [laughs].

AX: And is there anything else you’d like people to know about ALMOST HUMAN right now?

WYMAN: Just that ALMOST HUMAN is not a series about Big Bads and moustache-twirling bad guys. The world is the Big Bad, and it’s about these people fighting it every day. And if you invest in them, you’ll really be entertained. It’s one of those shows that I really feel is special in my heart, and I think that you’re going to get the poetry of FRINGE, but you get some of the hard-hitting cases of NYPD BLUE and CSI and stuff like that as well.

Related: Exclusive interview with ALMOST HUMAN star Mackenzie Crook

Related: Exclusive interview with ALMOST HUMAN star Michael Irby

Related: Exclusive interview with ALMOST HUMAN star Lili Taylor

RelatedTV Review: ALMOST HUMAN – Season 1 – “Pilot” – Season Premiere

Related: Exclusive Interview with ALMOST HUMAN star Michael Ealy

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Article: Exclusive interview with ALMOST HUMAN creator J.H. Wyman

 

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