September 20, 2013 7:00am PT by Philiana Ng
'Almost Human': J.J. Abrams on Tricks to a Sci-Fi Procedural, Fox Releases New Poster
Less than two months before its November debut, Fox has released a new poster touting upcoming sci-fi drama Almost Human.
From Fringe team J.H. Wyman and J.J. Abrams, Almost Human is set 35 years in the future, when humans in the Los Angeles Police Department are paired up with androids. Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban), who dislikes robots, is forced to team up with an android, Dorian (Michael Ealy), with the ability to feel human emotions.
A handful of reporters were invited to Bad Robot headquarters in Santa Monica on Thursday afternoon, where Abrams addressed the tone of the series, among other topics.
"The overlap — the Venn diagram of [Fringe and Almost Human] — would be that they're pushing the edge of technology and what might be possible in that regard," Abrams told reporters. "But the series themselves are completely different types of shows. What they're dealing with in [Almost Human] is much more a cop show that you might feel is familiar, with a wrench thrown into that, with the huge adjustment being that the cases themselves aren't what you've seen before. The truths of the differences between these characters are atypical because of the world in which it takes place."
For Abrams, Almost Human represents a chance to revisit the types of stories that drew him into storytelling in the first place, by infusing a twist into an otherwise traditional story. "Some of my favorite shows and movies and books ever have been taking things that are very familiar and then throwing something into it that is completely unfamiliar and playing that out," he said.
But he reiterated that the show won't be traveling through times and universes like Fringe did. "It feels very distinct from the world of Fringe, which was a much more serialized show about this dysfunctional father-son, this romance that went over not just years but worlds," he said. "This is a show that doesn't quite get into that level of serialized storytelling."
When asked about what he's learned from the short-lived NBC drama Undercovers, Abrams' attempt at lighter, more procedural fare with a spy game thrown in, the prolific producer-director pointed to Person of Interest as an example of a show that did the serial storytelling and case-of-the-week well.
"This show is going to take the model [of Person of Interest]," Abrams said. "[Undercovers] was an attempt at doing a very fluffy, Hart to Hart-type show that sadly -- due to my absolutely inept skills, despite all the great work by many of the cast and my colleague Josh Reims -- failed."
Whether the more stand-alone elements in Almost Human will steer sci-fi or genre fans away from the series remains to be seen, but Abrams was confident that those viewers will come. "Sci-fi is a bandied-about term and used in ways sometimes that is not quite appropriate," he said. "Everything's fiction that is on TV, and there's a lot of stuff that has some science in it, but I wouldn't say that this is in the mold of a '50s sci-fi romp. I don't think it's exactly like anything else I've seen before."
Abrams continued: "I think this is a show that if you are a fan of sci-fi. If you're a fan of Blade Runner, if you're a fan of [Isaac] Asimov or [Ray] Bradbury, you'll see this and you'll go, 'This feels like this is something in that universe,' but the truth is the show is being made for people who go, 'I want to see a great procedural. I want to see a great crime drama, great characters in very unique situations.' That's the thrust of what we're trying to do here."
As for how he and Wyman landed Urban? Thank Star Trek Into Darkness. The New Zealand actor stayed away from television "quite a bit," but Abrams recalled asking Urban during production on the Star Trek sequel if he'd ever think about heading to the small screen. "I could see there was a moment where it was like, 'Maybe …,' " Abrams recalled. "And I thought, 'Oh my God, we gotta do it.' We just kept pushing. Karl read [J.H. Wyman]'s script and committed to it."
(Fox also released a behind-the-scenes look at the publicity photo shoot. Watch below.)
Check out the new one-sheet below.
Almost Human premieres Nov. 4 on Fox.