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Almost Human – Star Trek’s Karl Urban on working with JJ Abrams again

Almost Human - Karl Urban
Almost Human - Part-machine cop Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) ©2013 Fox, photo by Liane Hentscher

Born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, Karl Urban is best known to American audiences as Dr Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy in the current Star Trek franchise, helmed by JJ Abrams (Lost, Fringe).

Urban stars in his first American TV series, Almost Human, once again working for Abrams, the show’s executive producer, and creator/executive producer, JH Wyman (Fringe).

Set in 2048, Urban portrays Detective John Kennex, a cop who survived one of the most catastrophic attacks ever made again the police department. Suffering from depression after waking up from a 17-month coma, he discovers his partner was killed and he has been outfitted with a synthetic leg, replacing the one he lost.

By mandate, every cop must now be paired with a robot, and Kennex is introduced to Dorian (Michael Ealy), a discontinued android with unexpected emotional responses.

Urban came to the TV critics tour to discuss his new series, which premieres on Fox on November 17th.

Were you looking to do a TV series?

Almost Human - Karl Urban
Almost Human – Part-machine cop Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) ©2013 Fox, photo by Liane Hentscher

No, actually it wasn’t something I was looking to do. But I got a call from JJ saying, ‘I’ve got this amazing project for you. I want you to have a look at it.’

I read it and I was immediately captivated by the character of Kennex and his situation, and his relationship with this android.

I really responded to how Kennex was damaged material, and he in some unlikely way finds a machine that somehow draws out his humanity.

When you were a kid was there some futuristic movie or TV show that you saw that you envisioned the future like it?

Almost Human - Karl Urban
Almost Human – Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) ©2013 Fox, photo by Liane Hentscher

Yeah, I watched a lot television as a kid.

I was always drawn to shows like Star Trek, which presented a wonderful kind of vision of the future where it didn’t matter what race, culture or creed that you came from, that you were accepted on equal terms and that humanity had overcome the warring and the differences and was now united.

It’s a very positive and optimistic vision of the future. I think that’s why that show was so successful.

One of the wonderful things that [we’re] doing with Almost Human is we’re not presenting 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. It’s just that, in this slightly futuristic vision, society is dealing with elements and difficulties that are a little bit beyond the curve for us, and I find that interesting.

When you do something like Star Trek, you probably shoot a half a page a day. When you do something like this, you are shooting pages a day. How are you coping with that?

Almost Human - Michael Ealy and Karl Urban
Almost Human – Part-human robot Dorian (Michael Ealy) and Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) ©2013 Fox, photo by Liane Hentscher

That’s a great question. JJ comes from a television sensibility, so working on Star Trek you never just do a half page or one page a day. You are working at quite a clip. And for me, personally, I like being in that place. I like being forced to think quick on your feet.

It makes you more resourceful. It stretches you as an actor. I think you get better work for it as a result.

I feel truly blessed to be working with such a phenomenal cast and crew. These guys have been working together for five years on Fringe. So we are stepping into a well-oiled machine, and we are hitting the ground running, and I think that the results speak for themselves.

We are endeavoring to deliver a cinematic-quality experience to our audience week in and week out. And I don’t think that would be possible if we didn’t  have the caliber of writing that we have, and this extraordinary cast.