Though Michael Ealy technically has second billing behind Star Trek and Dredd star Karl Urban on FOX's sci-fi buddy cop action series Almost Human, it is his android character that forges the deepest bond with the audience.
That's an impressive feat, and in a new interview, Ealy discusses the challenges of playing a robot in a way that isn't robotic, the character's aspirations, and the importance of humility; giving us some insight into how he gives Dorian his anima.
Here's Ealy on those challenges and what appealed to him about Dorian when he initially considered the project (via Collider):
"I did not see a connection with Dorian, when I first read it. It wasn’t like that, for me. It was the meeting and the conversation about what Dorian is. What is a human-like droid that operates from a place of free will and has been designed to have a soul? That’s fascinating stuff that you just can’t quite comprehend quickly. It’s not like playing a fireman with a wife and kid. You can gauge where that’s going to go and what’s going to happen, and you can talk to other people who have done it. I don’t know another Dorian. I don’t have a Siri. I had to figure out what would work."
Despite the praise that Ealy has earned for his portrayal of Dorian, there have been moments where the actor has had to swallow his pride in the name of putting forth a believable android performance.
"You can’t think of yourself as a robot, but you have to remember that you’re a droid. You have to remember that you’re not human. Giving yourself over to the fine line of a human-like droid means that sometimes you make choices that don’t make you feel good, as an actor, and you have to learn to embrace that. No actor will tell you that that’s a good place to be. If you don’t feel good about what just happened in a scene, you want to do it again. I’ve had to learn to let that feeling go because it’s not going to be human. It’s gotta be different, in some way. Could it be perceived as bad acting? I hope not. I have done some takes where I thought, “That was bad acting,” but then you see it and you’re like, “That was Dorian,” because it’s not natural. I have to embrace that awkward feeling about the character."
While it's clear in the interview that Ealy respects those that have played this kind of role before, he also reveals an interesting inspiration for Dorian:
"If you think about it, Jason Bourne is a genetically engineered human. What does he do when crisis comes? He calms down and handles it. He goes into almost a robotic, instinctual mode that is almost mathematical. You never see Jason Bourne wincing in pain because he’s learned to compartmentalize that. That’s fascinating to watch. I still watch the movies sometimes, just to get composure of that again. When we do the action sequences, my thing with Dorian is to keep him Bourne-esque during those moments."
Despite his character's humanness, Ealy doesn't seem as if he is eager to see his character obtain a love interest, though the idea of establishing another deep and human connection seems to intrigue him.
"Why does he have to fall in love and have sex? I don’t understand that. What could be interesting is if he were to develop a connection with a human, with a droid or whatever it may be. If he develops a connection, that would be cool to play. Call it love or whatever you want to call it, but I don’t know if sex is necessarily in the cards. I don’t know if we’re ready for that."
While some will doubtlessly be disappointed by the now small possibility of a Dorian love scene, many should he intrigued by the prospect of Dorian connecting with another individual, because that ambition is central to the majesty of the character and the show.
Sure, Urban's broody and standoffish John Kennex has our attention as he adopts a classic hero pose, masking his vulnerabilities with grit and toughness, but while his ultimate trajectory is powered by self-assurance and righteousness, Dorian is strangely more relatable, stealing our gaze with flashes of playfulness and lightness as he yearns to be a cop, a partner, and - in some ways - a human.
Almost Human airs Mondays @8PM ET on FOX