One of this seasons BIG new shows is Almost Human which debuted in mid-November and offers a new take on the buddy-cop genre: it's set in the near future where human officers work side by side with android investigators - think 'Blade Runner - The Series'. While Judge Dredd himself Karl Urban and Michael Ealy are the series leads, there's a strong supporting cast including Mackenzie Crook, Lili Taylor, Minka Kelly... and an old friend of ours playing one of the MX-model officers, Darren E. Scott ( recently seen in Man with the Iron Fists). We caught up with him to see how he made the transistor-transition...
For those who haven't seen an episode as yet, tell us the basic premise for Almost Human and more about the roles you're playing...
Darren E Scott: The year is 2048 and the crime rate in Los Angeles is up 400%. Law enforcement is forced to implement extreme measures and each human police officer is assigned an MX-43 Android police officer as a partner. Detective John Kennex has woken up from a coma two years after leading a team of police officers into a raid which turns out to be an ambush in which he ends up being the sole survivor of. Having woken up with a synthetic leg he struggles to find his way back to his life as he knew it, including being a cop.
It was your first return to shooting in Canada for a while, how easy was it to get back into the Canadian/Western style of film-making after being Asia-based for so long?
DS: I really missed shooting here in Vancouver so getting back into their style of filming making was easy. Having made low budget and short films in Asia these past few years I got to see a lot of things. Some things that were very familiar to me and others not so much. I think one of the biggest things that impacted me was when I was in the city of Jiazuo in the province of Henan filming “Game Of Assassins”. I remember the crew bus pulling into the front gate of the studio and seeing all of these people crowded out front at 5:30am in the morning. I asked one of the crew in Mandarin why they were there and they told me that they were lined up looking for work. These locals would line up every morning all so they could take home $5-$7 US home at the end of the day. So I found myself coming back having gained a heightened sense of gratitude for the working conditions in North America, not that I didn’t have any gratitude before. I think it’s something that some take for granted sometimes.
How did you get the role ? As we've said, you had been based in Hong Kong and China in recent years...
DS: Getting the role was just one of those stories that gets a happy ending. At the end of last year I was depressed, and feeing down and out. “The Man With The Iron Fists” and “Supercapitalist” had been released and I was being optimistic that those films would gain me enough recognition... so much that I had this ridiculous idea in my head that my manager's phone was going to start ringing off the hook. But it wasn’t. I’d had a couple of great auditions that got me shortlisted but in the end, no dice and that didn’t help with my confidence either. So I decided to start looking into doing other things like personal training for fitness. After that things just unfolded. I booked a decent bank print job in Singapore so I headed down there for a bit. I’d caught a late flight and it was 3am on a Friday when I rolled into my cousin’s place. I received an email from my manager asking me to put two auditions on tape asap (Almost Human being one of them). I was “...you got to be kidding me”. So I had to go through my mental rolodex of people I knew in Singapore who could help me put it on tape and lucky my friend Jimmy Taenaka was available to help me out. I woke up early to get the dialogue down and went over to his place to tape it. I didn’t have much time to put too much thought into it so I just went with what I felt worked and filmed a few options so that the casting director had some choices to look at it. By Tuesday I was told that I was shortlisted, being presented to the network for approval and that I needed to start looking for a plane ticket back to Vancouver. By Sunday the network approved me and I flew back. It all happened so fast.
Were you originally cast just for the pilot or were you signed to reappear again from an early point?
DS: I was originally just cast in the pilot, but in my head I was already thinking “It’s JJ Abrams with JH Wyman (creative producer of Fringe). How could this show NOT get picked up?” Once we were picked up it took a couple of months for them to get back to us to confirm how often I was to be back on the show, if at all. You have to keep in mind that even though a pilot is successful and gets picked up, that doesn’t mean changes won’t be made - especially when it comes to casting. My manager finally received word that they were pleased with what I and the other MXs had done during the pilot and I was offered a series regular role. I was speechless, I had been offered something that I only ever dreamed of and now I’m living it.
How do you approach playing a role like of an Android police-officer? Is there anything you have to remind yourself to do or not to do while playing the role?
DS: The official name of my character is 'MX-43' which is the latest model of Android police officers. I think that people perceive playing an android as AN easy task... i.e all you have to do is move and talk like a (traditional) robot but it’s not like that. Our movements are very smooth & human like. Although our dialogue delivering is to be somewhat flat we’re faced with the challenge of making sure that the intonation is there. It’s the only way I can explain it. Also, my character's thought process is based on analytics, statistics and most importantly logistics... and that’s what we base our decisions on. It’s not based on emotion or gut feeling because we we’re not programmed to feel anything.
So there are duplicates of your character - in the trailer we see you getting crushed (literally) by the wheels (again, literally) of industry after leaving a car at high speed...
DS: Yes. As you see in some of the trailers there is a shot that contains two of me but with different numbers. So if one of me blown or gets smashed up, as in the trailer, there are more to take my place. I just consider it job security for now! (laughs) When we get more than one of the same MX in a shot the process just depends on the type of shot that’s being done. A stationary shot would be less time consuming than a moving shot. But our camera crew is very good at what they do and the end product is awesome. The initial makeup test took about four hours. They need to get it right. But now when I arrive on set, it only takes about 30 minutes, tops. The makeup/FX crew is top notch and one of the best in this city and I really admire their work.
How are Karl Urban and the rest of the cast and crew to work with?
DS: I have a huge respect for Karl’s work ethic and process. As the series lead he has a lot of things that he needs to stay on top of. He’s very professional and on the ball. Michael Ealey as well. I’ve really enjoyed watching the chemistry between Karl & Michael grow on set. Michael is also a lot of fun and brings a smile to everyone’s face everyday. As for the rest of the cast (including Mackenzie Crook, Lily Taylor, Michael Irby and Minka Kelly) they are great to work with. They all bring something wonderful to their characters which in turn brings some nice elements to the storyline. The production team is great. Everyone, at all levels, is working so hard to make this show a success. The majority of the crew is from “Fringe”, as a matter of fact, so they know and work off each other very well. This is my first time working on a tv show as a series regular and I’m really loving the family atmosphere.
If people haven't caught it - and it hasn't been broadcast yet in the UK - what do you think are the show's real strengths?
DS) I think the show gives an accurate peek into what the future holds for mankind. These ideas the producers & writers are coming up with really aren’t far fetched at all. Most importantly the show explores humanity and the direction that we, as human beings, could possibly be headed. I think the show offers a little something for almost everybody. If you like cool robots, we have cool robots. If you like bad guys and guns we have it. If you like interesting characters, we have that. If you’re a huge sci-fi fan then we’re definitely right up your alley. The list just goes on. I’m very optimistic about the show's potential. I’m very anxious to see the viewer’s response once we start airing.