North Texas Daily

Interview: J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman explore “Almost Human”

Interview: J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman explore “Almost Human”

Interview: J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman explore “Almost Human”
November 14
15:10 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic

The North Texas Daily had the chance to speak with executive producer J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek,” 2009) and creator/executive producer J.H. “Joel” Wyman (“Fringe”) about their new show, “Almost Human,” robots and that little place in a galaxy far, far away.

With several really fast-paced shows on the air, like ‘Person of Interest,’ ‘Revolution,’ and now ‘Almost Human,’ how do you keep things straight? Do ideas for one ever contribute to the others?

J.J. Abrams: “I think that the lucky situation for Bad Robot has been working with really wonderful people who are great show runners and storytellers. With Joel, with whom we worked on ‘Fringe’ for five years, when he pitched me the idea for ‘Almost Human,’ it was— I felt like that little kid that I used to be watching ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ and all excited about the idea of what the show could be. When Eric Kripke pitched ‘Revolution,’ I thought that it would be a really amazing and epic story to tell. It was very ambitious.

When Jonathan Nolan pitched ‘Person of Interest’, we were having a meeting about a feature. He said, I have this idea for a TV show and he pitched ‘Person of Interest.’ The great thing is it’s like having friends who are great storytellers who are also running these shows. While we read the scripts, and we give notes, and of course look at edits, and all that kind of stuff, it’s not like any one of us is running any or all of these shows. They’re all separate endeavors by people who are incredibly talented, that we feel very lucky to be working with.”

You mentioned that you’ve worked with Joel on ‘Fringe.’ What would you say makes it such a fruitful relationship and partnership between the two of you?

Abrams: “God—“

J.H. Wyman: “I think it’s my singing voice.”

Abrams: “I think I have to agree with Joel. [Laughs] I think that the fun of working with someone who loves the ‘what if’ and is able to imagine situations and characters that make you laugh as much as it makes you squirm because the ideas are so close to what’s possible. On ‘Fringe,’ as crazy as things were, and it got pretty crazy, they were so often things that felt like, ‘God. That just seems like something that might be happening right now’. Then almost invariably you’d read about something within weeks or months that proved that out. It’s always been fun working with Joel and ‘Almost Human’ is no different.”

Since the show involves robots, and with Civil Rights being such a big issue right now, are there robot rights, marriages and things like that in this universe?

Wyman: “That’s a really good question. J.J. had set us up with some very, very brilliant people from MIT, and one of the brilliant people was a woman who studies robot ethics, which is pretty amazing because when you talk to her, you get the idea that, ‘wait a second, this is definitely coming.’ Some of the amazing things with these robots that are now what we see in the future are definitely robots, not human. They’re not becoming human, but they’re definitely becoming beings.

They are thinking beings. What are their rights? Then, where are those lines drawn? A lot of those things are examined in some of our later stories. What is an android? What is a being? If it’s able to think and able to be, then what? We’re definitely interested in those types of things.”

And lastly, because we’re all curious about how “Star Wars: Episode VII” is going to turn out— I read that the original writer, Academy Award-winner Michael Ardnt (“Toy Story 3,” 2010), dropped out and you are writing it with Lawrence Kasdan (the man who penned “Empire Strikes Back”) now. May I ask why the sudden changes?

Abrams: “Working with Michael Arndt was a wonderful experience and I couldn’t be a bigger fan of his or adore him more. He’s a wonderful guy. He was incredibly helpful in the process. And working with Larry Kasdan, especially on a ‘Star Wars’ movie, is sort of unbeatable.

Given the timeframe, the process and the way the thing was going, it became clear that working with Larry in this way was going to get us where we needed to be and when we needed to be. That doesn’t preclude working with Michael again in the future at all. I couldn’t say enough good things about him. He’s really, just obviously, one of the smartest guys and one of the best writers around.”

“Almost Human” debuts with a special two-night premiere on Sunday and Monday, November 18th, at 7 p.m. on Fox.

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