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Interview: Lili Taylor and Minka Kelly talk “Almost Human,” robots and sci-fi

Interview: Lili Taylor and Minka Kelly talk “Almost Human,” robots and sci-fi

Interview: Lili Taylor and Minka Kelly talk “Almost Human,” robots and sci-fi
December 02
15:55 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic

The North Texas Daily had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Lili Taylor (“The Conjuring,” 2013) and Minka Kelly (“(500) Days of Summer,” 2009) about their roles in FOX’s new sci-fi series, “Almost Human.” They shared their experiences of working in a futuristic world and how it has changed their outlook on life.

You can also check out our interviews with the show’s talent, Karl Urban and Michael Ealy, and creators/executive producers J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman.

Technology plays such a huge role in the world of “Almost Human,” and many of those technologies are fictional, whether they’re robots or handheld devices. How does that impact your day-to-day job as an actor?

Lili Taylor: “In a way it’s great because it really lets the imagination go, and I think it’s the same thing with horror. Imagination is usually much stronger than the actual thing, and so in a way it’s like an actor— really it’s the imagination I think that is sort of one of the fuels for an actor, and so in a way it’s great because we can— I just find them a lot freer in attaching whatever I want and finding my own meaning with the thing. I also have a freedom because nobody can say, ‘Well, that’s not how it is,’ because it hasn’t happened yet. So, you know, for instance, on a lighter note, like I’m trying to use pencils as much as I can in the show or like any kind of objects that we are using presently, and like I imagined someone saying, ‘I don’t think there’s going to be pencils in 2050.’ How do you know? There might still be pencils. I feel like it’s an open playing field, and I really love it. It gives me a lot of freedom and permission.”

I know this is something that you get asked a lot, but I am curious as to how you got involved, working with J.J. Abrams in “Almost Human.”

Taylor: “Well, for me, it was kind of interesting because my part, Maldonado, was originally written as a man. My manager suggested [to the creators] what if [they] thought of Maldonado as a woman and what if it was Lili? And they were open to that, and I went in and I read, and I think it felt really like an interesting way to go for everybody. I was interested because of J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman— they are very creative and they have a lot of creative autonomy as well. So all that combined made it interesting for me to join up.”

Minka Kelly: “I auditioned. I was one of the last ones to be cast, and I auditioned, and then a couple of days later I was flying out to Vancouver to shoot the pilot. I also was attracted to it because of the people making it. I’m a big fan of their work, and I just had a strong feeling it would be something very interesting with these guys just because they’re so smart and creative, and also the cast. The cast was already set in place and so I was really excited for the opportunity to work with these people.”

I’ve asked this question before in the past, and I am curious to know your perspective, but I imagine growing up that you watched a lot of cop television shows and movies. Taking that in to consideration along with the first day versus the latest episode that you all shot, how has your perspective of being a cop changed?

Taylor: “That’s a good question. Well, for me— I’m sure Minka has a different answer—I’m a captain, so I think the experience is more boring than I thought because I’m always in the precinct, and I don’t get to go out much. I’m dealing more on like an administrative, political level, and I’d love to be able to get out and do stuff, but the realities of a captain is they just don’t get to have as much—fun is a light word, but like excitement, adventure and danger. So you know, that’s my experience, but I’m sure Minka has a— Minka is out in the field. So what’s been your experience, Minka?”

Kelly: “The thing I take most from my experience, I guess, is when I— you know, being a detective I’m in these rooms, and I’m interrogating these people, and I’m trying to find different ways or angles to get people to give me what I want, and so it’s just really interesting. There’s a lot of psychology involved in sort of figuring out who you’re dealing with and what level of compassion you have for these people—knowing who is good and who is not. That’s been really fascinating and fun.”

Lili, you’ve worked in Sci-Fi before with such TV series as “Hemlock Grove” and “The X-Files”. Minka, I believe this is your first time. I’m wondering what each of you like most and dislike most about working in Sci-Fi?

Taylor: “Well, it’s more interesting for me when it’s grounded in relationships. I’m a little Sci-Fi illiterate actually, so I need to educate myself on that for sure. But for me as an actor and so on, if it’s not connected somewhere in the characters or in the relationship then the context doesn’t really resonate for me. And what I’m finding interesting about this is it’s so grounded in the character. It feels character driven, which makes the context interesting to me because it has meaning—it’s not just props, cool gadgets and stuff like that. You know, it’s all sort of coming from some deeper place, and that’s why it’s working for me.”

Kelly: “Exactly. I’m very new to the Sci-Fi world and also rather Sci-Fi illiterate, and so it’s a lot of work for me to really understand what is going on here because there is so much more going on than just the words on the page. It is a challenge to make these words grounded and find the meaning to what’s going on and why I’m saying it— and it’s a lot more challenging acting wise than being in a conversation with someone and reacting to them and having an emotional sort of experience with another actor about a relationship, which is what I’m used to. And so, this is a whole new world for me, and it’s really exciting to dive in to this world and learn this whole new— exercise this whole new muscle. It’s a real joy, and I’m having a lot of fun.”

“Almost Human” airs tonight at 7 p.m. on FOX.

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