Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Report from the Set: Journeying to the Future with 'Almost Human'...

The year 2048 doesn't look so different from today, whether you're wandering around a soundstage or a lot of warehouses in chilly Vancouver. The cars may have a matte finish instead of a glossy one, with tricked out side windows that limit visibility in addition to providing a sinister sense of style, but they are just 2013 models that have been souped up and altered, a little bit of TV magic applied to some very real, very purchasable product placement. The glass windows of the precinct may frost over when the occupants inside don't want you to see what they're doing or to whom they're talking, but the cops that work there still make rubber band balls to keep their hands busy when working tip lines or killing other kinds of boredom. The lights flashing and sliding outside this all glass precinct may be from hovercrafts instead of stoplights, but all glass in the first place implies modern by today's standards, a minimalist approach. These are all minor details that ease you, though, hoping that if you accept the world, you will accept the basic premise of the Almost Human's story, where the main difference between us and the world in 2048 is that there have been at least two generations of special MX robots in only a couple of decades. These synthetic beings are given to law enforcement officials as partners, powered to be the perfect by-the-book companions who not only know and obey protocol but also easily throw themselves in the front lines when bullets start flying, to preserve the human life of their partners. That may be the hardest technological advancement to fathom since it is so delicate, so complicated, and seemingly so far away.

But on the set of Almost Human, already half-way into shooting the first thirteen episodes that FOX ordered, no one is having trouble accepting this one major difference. It probably helps that the first generation of MXes is represented by the impossibly charming Michael Ealy, who puts you at ease whether he's joking about getting made up for camera or commenting on how it's that late hour of the night when it's "dark chocolate time." It's easy to see how his character could bring out the humanity in Karl Urban's character, a man who has awakened from a coma only for his system to be shocked again by this very different world-- a man who distrusts technology and resists working with it (at least at first). Certainly it also helps that a good portion of the hardworking crew has carried over from J.H. Wyman's previous genre show, Fringe, though, where they were used to seeing crazier things than riot-gear covered robots. 

These guys seem to take everything in stride-- from director Ken Fink asking an extra to double back and basically make a loop behind the principle actors in a scene outside a corner pub (congrats, extra man, you just earned double the screen time!), to a stuntman seemingly landing just past of his mark after completing an exhilarating fly through a window, to the weird and somewhat whimsical light-up umbrella stems that people carry in the future, probably giving them visibility on a rain-filled night. When lunch was called at an hour more akin to dinner, these guys bee-lined to the catering truck, shoveled in as much protein as possible, and raced back to the set where they set up a makeshift gym with kettle balls, sandbags, furny pads, and whatever bars or practical location elements work for them. This may just be the craziest thing you see on the set: guys who spent all day hauling gear and building rigs using their free time to exercise even more.

Like Ealy and Urban, the crew was excited to show off the product they were making. The camera department let whoever wanted to take a turn at slating a shot (ssh, don't tell the union!), and the prop department lent us badges so we could all be deputized members of the precinct that day. But hands down the best personal part of the visit for me was playing with the police-issue weapons and MX riot gear rigs. I immediately volunteered to get done up in the outfit, even though I'm pretty sure Ealy has a smaller waist than I do, and I slipped on the vest, helmet, wrist guard (which the show still has defined specific use for, but it is sure to be something cool like shooting a taser from the top), and rifle. The joy on my face when seeing all of the shiny toys was best captured by this photo:

I clearly missed my calling in life. I spent so many years chasing the ideal role in the entertainment industry for me, working on countless sets as a Line Producer or Script Supervisor or Production Manager, when really I should have been apart of the guns and ammunition team. I don't know what that says about me, where it comes from, or what I could have been in a previous life (or even what I'll be in the next one), but I just feel so bad-ass when around this stuff. And most of it is fake. When handed this particular gun, I was given a tutorial on how to hold it, since it's molded for the future, but even then I found all of the tricks and extra bells and whistles easily (not literally-- though there was a flashlight built in as a side scope that was extra cool). Now I can't wait to see this stuff in action, put to absolute expert use, no doubt, by Ealy and Urban themselves.

For the formal interviews and show scoop from these set visits, please visit my LA Examiner page.

1 comment:

Shonaille said...

Thanks for sharing this report with us, I am even more excited for this show right now.:)