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J.J. Abrams On His Dynasty: Too Much Power For One Man

In this Fox show <em>Almost Human, </em>Karl Urban (left) plays a human cop partnered with an android, played by Michael Ealy.
Liane Hentscher
In this Fox show Almost Human, Karl Urban (left) plays a human cop partnered with an android, played by Michael Ealy.

J.J. Abrams already had the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek franchises under his belt when he was offered Star Wars. He says taking on the beloved work of science fiction in addition to the others was a big decision: "It's too much power for one man!"

"I was insanely flattered, but felt like it was too much," he tells NPR's Arun Rath. "I was already involved in a couple series that pre-existed me and I wanted to get back to doing original stories. [But] it was such a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something completely thrilling and wildly challenging."

Abrams has has managed to work get those original stories into the world. The man behind hit TV shows like Alias and Lost, is also the executive producer of the new Fox show Almost Human.

Almost Human is a futuristic drama set in the year 2048. In this not-so-distant future, all police officers are partnered with an android. Michael Ealy plays the android, who is from a model that had previously been decommissioned for being too human-like. Karl Urban plays a human cop, with a cyborg element. After he being injured in a blast, he is equipped with a sophisticated, mechanical leg.

"The title 'Almost Human' applies to both of the main characters," Abrams explains. "These are two characters that are sort of broken. They're sort of both, in various ways, on the scrap heap and they both kind of save each other."

Abrams, also added "author" to his resume this year. His book, S., co-authored with Doug Dorst, was released in October.

Interview Highlights

On what drew him to the new show Almost Human

J.J. Abrams attends an event for his recent film, <em>Star Trek: Into Darkness,</em> in Tokyo in August.
Keith Tsuji / Getty Images
Getty Images
J.J. Abrams attends an event for his recent film, Star Trek: Into Darkness, in Tokyo in August.

"As a kid, I used to love The Six Million Dollar Man and I loved the idea of ... technology and humanity overlapping. What I loved about this idea that Joel Wyman pitched was that ... this synthetic partner was in many ways the partner you would want in a cop car with you. He is the guy who was not only brave and incredibly fit and had all of the information you wanted instantly, but is also someone who is actually compassionate and insightful and thoughtful and someone who would really be, in many ways, more human than the human partner he had."

On the genesis of his book, S., which features dialogue in the margins of the pages

"The idea came from a very simple place, which is that I was at Los Angeles airport about 15 years ago or so, and I saw a paperback book ... on a bench, and I opened it up and someone had written inside, 'To whomever finds this book, please read the book, take it somewhere else and leave it for someone else to find it.'

"I still have this book. I've never read it, frankly. And I've never left it for anyone else, but I've kept this thing. It began a thought process for me, which was, what if someone found a book that had extensive notes in it and responded to some of those notes and left the book back? ... And what if a conversation began strictly in the margins of a novel?

"A wonderful author named Doug Dorst heard this pitch and his eyes lit up and I thought, 'Oh my God, he's crazy too.' And we literally thought that no one would really get it or be interested in it."

On other projects he'd like to pursue

"The idea of doing something in theater is very interesting to me. I've always wanted to do a children's book. ... Who knows if I'll ever find time."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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