Though Fringe is dead and gone, showrunner and writer J.H. Wyman wasted no time getting back on Fox with Almost Human, yet another sci-fi themed police procedural. The genre leanings and the general cop-talk are about the only thing the two shows have in common, at least on a surface level. One has a ton of monsters, weird science, and alternate universes, while the other is set in the future and imagines a realistic progression of technology. Wyman recently sat down with Collider and discussed, among other things, his idea for the setting, his vision for the future, similarities between Almost Human and Fringe, and his plan for the show.
As a genre, science fiction tends towards a less than rosy outlook about the future. There’s quite a bit of apocalyptic noise going on, not to mention dystopian nightmares, environmental degradation, alien invasions, and various other ways the planet gets screwed up. The world of Almost Human owes a big chunk of its look to his feelings on technological advances, though his outlook is not nearly as bleak as many of his counterparts. He says:
I’m a little bit frightened of technology and leaving humanity behind. I just was confused why all these great writers, who had influenced me to such a great degree, like [Isaac] Asimov and [Philip K.] Dick, always had this interpretation of the future that was so dark and dour. I just have a different impression of the human race. I think we’re really resilient. I think there are a lot of cynical people out there right now, and probably for good reason. But I think that every cynic is really a damaged romantic, and they really, really, really want things to be good. And if that’s the case, I don’t need to tell a story that says, “Humanity, look what you’ve done. Now you can’t go out. There’s no sun. Look how you’ve wrecked the world.” That’s not me. That’s not my job.
While there are big problems to contend with, the world Wyman and co-creator J.J. Abrams draw in Almost Human isn’t completely forlorn and miserable. This isn’t a future where humanity teeters on the verge of collapse. Aesthetically it owes an obvious debt to Blade Runner, but its like a less dire version of Ridley Scott’s vision. He continues:
I want to talk about hope. Are we going to be completely lambasted by things we don’t see coming? Yeah. Is it going to damage the human race and hurt us? Probably many times. Are we going to get over it? Absolutely. Are we going to move through it? Yes. I believe in the human spirit. And usually the people who are following me – my fans and things like that – are like-minded people, in that regard. They like to hear about people being in pain, but that are okay, and people feeling like they can’t go on, but then they find a reason to go on. How do you marry someone and love them, and then they die? How does that happen? Why are we on this journey? They want to talk about things, and they want to understand. So, this is the perfect vehicle for that. The future that I see celebrates those types of like-minded ideals and ideas. I don’t know what’s coming, but I know that we’re not going to get knocked out so easy.
A more hopeful outlook, like Almost Human sets up, is a drastically different take from Fringe, which envisioned a future where bald-headed tyrants bent on ruining the atmosphere. When asked if this rosier outlook has impact on things like killing off characters, Wyman said:
It’s funny that you say that. If you take, for example, when Etta died in Fringe, people were so upset. It was awesome! Number one, it was good because I knew they were feeling something, which was important. They were invested in her. But number two, they didn’t realize the larger picture, which I found alarming. Here is a woman that was born of two, essentially, warriors, who dedicated her entire life to bring her parents back to the living, so that they could save the world. If you asked that character, “Are you willing to give your life up for this cause?,” her answer would be, “Yes, 100%. I would do it in a minute.”
It affected people, but tragedy is a part of life. Life is painful sometimes. It touches everyone, so you may as well try to look for other answers and find peace. So, it is difficult to write those types of things because nobody wants to tell sad stories. I think that I’ll always tell stories about human hope. I would love to be able to tell somebody, “It’s okay. It’s all right. Be a good person.” That’s what my job is, in life.
One other key difference between Almost Human and Fringe that many fans have noticed is that his last outing was full of long, continuing storylines, while his latest falls more on the episodic, case of the week side of things. At least that’s how it has gone thus far in the first season, but Wyman has an overarching plan, a five-year-plan to be precise. He says:
That’s how I did Fringe. Every year, I have an overall plan, but I have an understanding of where I’m designing to go, season to season. It’s so crucial because you can’t write a metaphor unless you know where you’re going. Some people are really good at making it up as they go. I’m just not one of them. I have to think and stare at a wall for six hours. That’s my fate.
Almost Human returns to your TVs Monday, January 6 on Fox.