Officer Material – Interview with Almost Human’s Jaime Callica

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There is an old saying that goes, “Good things come in small packages.” While that might not always be true for some people, it certainly was the case for Vancouver-based actor Jaime Callica when he auditioned for what became his recurring role of Police Officer Loeb in Fox’s newest hit Sci-Fi TV drama Almost Human.

“I initially went in to read for what was supposed to be an ‘actor role,’” recalls Callica. “It was back in June or July of last year and for the fifth episode of the series (entitled Skin), which actually ended up airing second. We have a few different classifications of roles up here in Canada. If you have zero to three lines of dialogue it’s called an actor role, four to around 10 lines it’s considered a principle role, and then from there it goes up to a guest-star, guest-star recurring and series regular.

“As far as Almost Human, I auditioned for what was the smallest possible part. The next day I got a callback, went in to do that, and with God’s blessing I booked the Officer Loeb role. I had a wardrobe fitting, then went to set, did my day’s work, and thanked my lucky stars that I had the chance to work on a J.J. Abrams [executive producer]/J.H. Wyman [series creator/executive producer] show. However, at the end of the day, the head wardrobe person came to my trailer right when I was about to sign out. She said, ‘One of the producers didn’t like how something fit on you, so I need to refit you.’ I explained that I was only there for the day,’ and she told me, ‘Well, if they’re telling me to refit you, I think that means they liked something you did and may be bringing you back.’

“So with hidden glee I went back over to the wardrobe office and let her refit me. After I left there, I began walking over to the second assistant director’s trailer to sign out. That’s when my agent phoned to tell me, ‘Casting just called and said that the producers are going to be using your character again.’ So it happened just like that. At one point during the day I did something on-set that impressed someone, and as result they brought me back for a second episode, and then a third, fourth, fifth and sixth.”

Set on Earth in the year 2048 and at a time when the crime rate has skyrocketed, Almost Human stars Karl Urban as Detective John Kennex, a police officer struggling with personal and professional issues while trying to do his best to help keep the city’s streets safe and put criminals behind bars. In order to deal with the rising crime rate, all human police officers have been partnered with an MX or human-looking combat android. After a “disagreement” with his MX, Kennex is paired up with on older model MX named Dorian (Michael Ealy), who, unlike the newer MXs, was designed with human-like emotions. Callica’s character of Officer Loeb is among the other officers working with Kennex and Dorian and under the command of Captain Sandra Maldonado (Lili Taylor). As the show’s first season has unfolded, the actor has been able to bring a little bit more substance to his performance.

“First off, I’m very lucky in that they [the producers and writers] have been giving me scenes and dialogue that have allowed me to come back in more and more episodes,” says Callica. “Initially, the biggest challenge for me on Almost Human is that most of my dialogue or the couple of the smaller scenes that I was in for the first few episodes really didn’t allow me, Jaime, or Officer Loeb to be a ‘real’ person. However, Sam Hill, who Is one of the show’s supervising producers and has also directed a number of episodes, is a really great guy, and while he hasn’t said it to my face, I feel that he has been integral to my coming back as frequently as I have. Hank Moore, the script supervisor, has helped, too, insofar as giving me some of the meatier stuff to say and do.

“As my appearances on the show have progressed, I’ve kind of been growing with the show more. Loeb is definitely becoming more a part of the team rather than just another one of the uniformed officers that are in the bullpen with the main characters. So, for example, in the next couple of episodes you’re going to see that they assigned my character his own MX, and he gets to ride around in a police car. In the season finale, you’ll catch Loeb joking around with Detective Paul [Michael Irby]. In the same episode, there’s some real action stuff including tactical, weaponry, running, jumping and a good amount of gunfire. Instead of just presenting information to Kennex or Dorian, my character gets to lead them into a situation and make sure everything is safe for everyone to proceed.

“For scenes like that, they have professionals on-set who specialize in the various weapons used on the series. They show us the proper way to hold a gun, what our eyeline should be as well as our body position and even down to if holding a gun and walking that you always keep your finger straight and never on the trigger. These are little things that you necessarily wouldn’t have thought about, but they work with you to make sure you know everything that you need to know on the day of filming. A lot of the weapons are real, too, so the process is very formal. Someone has to come around and show you what’s what before they even hand you a gun to take with you on-set.”

When it comes to the on-set dynamic and working with the Almost Human cast, Callica has nothing but praise. “Right off the bat I have to say that Karl Urban is a real gentleman and such a nice guy,” notes Callica. “I think it was my second episode and I wanted to take a picture with him, but I was so nervous. I didn’t know if there would be an episode three for me; I was just taking a day at a time. We were sitting off-camera relaxing, and I went up to Karl and said, ‘I don’t mean to take you out of your concentration zone, but would it be possible to get a picture with you at some point in the day?’

Without hesitation, Karl stood up and said, ‘Let’s do it right now.’ He went over to one of the production assistants and asked them to take a photo of us, and then had me check to see if the picture had come out OK. Karl remembered my name right out of the gate and always says, ‘Hi,’ when he sees me on-set. So I can only say amazing things about him.

“Michael Ealy is a cool dude, too, but to be totally honest I haven’t had that much personal interaction with him as much as I have with Karl and some of the others. Michael has really perfected that android-with-human-emotions character, which is a result of him constantly focusing on what needs to be done and staying in the zone. He wants everything he does to be the best he can do, and you can see that when you watch the show. So whenever we do have scenes together, we’ll chat about the dialogue as well as the action to make sure things flow.

“Michael Irby is a really funny guy,” continues the actor. “He’s always joking around no matter what and he’s the guy on-set who make everyone laugh all the time. Lili Taylor is very, very sweet. In the last episode I worked on there was a bit of an oversight with regards to a make-up effect, so someone had to be called in the middle of the night to come into the studio and do the make-up before we could proceed. We had all been on set for 14 hours, so everyone was tired and whatnot, and when that happens it gets into your head and you start dropping your lines.

“On this particular night everyone was doing it, and when I started making mistakes, I was taking it quite hard. At one point Lili came over to me and said, ‘Hey, you’re doing fantastic. Just take a breath. I’ll tell them you need a second. They’ll wait. Go grab a sip of water and then come back and keep going. You have this, OK?’ So I walked away for a second, grabbed a glass of water and came back. Minka Kelly [Detective Valerie Stahl] was right there with two fist bumps and was in my corner as well. I went out there, did what I had to do and we ended up getting the shot. So, again, Lili and Minka are just incredible. In fact, another night when we were all working super late, Minka took it upon herself to order pizzas for me, Karl and Michael and have them delivered to the studio. So this is a great bunch of people and easily the best cast of people I’ve ever worked with.”

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to a mother and father of mixed Trinidadian, Chinese and Spanish ancestry, Callica stated honing his craft at an early age. “Besides my mother, Michael Jackson is my biggest inspiration in the entertaining industry,” says the actor. “When I was very young I would impersonate him and enter competitions. I then monetized it by performing at weddings, birthday parties and various community events.

“I was probably around 14 or 15 years old when I realized that I loved acting. I always knew I wanted to pursue it as a profession, but only when I felt the time was right. It was a few years ago when I literally got up out of bed one morning, looked in the mirror and said, ‘Today’s the day.’ One of the first phone calls I made was to a really good friend of mine, Zak Santiago, who’s a beast of an actor out of Vancouver. He’s been in every TV show you could think of, and I basically asked him what I had to do. He said, ‘Step number one, you’ve got to start training. Step number two is you’ve got to continue to train, and once your acting coach feels confident that you can get an agent, then you find one and start auditioning like the rest of us.’ So that’s what I did. I trained and trained and trained and auditioned and auditioned, and now I’m here today being able to say that I am an actor. It’s what I do and I love it,” he enthuses.

Callica made his professional debut in an episode of the long-running TV series Smallville. “That was so awesome because Superman is my favorite. If you came to my house you’d think an eight year old boy lived there because of all the Superman stuff I have,” says the actor with a laugh. “I was in an episode of the final [10th] season, and my only disappointment was that I got edited down to what ended up looking like a blur. However, I got to go through the Luthor Mansion as well as spend time on the Smallville set and meet the cast and crew. So for a first acting gig, it couldn’t have been better and the whole experience was fantastic.”

The TV series King & Maxwell, Motive and The Secret Circle along with the made-for-TV movies Rags and Big Time Movie are the actor’s other small screen credits. He has also appeared in the feature film Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. This young, affable and talented actor has a good head on his shoulders and one very special person who is in his corner and there to support him for what is certain to be a long and successful career.

“My mom is my biggest inspiration. She raised me on her own – it was just me and her – and making her proud means a great deal to me,” says the actor. “When my mom calls her church friends and lets them know with such pride that her son is in this particular episode of a TV series or that movie or whatever it might be, is motivation enough for me. She’s my number one fan and is always encouraging me to be the best that I can be, which is super, super rewarding. I love the whole familial thing and making her as well as the rest of my family proud makes this [acting] so worth it for me.”

Steve Eramo

You can find out more about Jaime at his website – http://jaimecallica.com/ – As noted above, all photos of Jaime courtesy of The Promotion People and all Almost Human photos courtesy/copyright of Jaime Callica, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!