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2014-07-05 at 14:16

Former 'ER' star Goran Visnjic explores his sci-fi side in 'Extant'

By Laura Kane, The Canadian Press
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TORONTO - Goran Visnjic has devoured science-fiction for as long as he can remember.

The Croatian actor best known for playing Dr. Luka Kovac on "ER" counts himself a huge fan of writers Isaac Asimov and Peter F. Hamilton, and also feels compelled to "watch everything that comes out in the genre."

So when the opportunity arose to star alongside Halle Berry in Steven Spielberg-produced "Extant," premiering Wednesday on Global and CBS, he couldn't resist.

"Reading the script, it's really interesting, and then you have the people involved like Steven Spielberg and Halle Barry, it makes it pretty much a no-brainer decision," he said in a phone interview.

Berry stars as Molly Woods, who returns to her family inexplicably pregnant after spending a year alone in space. Visnjic plays her husband John, a scientist obsessed with creating lifelike humanoid robots.

John believes that if his robots are raised by loving families from a young age, they will develop human morals and emotions. But his own android "son" Ethan (played by "Looper" child talent Pierce Gagnon) appears to lack empathy and is advancing much too quickly for his age.

As a father himself, Visnjic approached his character as though Ethan was truly his son — because that's how John sees him.

"His main idea is we're going to put this kid into a family, we're going to give him love, we're going to surround him with the things we would surround a normal boy with," said Visnjic. "In his mind, he really honestly sometimes forgets about the fact that Ethan is actually not a child."

The show explores the question of what makes us human. In John's mind, if Ethan learns how to feel and to love as humans do, then there is nothing separating him from the rest of us. Meanwhile, Molly can't forget that her son is really a robot.

Asked for his personal perspective on the nature of humanity, Visnjic replied with a laugh that there's no short answer.

"Questions like that, they're pretty much essays. They're very complicated philosophical matters," he said. "That's one of the reasons I like the show so much. It's a family drama, it's a science-fiction show with elements of action and thriller. But then again, you're going to be asking questions that are really philosophical in nature."

He praised Berry's performance as Molly, in which she appears in mysterious flashback sequences alone on a space shuttle. Berry won an Academy Award in 2002 for "Monster's Ball."

"She's one of those actresses who is not afraid of going places. She's going to explore, she's going to do unusual things and she's not going to be ashamed or embarrassed of doing something not seen before," said Visnjic.

"Sometimes actresses, they don't want to look bad on screen. They're worried about makeup or effects because they're not going to look good ... That's not the case with Halle. She obviously knows she's beautiful, so she can afford that. It's really nice to see there is no restriction in her performance."

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© The Canadian Press, 2014
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