The SYFY pilot debut of ‘Resident Alien’ was well-received during their panel at New York Comic Con 2019. Here’s the scoop on everything about the upcoming series.
“Enjoy watching me crash yet another spaceship!” said actor Alan Tudyk, jokingly referring to his longstanding career of portraying spaceship pilots, before running the pilot clip.
Between Firefly and Star Wars: Rogue One, Tudyk is a beloved actor of Science Fiction. Whether it be live-action, voice-over, or even his own series based on and set about the convention circuit, Alan Tudyk is a big deal at cons and he’s promoted at NYCC almost every year since it’s beginning.
This is why his leading role as ‘Harry, the alien’ for SYFY’s ‘Resident Alien’ was met with nothing shy of stellar applause. The series was well-received and is oddly, one of Tudyk’s most human roles to date.
A dramatic comedy set in a science fiction universe, ‘Resident Alien’ stars Alan Tudyk, as an alien who after crash landing on Earth, takes on the identity of small-town Colorado doctor, Harry Vanderspeigle, in order to hide amongst humans.
Harry is a quiet doctor the town knows little about, except that he ran a pathology lab at Rutgers. Which is why he is inconveniently tasked to aid in a police investigation, as he’s the only doctor in town. Harry slowly has to deal with the moral dilemma of his secret mission to Earth – ultimately asking, “Are human beings worth saving?”
The series is show run by longtime Family Guy veteran, Chris Sheridan, and is based on the Darkhorse comic by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse.
The Workprint had a chance to talk with the actors and showrunner behind Resident Alien. You can watch the full interviews, in order, below.
Alan Tudyk – “Harry”
What was your first reaction when you received the script to play Harry?
When I first read the script, I liked it very much. It’s a drama that has a lot of human issues happening in this small town. A lot of people dealing with real life problems. Though, with an alien in the middle of it who’s trying to figure out what it’s like to be human and how to play it off. It’s dramatic but also funny.
Did you read the comics?
I didn’t until I read the script. Then I read the comics. But once those storylines started to veer off, I put them down, and just focused on the script that we had. Creating THAT Harry.
What was your approach to making this character more unique?
I’m kind of a boring actor. I get my script and look at what’s in the script, and go alright, I can bring life to this!
You know his body. How he walks and moves in his body are not quite certain yet. Things don’t move smoothly. That type of stuff, I have seen in some things… but I dunno. This guy… also wants to kill children and squish a man’s brain because it feels good?!
It’s an exciting character to play and I haven’t seen that much odd humor in an alien in a while.
Is there a way you approach your physical and voice work differently?
Voiceover is really easy. Making funny voices and acting it. Anything is possible, it just comes out of the imagination. You can do so many takes. It’s inexpensive to do. That stuff’s a blast. There’re different ways to play (a voiceover role). Sometimes you lead the animator and sometimes they lead you. You can make sounds they animate later into things they hadn’t even assumed.
First time I learned that was in Wreck-It-Ralph, with King Candy. Just making sounds as they took noise and made it into a fun play.
In this show, it’s what you get on the day. Don’t screw it up because that’s it.
What do you think was the most challenging thing about playing Harry?
Not being human. His feelings… he processes things differently and there are times where it takes a little more energy to stay in that heightened place. He lives inside of himself a little more. Overall, he’s kind of always in the spotlight. There’s a little bit of that, “What’s going to happen next?” Sense all times.
Chris Sheridan – Executive Producer
What drew you to this project?
In a week, it’ll be four years since Amblin first sent me the comic. They asked if I would be interested in adapting this into TV and I absolutely fell in love with the writing and characters. I jumped on it right away.
I don’t know why it took so long to get made. I started in October and broke out the pitch and sold it in August. Then I started working on the script with the network and ended up turning in the first draft to USA a year later. Every step took a long time. We shot the pilot last October; I just didn’t realize it would take this long. Still would’ve done it. I loved it.
At the time I was working part-time on Family Guy anyway. I was looking for a show to work on and this fell in my lap and I fell in love with it.
What is it like to go from contributing writer on Family to full-on Showrunner of this series?
It’s running a different kind of world. 2004-2009 I co-ran Family Guy with David Goodman and Seth MacFarlane, but coming into this world from animation, I stepped into something I was not prepared for.
I mean… there’s the big-budget stuff, visual effects. It was a huge world I stepped into. I learned a lot from the pilot. Spent the last six months, working with writers and coming up with more storylines. 9 more episodes are being made atop of the pilot.
How is this Writer’s Room Different compared to Family Guy?
Family Guy is largely a bunch of guys sitting around throwing food at each other making fart jokes. This was a wonderfully diverse crew. Group of people. Every room is different. Because there’s more dramatic stuff we’re doing this year, we really got into each other’s backstories and bonded. In June, the writers and I went to Alien Con in LA because we are taking Harry and Asta to an Alien Convention at some point this season. Which is gonna be fun. It was a good group of writers this year.
Will every episode be a murder procedural like in the comic?
Taking time to do that took time away from exploring the characters. Basically, that murder story that happens in the beginning, I stretched it out for the whole season as the first town story. It’s a great way to get to know people in town. How they’re reacting to it, and other things that happen along the way. I tried to keep as much as I could but because it’s a different genre, I had to change some stuff.
I did add the thing about Harry’s mission. Because on TV, to sort of exist in this current landscape, I feel the need for a character to move towards a definite role. I knew I could have him do that and instill obstacles and provide conflict for the characters.
Like in this, I had to take over a guy’s body. Creating a situation after a while… where he realizes he picked the wrong body to take over. Especially as the season progresses.
Why did you pick Alan to play Harry?
We saw 100-115 different actors from all over the world. Alan was the very last guy to come in. We always had amazing actors come in, but something was always off. It wasn’t until Alan auditioned when I realized, that’s what it is.
He had this incredible way of feeling removed… but there’s this inherent humanity in him that you feel something behind it. I don’t think you can learn that as an actor. It’s just a part of who he is.
Corey Reynolds “Sheriff Mike”
Can we talk about Sheriff Mike and that scene in the pilot?!
That was a thing we came up with on the fly. Chris, Dave, and I were making a joke: I think this guy should have a talent, something really obscure he’s good at. So, I started doing it for them and they loved it. I don’t know how familiar you are with this but that never happens. You don’t shoot a pilot and then write a new scene on the spot. It was a cool sense of collaboration. Fortunately, Chris and David thought it was a solid choice to make.
Did you always want to go into screen acting?
The honest answer is, during the course of my career, I started off performing at theme parks. When I was working at theme parks, everyone was talking about getting jobs on cruise ships. When I was working on cruise ships, everyone started talking about doing theatre. So I came off the ships and starred some regionals. Even got casted in hairspray. Then when you’re on Broadway, television is what everyone is talking about next. Then movies.
For me, I always tried to do what felt good and I’ve been blessed enough that I’ve been able to make those choices and they worked out for me. I think it was more of the natural progression of where things are going.
It was more about searching for new itches to scratch. When I was doing theatre, I didn’t have the chops for screen acting. So that was the challenge. And then TV chops, slightly different than movie chops, but that became the challenge. It’s all about what feels like the next challenge I’d like to undertake.
What about this role did you feel like was a challenge that you wanted to take on?
Letting go and walking into the room and not being afraid to do something weird. I think it’s always easier to play it safe. When I read for this character, it became clear to me this was special and unique. I was laughing out loud (at the script) the whole time.
So, when I went in to read, I basically just decided I wasn’t going to be afraid of looking ridiculous. I gave Mike this hardcore twang, had him be hyper, and improvised a little. It just worked.
What’s your approach to Sheriff Mike?
When I first booked it, I read a few of the comics but I also wanted to be surprised at how the story evolves. I don’t think we’re mirroring the comics. Chris is going into different directions. I wanted to be surprised. If the reaction to the pilot is any indicator, I think the show’s going to do really well.
Sara Tomko “Asta”
Did you read the comics?
No. To be fair, I never read a comic book before. Any graphic novel or comic book series of any kind. Closest I’ve ever gotten was Miyazaki. Spirited away is one of my favorite films.
As far as reading it, I never thought about picking one up. So, it was a great excuse to try something out for the first time and I’m glad I did. It’s really well written and created. The art is so stunning. I also love how the emotional intent pops out of the page which showcases a great writer, and I think Chris was able to take that and run with it for the script.
What was it you liked about the script?
When I read it, my first instinct was this felt like Battlestar Galactica. Starbuck is my girl! Is this my opportunity to be ‘Starbucky?’ It’s not in space, but story wise, if a story’s good enough, you can put any genre on it.
For this story, it just so happens there’s an alien in this town. But it really comes down to this humanity, these people, this small-town kind of drama murder mystery that’s happening and this relatability about just what it is to be human. How awkward that can be. That part of the storytelling is what fueled me, and so I thought this could be really something quite extraordinary.
I’ve loved sci-fi for a long time. I got my start on Syfy. My indie films at the very beginning of my career aired on Syfy. It’s always been a special network for me. So to have this happen full circle was amazing.
Also, I’m just excited to see the fans, as they reacted today. I feel like they’re going to have the same reaction when the whole show comes out. I think it’s going to elevate SYFY to a whole new level that’s how strong I feel about the story.
How did you prepare as Asta?
My boyfriend and I really talked about the spirituality of Asta the night before. What it means to portray a woman trying to get her power back. We did a lot of work on movement and just tried to figure out what was going on in a deeper layer. She’s so guarded in front of people. There’s something behind her eyes constantly trying to figure something out. She’s not trusting of many people and there’s got to be lots of layers of mistrust to get to that, but you can’t show all your cards at once. She has to act like she owns the room even if she feels insecure.
I walked out of the audition not even remember what I did. Which just goes to show how naturally close her and I really are.
Talking about your character’s spirituality how do you feel representing a native American character?
I’m so honored. My favorite thing about Asta is that she’s a mix and so am I. It’s the first time I got to play a role I can truly be all I am. I do have native heritage but I’m not a citizen. I think it’s important, especially now, to be upfront with who you are.
Chris and I talked about this for a long time. We wanted to showcase what’s true and beautiful and right about the Native American community, but also, be honest about who I am.
That I’m a mix. I can’t just check just one box, and neither can Asta. That’s what makes us feel like an outsider. When I vote I check the other box. I don’t know where I fit in, but I think there’s a lot of people who feel that way. It’s easy to check a box but what about those who don’t have a box to check, what does it mean to us, and where do we fit in?
I think that’s relatable and we decided to go with what was best and go with my mixed heritage. She’s not sure who she is. She’s raised by the Native American community but she’s still not sure what that means to her. I’m just honored I get to represent who I am and that the writers were willing to work with me because I think it’s important.
Resident Alien will premiere in 2020 on SYFY.