Interview with Chris Sheridan and Sara Tomko of “Resident Alien” on Syfy by Suzanne 2/22/21
I love this show, and it was great to talk with these two, even for the short time I had with them. They had great answers to my question. There other questions came from the other press interviewers on the Zoom call.
Question: What’s been the most satisfying aspect of the response to the show so far?
Chris: Gonna preview this by saying that I thought I was the only one who didn’t read any reviews, and as it turns out, Sara doesn’t read any either. That being said, I know I did join Twitter, and I do try to live tweet for an hour during the show. So, I do get to see a little bit of what people are saying. For me, and I’ll let Sarah talk, but for me, I mean, it’s been a long road; it’s been five years.
So, to put all this effort into something – and by the way, this happens all the time – you put all this effort into something, and it doesn’t work for one reason or another, or you think it works, but no one likes it. So, to put all this effort into something for the main purpose of getting people to feel maybe better about their lives or better about feeling human, or getting them through the day or [giving them] something to look forward to, and look forward to laughing, and finding out that people really are doing that and enjoying it and looking forward to it and even in a small way having it make their lives a little better. I mean, yeah, it makes all the hard work over the last – you know, for me over the last five years – worth it. So, that’s the greatest thing, for me, is just feeling like you’re touching people in a way, even making them lives a tiny bit better. So, I love that.
Sara: Yeah, I, like Chris, do not read the reviews, just so I kind of stay grounded. I don’t think too much about good or bad. I just kind of wanted to separate between just doing the work and letting the work speak for itself.
But it’s impossible to not hear from family and friends, especially who will send me sometimes things…but it’s so lovely, because they’re obviously very excited.
Meredith Garretson and I, who plays Kate, she’s one of my best friends, and right before the show premiered, we were talking about [how] it never occurred to us. What if we just aren’t good? We were all like, “It’s been two and a half years.” Corey [Reynolds], especially, would hype us up, like, “Yeah, of course, this is gonna go. Of course, it’s gonna be good.” We would always have these pep talks. Then, you get to that point where you’re about to reveal, and you’re like, “Oh, god, what if it’s not good?”
So, to hear that it is exactly what we believed it was, to hear that people are not only enjoying it, they’re inspired by it, that it’s something that’s bringing them solace in a time of grief – We’ve had a lot of really wonderful people reach out individually to us, and we have a little alien thread that we have going on. So, people are always letting us know, like my friend said “this,” or, my cousin said “that,” and, you know, my family is just floored. It feels really lovely to be seen by them in that way. They’ve known for a long time I’ve been an actor, and they’ve seen me do other parts. But I can’t tell you how many of them were like, “You have so much screen time.” [unintelligible] like they didn’t quite understand that. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m the lead next to Alan…” So, that part’s been really, really rewarding, and I just want people to continue to like it and continue to watch it, so we can get that season two, and three, and four, and the list goes on.
Question: Chris, what made this a story you wanted to tell in the first place, and for Sara, what made Asta an irresistible character for you to play?
Chris: I’ll jump in. I fell in love with Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse’s comic, Resident Alien. What I loved about it mostly was this outsider alien observing human nature and trying to figure out what it’s like to be human. Out of all the things I loved about it, that one thing to me is the soul of the comment that I wanted to capture in the show. I really wanted to be able to tell a story about humanity and be able to sort of pick it apart and figure out, you know, what it is that makes us human, that makes us good, that makes us bad. Being able to do that in a light hearted way, through the eyes of this is new being coming to earth, I knew it’d be entertaining, and I thought that would be a really fun journey for me, as a writer, to sort of go down. That’s what really drew me to it.
Sara: The thing that’s so enticing and intoxicating about playing this role is how vulnerable I get to be, how honest. When I was younger, especially early in my career, I longed for a character like this, I really did. You know, you’re in the industry, if you get a role worth a damn, it’s like, that’s a win. As a woman, if you get a roll that doesn’t have to just do with how you look, that’s a win, and if you get a role that the story’s great, and then the cast is great. I mean, then on top of it, it gets picked up and people like it. It’s just one checkbox after another with this show. That doesn’t happen for everybody. So, I just really feel grateful that my very specific dreams came true, which was I wanted to play a raw, vulnerable, honest, multilayered, larger than life character, and I think that’s what I got with Asta.
I think that the whole cast was brought together by a fate that none of us can really explain, which makes me feel really confident about our future. Even if the show didn’t go on, I believe that we all have this synergy now that we will continue to create things together in the future, because it just it works so well.
And I just I love playing her. I love being able to also be a woman on screen who looks like a woman. I [don’t have] the perfect body, not the perfect temperament, like that. That’s no shame or anything; that’s just the truth of being a woman. I get to just be that, and it’s it’s not pretty all the time. In fact, she’s messy. So, it’s really nice to be able to show that and show that that’s what it really is like most days for most people.
Question: [What does] Asta think of how he changed the more he’s around? And how might you react if she finds out the truth?
Sara: Whoo, how has it changed? Well, we have to get in pretty quickly to her trusting him. So, I think right away, it’s obvious, because this town is so small and so reliant on the doctor, which is what everyone tells him, you know, as a therapist, as someone who was like a father figure to me. I mean, we have to really just allow Harry into our world and let him replace someone that was really the heart of the town is what it really feels like.
So, it changes for me, because Asta has this ability to really hear a man in her life tell her the truth, the honest truth, and nothing but the truth. So, she finally gets an experience with a friend and a man that is unlike no other. So, that, ultimately, leads her to rethink how she looks at life and how she trusts men.
I think that, ultimately, leads to this question for the audience of, “What’s going to happen when she finds out?“ But he’s lied to her this whole time. I mean, it’s a really big irony. When I took on the role, I really didn’t know what would happen if she ever found out. I think there are ways that maybe there’s an understanding somehow oddly to [be], “Yeah, that makes sense. It makes sense, but you’re weird; you’re that weird.” But I also think that there’s going to be a feeling of betrayal if she ever finds out that information. That will be something that Harry’s gonna have to deal with. And he’s not gonna like when Asta is mad at him. He likes watching her get angry, but he’s never had it at him.
Chris: Aimed at him, exactly right.
Question: For Mr. Sheridan, once you saw what Alan Tudyk was doing with the role, were there any things that you wrote towards or away from?
Chris: That’s a great question, and there was nothing that I wrote away from and everything that I wrote towards, and that we all in the writers room did. I mean, he’s so gifted that there was actually – I mean, the very simple quick answer is, there’s a sequence in in Episode Two, where he comments that he can’t switch bodies; he can’t leave and switch bodies to someone else. It took him three weeks to learn this body, and we just do a quick montage of him trying to learn how to walk and trying to sit down and, you know, can’t brush his teeth. That was that sequence I specifically put in for no other reason than the fact that it was Alan. And when I realized how talented he was, I mean, this is a guy who went to Juilliard and literally studied clowning, and when I could see what he could do with his body and his movements and how he really encapsulated this character, it just gave you so many places to go and so many ideas. So, that sequence specifically was for his strengths, but so much of it is stuff that he’s just doing on his own, all of this stuff that he does, with his hands. Even in the pilot, when he leans over Sam’s body and looks at it like this, this is him just naturally as an actor, sort of mimicking his sort of alien little baby arms that he has. That wasn’t anything anyone told him; that was just him sliding into the role and the physicality of the role. So much of what he does in the show, certainly physically and stuff that he’s brought to it, it’s writing to all his strengths. It’s realizing he can kind of do anything.
The other aspect of it, I’ll say really quick, is there are scenes in it in this season where we will see – and there was one in the pilot in the beginning, but there are more scenes coming up, where we will see what the real Harry Vanderspeigle was like. That was put in specifically to show the range of Alan Tudyk. You really get a chance to see what he’s doing with this alien role when you see Alan playing the real Harry Vanderspeigle, who’s not an alien, and see the differences between the two. So, as an audience, you’ll have an opportunity to experience that as well as the season goes on.
Question: How does playing opposite him inform how you play Asta?
Sara: Yeah, I was just about to say, actually, I think it’s really awesome to see the range he gets to play. I think there’s a lot of people that understand his comedy in his career, but Episode Four, when we’re lying down in the field, and he’s talking about his wife that’s passed on, there was this look that he has in his eyes that I don’t know if anybody’s ever seen Alan portray that kind of an emotion. I got a chance to see it a couple of times while we were working together, and it’s really beautiful. It’s really something that I think people don’t realize is in his bag of tricks, and it’s not a trick, it’s him just truly having a moment of stillness and honesty. So, most of the time, obviously, when I’m playing opposite of him, I just sit back and watch. All those reactions are real and organic.
My little brother was like, “I think Asta’s reaction is going to become like an Asta-ism,” like one of her claims to fame. There’s so much range to what he’s doing that I can’t keep making the same face, otherwise, it’ll just be one note. So, I appreciate that he switches it up, because then it gives me the opportunity to have fresh reactions to him every time that are very real, and it’s so fun. When you’re on set, you want to be able to be in the moment.
Alan and I had a scene that you’ll get to see towards the end of the season that was a bit emotional, a little explosive, too, and it was really interesting to witness how we both approached that work. You know, he shows up – and we talked about this later, he shows up, kind of wanting to work at it from the ground up, this idea of how to get into it, and I show up wanting to kind of explode onto the scene and like soften into it. So, even as characters, even as actors, we have this different way of approaching it, but we always find our way to the middle ground, and our chemistry is really, really wonderful. You know, to be honest, when Alan and I do takes, it’s like two, three takes and we’re done. It’s almost a little sad. It doesn’t last long enough, because we just both click in so quick. We’re like, “Okay, well, good to see ya.”
Suzanne: Hey, guys, love the show. Sara, I want to know how you feel about playing a Native woman, who’s a major character on an American show, which seems very rare.
Sara: Yeah, thank you for asking. To be respectful to the other Native actors on the show, I am not a part of a tribe or a community. So, it’s respectful to at least acknowledge and showcase that there are so many wonderful Native actors on the show. Chris has done an incredible job being so inclusive to that community and writing so respectfully and authentically. You have [actors] like Eugene Brave Rock and my adopted dad, Gary Farmer, my, as we now know, daughter, Kaylayla Raine, and even we have a woman in the writers’ room, Tazbah Chavez, just so many incredible –
Sara: Yeah, so much incredible Native talent that I’m very fortunate to be able to play this role, because I have my own thing that I’m searching for in my own life, for how I fit in into this community, into this world, and where I belong. It’s so lovely to be surrounded by so many true Native actors who guide us both, Chris and I, who provide such guidance on what is really honest about a modern day evolutionary world of living on or off the reservation. It’s so lovely to witness that as Asta, who is raised in the community, but she’s not really one of them. So, she struggles with that. It’s the same thing I think I get to experience as Sara. I have my own family, oral traditions, but it’s not that I was ever raised in that community. So, it’s a little bit opposite, and I have to really sit back and listen and respect those beautiful, talented Native actors around me and say, “Hey, thanks for being here and showing up for us and guiding us on what is right and what is respectful.”
Chris: Yeah, and I made some adjustments in the show. In Episode Two, Asta reveals that Dan is not her real father. She was adopted into his family and was raised with the culture, but is not native in the show. One of the reasons we did that, is because it was important to me that Asta felt like she didn’t belong, because that was the thing that connects her with Harry. Harry comes here as an alien and doesn’t belong to this world, and the fact that they’re both outsiders is the thing that connects them. And yes, as Sara says, I mean, in the process then of representation, there’re so many amazing Native American actors that we’ve cast into the show. There’s incredible native music that we’ve added to the show throughout the season, and a lot of these indigenous artists are having people hear their music that have never heard them before, and we’re really excited about that.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Based on the Dark Horse comic, SYFY’s RESIDENT ALIEN follows Harry, an alien played by Alan Tudyk (“Rogue One,” “Firefly”) that crash lands on Earth and passes himself off as a small-town human doctor. Arriving with a secret mission to kill all humans, Harry starts off living a simple life… but things get a bit rocky when he’s roped into solving a local murder and realizes he needs to assimilate into his new world. As he does so, he begins to wrestle with the moral dilemma of his mission and asking the big life questions like: “Are human beings worth saving?” and “Why do they fold their pizza before eating it?”
From UCP, in association with Amblin TV and Dark Horse Entertainment, RESIDENT ALIEN was adapted to television by executive producer Chris Sheridan (“Family Guy”). Mike Richardson (“Hellboy”) and Keith Goldberg (“The Legend of Tarzan”) of Dark Horse Entertainment (“The Umbrella Academy”), and Justin Falvey (“The Americans”) and Darryl Frank (“The Americans”) of Amblin TV also executive produce. David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”) executive produced and directed the pilot. “Resident Alien” also stars Sara Tomko, Corey Reynolds, Alice Wetterlund and Levi Fiehler.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda