This is part 2 of our Q&As with Ryan Cartwright, Azita Ghanizada, Warren Christie, and Exectuve Producers Zak Penn & Ira Steven Behr from Alphas. If you missed part 1, check it out HERE.
On what alpha power they would choose if they could
No. I’m kidding. No, I’m dead serious. I think what she does is super cool, the fact that she can hear and see. I think it also makes her extremely sensitive and human and I love all those aspects. It makes her precious here in a way that I think is really interesting and can’t always happen in real life because we build up all these barriers to deal with the world and to shut ourselves down from certain things.
And she feels everything and I think that that’s kind of a very special thing to have, kind of walk around and have to see and hear and taste and touch everything and really feel it to 150,000%. So I would kind of stick with that. I mean I think that what Nina does, Nina Theroux played by Laura Mennell, her ability to push people, kind of just to be able to look at people and tell them what to do and they do it.
I would like to maybe have that ability at some moments in my life. I’d like to be able to look at people and I don’t know, tell them to take their pants off or something like that and just see if they would do it. I mean I would just kind of walk around all day and just make people do random, crazy sh*t. I think that would be awesome. And Laura does it really well and so that could be a lot of fun.
Jump with us to see Ryan’s answer to this and all the other great Q&As.
Ryan Cartwright: I wish I had a better memory, long-term memory and short-term as well. I wish I could learn dialogue a lot quicker. I have a British accent, which is kind of a super power when you’re not at home.
And I don’t know. I’m pretty good. I think I’m pretty good. I’m doing pretty well without super powers I think. As I’m seeing, they all have horrendous down sides. So I’m not going to do the monkey’s paw thing. I think I’m just going to plod along and giggle my way into eternity.
Ira Steven Behr: I need so much help I cannot even think where to begin. Yes. It’s best not to go there. I mean I do have an alpha ability I suppose I can turn gold into sh*t. But even that – you know, I kind of gravitate I guess in a way where it just shows I guess where my ego is at.
But I kind of gravitate to Rosen because you know, if I have any ability besides a writing ability I can kind of galvanize a team and kind of move a small team into 13 episodes. So I don’t know if I’d want his ability but I might want to be Rosen. He’s a hell of a lot smarter than I am.
On the worry about offending people with the disabilities such as the characters’ (like autism)
Azita: Well, I mean for Rachel at least, going into something that is so special and it’s so unique because when she goes into any of her senses the rest of her entire body shuts down.
So every other sense is asleep and kind of finding that we kind of found it and we rooted it in as much humanity as possible. So it’s as honest as possible. And in that way we’re kind of if we keep it as real and as close to the bone as possible I don’t really think that there would be anything in there that would offend anybody hoping, knock on wood.
That’s definitely not the goal. I think the goal is just to communicate how much it affects her emotionally to have these special abilities and how vulnerable it makes her both physically and emotionally. And I think kind of conveying those emotional and physical things, I think that will affect the audience more than insulting anybody for sure.
Ryan: I think with Gary I think everyone was very sensitive to the portrayal of him from day one. And everyone has been – we’ve been very careful but then once we knew we had the character we have been careful to make sure that we actually utilize him and make sure he’s a real person who will do big, old things.
Because I think the main things a lot of the time when people, when they create roles like this is to mollycoddle the character and to try to play it too safe with regard to what you end up doing is just patronizing the character and the condition. And you want the person to be a real person and I think once we knew that we had this guy and that he was real and that he was off the page, we all felt confident enough to just run with him.
And I’m supersensitive to the idea of anyone being offended by it and I feel completely confident that he’s fine. He’s a real person now. He’s his own person so I think everyone will be very happy. I’ve only heard nice things so far. So I mean we’ll see.
I’m sure someone will be like what? But.
Azita: And just to add on to that I think what’s so great about our characters actually work from a position that could be considered disabled is truthfully they are so special because of their disabilities.
And I think that’s really a key element is that what would be considered a disability is really their gifts and it makes them unique and it makes them an alpha and that makes them special. So if anything we’re really applauding the fact that you know, this thing that could be considered odd, which is why they’re a band of misfits that come together and need each other really to work together in this unique way, it’s really special.
If anything it’s more special than just the disability that other people would see them as having and other people have seen them as having a condition or whatever it is, is really what makes them so unique and gives them the ability to be alphas.
On what kind of audience Alphas appeals to
Ira: I just think that obviously we want the science fiction audience to come to the table. But there is definitely room for the cross over audience as well. That’s what happened when I did The 4400. We were shocked at the cross over audience at the time.
It really felt good to meet people who were not your usual run of the mill you know, fan boys who really dug the show. And I think this can happen with Alphas as well. I think there are plenty of stories, drama, humor to go with the science fiction elements that will attract a wide range of you know, discriminating viewers.
On the research or reading she did to prepare herself to play Rachel
Azita: Wow. Because I got the part last and everybody was already up here and god, I was scared sh*tless. So I read the script I don’t know, a dozen times between the day I got it on the plane and the first day of shooting.
I think I was really up the second day was Rachel’s entire introduction. And I kind of started to look online for different things in regards to people that actually have the ability to super see and hear. I did a little bit of work on echolocation.
And kind of saw how people’s bodies physically passed out as they were hearing/seeing with their ears and then kind of tweaked that into Rachel as much as possible as far as trying to find her abilities and how to do that as honest and human as possible.
So I just kind of looked at all that stuff online and really kind of tried to look at the news and documentaries and things that were, people that actually had abilities or are really known for things like being able to hear really well or see microscopic pieces of writing on microscopic pieces of rice and all that stuff and how they just did it really honestly.
Then I watched a bunch of sci-fi stuff like scanners and all those things and just tried to tap into you know, what other people were doing in the past and what’s been done before and just kind of have a general understanding of it.
On whether people will be able to relate to the characters
Ryan: I think people will relate entirely. I think that’s a huge part of the show that all of the characters like we say, have their down sides and stuff and these powers.
And not to get too twee about it but everyone has their own abilities and it’s just in more of a looking at it through a macro lens, a lot of it is about just trying to accomplish what you can with the gifts that you have in the face of all the obstacles that you know, get thrown at you because of your situation in life.
On her character, Rachel
Azita: Well, I think Rachel is all heart. I think she’s extremely emotional and very sensitive and she’s also – here finally in the pilot you see her being the authority on so many things because she has the ability to track all of this you know, the evidence and all of the cases.
She can discover all that so you find her discovering a lot of things. But in the pilot you see her, she’s not very confident in that fact because she has been told her whole life that this is a condition, if anything it’s a disease, it’s a curse. And it’s created a lot of fear for her to be able to communicate you know, that she has these abilities and she’s seen them as nothing but a curse for her, her entire life.
She hasn’t been able to date, she hasn’t been accepted at home. She hasn’t been accepted out in public. People look at her like she’s weird. I mean if you could imagine being a little person and all of a sudden going into supersensory mode when you’re playing with kids, you would panic. You wouldn’t understand why you were feeling that way.
And if you didn’t get this type of support from your family you would really be confused. And I think therefore she has a lot of heart and you definitely feel her struggle the most with her family as the series progresses and kind of try to make these choices to become confident and to become the authority. She’s extremely bright and with Dr. Rosen and the rest of the alphas she really learns that she’s an integral part in kind of solving these cases.
And she becomes proud of her abilities and you see her kind of blossom as a young woman and I think that any young girl who has had conflict especially growing up in a conservative home, just coming into their own and trying to balance how to be the person they want to be out in the world and the person they want to be in their home and their expectations both at work and their expectations in the home.
You see her kind of finding her balance and finding her way through that stuff and blossoming and becoming more confident and becoming more eager to be utilized and becoming proud of herself and it’s a really awesome journey. And they have done a really good job in kind of giving her this arc to kind of break free. And she’s just so special you know? She’s really pure. There’s a purity to her heart and I’m really privileged to be playing her.
On the change in Gary between how he is in private at home and in public with the group
And because like I think what happened with Gary was he was a lot more insular before. As his ability grew he would just like sit on his own and rock in corners and keep his eyes closed and play with these lights not fully understanding what was going on with his brain.
And it’s I’m sure that was a hell of a time for his mother because she didn’t understand the neuroscience behind it and how to bring him out of this world whereas Dr. Rosen saw exactly what was happening here and created a system with Gary and for Gary, which helped him blend the real world as we know it and Gary’s world and to kind of mesh the two.
Whereby he would be able to look at these signals and read them with his eyes open and while walking around instead of just sitting all curled up in a ball living in this world in his head. So yes, as the series progresses he’s definitely trying to be a bit of a cock of the walk in the office as well because it’s the first time he’s been appreciated for what he would have been taken the piss out of for most of his life and would have got strange looks for.
And now all of a sudden he’s with a group of people that really appreciate him. So you know, he’ll probably be cocky for a while and then everyone will smack him down and yes, it’s a good growing process for Gary.
On the research he did for his role
Ryan: Well, I read Zak had told me that they’d – some of the inspiration for the character was this guy (Daniel Tammet) who was a (synestesia was the word) – he was like a bit of a savant in England who would experience like numbers via (synestesia) and could do these amazing things with his mind.
And he’d written a book called Born on a Blue Day that was very interesting. And although apparently now he’s a bit of a fake apparently from this new book that I read but he’s autism is still real it’s just his memory stuff might have been a bit of a trick. The (Temple Brandon) book Thinking In Pitches was really good.
That really helped a lot. And some of the (Oliver Sacks) books just about general neuroscience and stuff and I think one thing that really helped me is actually coming from the literature first because I think it would have been an easy thing to do to go to like footage of people and just go straight to mimicry. And I think the problem with that is you do end up just mimicking like certain mannerisms that people would have as opposed to actually knowing the reason behind why they’re doing everything.
And the beauty of that is that we could then create a new kind of – we had the brushes in our hands and we could create new things for Gary based on the deep science behind it. And it also helped me kind of conjure up like Gary’s little short hand, like the way that he controls his world and the little mannerisms and ticks that he has.
It just felt a lot better. I felt a lot more confident and rock solid coming at it having just researched it from a literature point of view. But then there was one guy in particular. There was a clip on YouTube of this guy who has autism and he was just really funny. It was like a fly on the wall documentary, just him like with his dad and going to group.
And he was just hilarious. He was just really like you could tell he had this great sense of humor behind his eyes and he was like teasing and ribbing people and it was just nice to see that because I have said and Ira as well that you want the guy to have this good sense of humor and not just be so kind of automaton playing syndrome.
So I think reading about it, books win on this one for me. That’s what helped me get in there.
On their favorite part about working on the series
Ryan: I like the set. I love the character. It’s a little holiday playing him every day. He’s just kind of got a very kind of cheeky sense of humor and it’s getting more and more fun each day just going up.
And you can see like you can actually see the crew have completely warmed to this character because I think first day you turn up and people are a bit is he all right? Is that kid all right? It was funny actually we were shooting this episode the other day in a high school and like none of the kids obviously knew the show and what we were doing.
And there is this scene where I’m walking down the hallway just in my own world doing Gary’s autism thing and going through my windows and this little kid came up to me and he obviously didn’t know what I was doing and he was like is this the first day you’ve ever acted?
See more in Part 3 of our Alphas interview: HERE. Remember, Alphas premieres tonight, July 11, at 10/9c on Syfy.