Syfy’s dramedy series RESIDENT ALIEN has been picked up for a third season. A good thing, too, because creator/show runner/executive producer Chris Sheridan says that the Season 2 finale, which airs on Syfy Wednesday, September 28, has a number of cliffhangers.
RESIDENT ALIEN stars Alan Tudyk as an extraterrestrial with an unpronounceable-to-humans name who crash-landed near the small town of Patience, Colorado. The alien assumed the body and likeness of vacationing veterinarian Harry Vanderspiegle, who has since been deputized as the town doctor.
Although Harry was sent to Earth to kill off humanity, he’s become human enough to not want to do that anymore. Those who know his true identity include nurse Asta Twelvetrees (Sara Tomko), Sara’s father Dan Twelvetrees (Gary Farmer), the mayor’s young son Max (Judah Prehn), and Max’s bright friend Sahar (Gracelyn Awad Rinke).
Harry has to enlist this group – possibly as well as erstwhile enemies like alien-hating General Eleanor Wright (Linda Hamilton) – to fend off another group of aliens, the Grays, who are also intent on Earth conquest.
Sheridan, who developed RESIDENT ALIEN for television based on the graphic novels by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, gets on a Zoom call with Assignment X to discuss the fate of the world and other series-related matters.
ASSIGNMENT X: When you got confirmation that you were picked up for Season 3, where were you in the life of Season 2?
CHRIS SHERIDAN: We didn’t get the pickup until maybe [late July]. I’m not sure exactly what the date was. But we finished shooting Season 2 in the beginning of April, and I have been in post-production on Season 2 since then. I finally finished a couple of weeks ago. So, Season 2 wasn’t quite done when we found out we got the Season 3 pickup, but we had it all shot, and I was in the process of finishing up post on the last few episodes.
AX: Were you going to tweak the Season 2 ending one way or another, depending on whether or not you got the pickup?
SHERIDAN: No. I didn’t leave myself that. I was all in. We as a writers’ room developed the arc for Season 2, and the storyline for the finale of Season 2, believing that we were going to get a pickup. It’s hard for me to get into it halfway – I have to just believe the show’s going to keep going. Episode 16 [of Season 2] is one of my favorites we’ve done so far. There’s a lot going on, and there’s a lot of amazing big things that are happening to a lot of characters. So, there’s not much we could have done if we didn’t get picked up, then it’s like, “Well, here’s a whole bunch of cliffhanger that’s never going to be solved, so …”
AX: In the event of cancellation, were you going to post a message on social media to the RESIDENT ALIEN fans to the effect of, “Here’s the address of Syfy, so you can all descend on it with pitchforks and torches”?
SHERIDAN: [laughs] I did picture that. [I thought], “If we get canceled, I’m going to have to just write an essay about what happens to everybody, and then just put it on the Internet or something.” No, I was pretty confident we were going to get picked up. The show has been doing well, we’ve got a really loyal and strong fan base, and the network and studio have been incredibly supportive. They all love the show. You just have to believe that the show is going to stay on. I don’t want to second-guess it, and I think if we put out the positive energy of success for it, it’s going to keep moving forward. We’re in the writers’ room now, figuring out what’s going on in Season 3, and I’m just all in again. Hopefully, it will go to Season 4, because where we’re headed at the end of Season 3 will beg for another season or two, so …
AX: How many seasons do you need to tell the full story that you want to tell?
SHERIDAN: I don’t really know the answer to that, because these shows are very organic, ever-evolving things. There are some shows that, there are always new stories, and you can stay on the air for ten years or whatever. This show’s a little bit different, because it is following the growth of humanity in this alien. So, I think we can slow-roll a little bit of Harry’s emotional growth. But you don’t want to slow it down too much. He’s got to continue to be evolving. So, there’s going to be a point where he has become as or more human, in accepting other people and knowing what love is and trying to be a good person, and realizing that he does love humanity. If that’s where we go with it, when he gets to that point, there is not much more story to tell. And he is eventually going to get to that point. So, it’s not a limitless show. I’d love to at least get five seasons out of it, I think that’s probably good to tell the story. But I may get to the end of Season 5 and say, “There’s more story to tell here.” There’s certainly more than three seasons, that’s for sure.
AX: Not in terms of Harry himself and his perception of the world around him, but in terms of other characters’ reactions to Harry, is the 1979 film BEING THERE an inspiration for you? The main character, played by Peter Sellers, said very simple, literal things, but people interpreted what he said however it best served them, regardless of what he actually meant. Was BEING THERE a kind of touchstone for you in that respect?
SHERIDAN: It was. It wasn’t where I started, but when we were doing the pilot, David Dobkin, an amazing director who directed the pilot, I believe brought that up, and we had a long conversation about that. When we were casting Harry, that was a big conversation. Here’s someone who’s entering this world sort of innocently, like a child, not knowing what he’s doing, but can stumble into situations where he says the wrong thing, but people take it like the right thing. I think there’s something really relatable about that, and I love that movie, and yeah, I think there’s something in there, for sure, with this character.
AX: Can you draw any kind of an acting through-line from Peter Sellers to Alan Tudyk?
SHERIDAN: [laughs] Yeah, they’re both brilliant comedians. That’s a great comparison. Alan is so talented, physically – every movement, every vocalization – nothing is an accident. He’s incredibly well-trained, and every piece of his performance is well-planned-out. I imagine Peter Sellers was close to the same. Alan’s an incredible improvisational artist, and he knows the character really well, he’s very smart and very funny. So, there are things we’ve done on the show that have just come out of the mind of Alan in the moment. He’s always very respectful, and we’ll talk about it, but he’ll come up with stuff that I never, ever would have thought of.
Episode 6 of the second season was one of my favorite sequences we’ve done as of thus far, where the dog kills the octopus [a talking extraterrestrial relative of Harry’s]. We do this very extravagant, melodramatic death scene of Harry holding his octopus cousin. And there was a lot of improv in that sequence, a lot of things Harry said. He gives the octopus CPR, he even gives it mouth to I guess blowhole resuscitation, which was all Alan. He’s a joy to work with, he’s fantastic.
AX: Speaking of the octopus, he was voiced by Nathan Fillion, who’s worked with Alan Tudyk in FIREFLY and CON MAN and THE ROOKIE. Now you’ve got Enver Gjokaj in there. So far, he’s just been a menacing Gray alien in human form, but I’m guessing you’re going to give him more to do, because he’s a bit of a big name in genre TV to just throw people against the wall occasionally …
SHERIDAN: Yeah …
AX: Was Enver Gjokaj an Alan Tudyk suggestion? They had worked together on DOLLHOUSE …
SHERIDAN: I think Enver was going up for the role, but Alan had mentioned it to me that he had worked with him, which carries weight. When the star of your show says, “Oh, this guy is really good, take a look at him,” you don’t want to look at him and be like, “Eh, that’s not that great, we can’t …” And then you have to explain to Alan, “Well, it didn’t really work out …” Which, by the way, he would have been fine with. We looked at a lot of actors for that, and luckily, Enver was the best for it. He was fantastic, and I was happy and relieved when I saw his tape. It was like, “Oh, this is the guy.” He’s great, and he’s a really, really nice guy, really hard worker. There’s some great stuff coming up between Enver and Alan, and yeah, there’s a lot more of Enver to be had on this show.
AX: You seem to be trying to incorporate actors from various sci-fi hits into RESIDENT ALIEN. Obviously, Alan Tudyk has innumerable credits, and you’ve also got Gary Farmer, who was a regular in FOREVER KNIGHT, as Asta’s dad. And you’ve got recurring people like Linda Hamilton, Terry O’Quinn, and George Takei, who cover THE TERMINATOR, LOST, and STAR TREK. Are there any more genre franchises that you’re looking to pay homage to with your guest actors?
SHERIDAN: In Season 3, there’s one in particular I know of already. There are always some guest moments on the show. Our first go-to is to try to think of someone in the genre who we can pull in, because I know the fans love that, so there’s nothing specific that we’re targeting, except to say we’re targeting all of it, and trying to bring as many of those exciting [actors] that we can into our show.
AX: RESIDENT ALIEN can go from absolute silliness to straight drama within the same episode, often within the same scene. Do you look at the episodes in the writers’ room and/or in the editing room, and go, “We’ve got X amount of drama, and X amount of comedy, we’re too weighted towards one or the other, let’s shift that a bit”? Or do you let those things balance out as they will?
SHERIDAN: There is a tonal balance on the show, trying to balance the comedy and the drama, and it’s something that we’re always aware of. When we come up with stories in the writers’ room, if it’s a scene that is just information, you’re moving the story ahead, it’s nice to find some comedy in that scene, to make it more fun to watch. But there are certain scenes, and certain storylines, that you know are asking for a little bit of pathos, a little bit of emotional connection from the audience.
We did a whole storyline with Sheriff Mike, played incredibly by Corey Reynolds. He’s typically very funny, but we want all our characters to be three-dimensional, and the way with Mike that we wanted to do it in the writers’ room was to create this back story for him where he lost a partner. It’s the thing that connects him to Liv [his deputy, played by Elizabeth Bowen] a little bit more. Corey’s such a fantastic actor, we knew we could take it to a place where Mike finally had to unload and release this pent-up emotion he’d had inside, because he’s never really talked about it, and he could do so with Liv.
And what’s great on the show is, we have such confidence in our actors that, even though we know that we can give them great jokes and they’ll nail it, we can also give them a scene like that, that Corey had, sitting on that bench with Liz Bowen, and know that Corey could knock it out of the park. He really sunk into that character, and it felt so real and so heartbreaking, it pulls you towards that character. So, it’s always a balance.
I think the show has to have a balance, I think it’s that thing that Corey himself has said many times – it’s the only show that he watches that he can cry from laughing and cry from emotions and being sad. And it is one of the things that the show does well, I think. It’s very human to want to laugh, and it’s very human to feel things. So, we try to do both, and it’s a bit of a tightrope, but we try to walk it, and try to make sure each episode has both.
AX: And what would you most like people to get out of the rest of RESIDENT ALIEN Season 2?
SHERIDAN: It’s hard to say without revealing stuff, but I will say I think that last episode, 16, is one of my favorites we’ve done so far, because so much happens, and there’s so much going on with all the characters. I want them to know that there are definitely some threads that are going to be tied up at the end of the season, and there are some really, really funny things coming up, but also some really strong emotional things, and some things from a storytelling aspect that we thought outside the box a little bit, especially in that last episode. So, I’m excited for people to watch it, and I’m excited to see what they think.
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Article: Exclusive Interview with RESIDENT ALIEN Creator Chris Sheridan on the end of Season 2