NYCC 2020: A ‘Resident Alien’ Preview
by Erik Amaya
Based on the Dark Horse comic book by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, Syfy’s upcoming Resident Alien sets out to tell a small town story about an extraterrestrial who must try to fit in as the new local doctor. And during a New York Comic Con Metaverse panel on Friday, the show’s creator and its cast offered a ten-minute slice of what to expect.
The series stars Alan Tudyk as an alien who has assumed the shape and identity of Harry Vanderspeigle. “Everything is new to him and it’s a great acting challenge,” Tudyk said of the character. As seen in the first ten-minutes of the pilot, “Harry” learns English from watching episodes of Law & Order, but when the town Sheriff (Corey Reynolds) forces him to come to down and examine the body of the old town doctor, his misunderstanding of human interaction leads to some comedic situations. “He’s not very coordinated in the beginning and he doesn’t have emotions,” Tudyk continued. “He doesn’t care the way other people care.” He compared playing Harry to basic drama school exercises — like re-learning how to speak or sit down in a chair — in terms of the character’s own development as a human.
“I thought I know what this character is and then I met Alan,” executive producer and showrunner Chris Sheridan added.
As revealed in the preview scenes, Harry’s mission on Earth was not meant to include a landing. But now that he’s crashed-landed on the planet, he must find a device missing from the downed ship to complete his mission. The nature of this assignment, though, may have some nefarious intent. Meanwhile, the character will send his days being the doctor of Patience, Colorado while keeping his true identity a secret. Along the way, he meets several people, like doctor’s assistant Asta Twelvetrees (Sara Tomko). The actor called the character “muli-layered” and “raw.” She added Asta accepts Harry’s oddness — even though she is unaware of his alien origins.”
Asta’s best friend D’arcy (Alice Wetterlund), tends bar and, from some of the clips shown during the panel, seems to have an interest in Harry. But Wetterlund said her favorite aspect of the series is friendship between Asta and D’arcy. “I’ve never had a chance to play a female friendship like this that feels so incredible real,” she said.
Sheriff Mike Thompson (Reynolds), who brings Harry to town, considers himself an outsider much like the alien or Asta. Unfortunately for the townsfolk, though, he “tries his best to hide how insecure he is — his mechanism for that is being an asshole to everybody,” according to Reynolds.
Finally, the last character Harry meets in the show’s first ten-minutes is Mayor Ben Hawthorne (Levi Fiehler).”Right before we meet Ben in the pilot, he’s been doing small town mayor things,” Fiehler said. “But he’s been overwhelmed with even that. Now, he’s just in this constant state of losing his mind.”
Though Harry’s true mission may be “diabolical,” according to Sheridan, his new situation as a country doctor will force him to interact with these characters on the regular. “In the process,” he added. “He’s getting to know what its like to be human.” He also said the “observational” aspect of the character from the comic book remains, but by adding a more distinct mission, “I gave him more of a drive.” There are other tweaks in regards to the comic as well, but Wetterlund and Tomoko noted many of the scenes in the pilot are directly inspired from specific panels in the book.
The show also maintains certain geek cred bona-fides thanks to some guest starts, like Linda Hamilton, and an episode set entirely in at a UFO convention. “It’s a good nerd show,” Tudyk said.
Resident Alien debuts on Syfy in January of 2021.