Not since E.T., Mork & Mindy, and even the TV yesteryear hit, My Favorite Martian starring Ray Walston as “Uncle Martin,” has an Earthbound alien on a mission captured our attention.
Resident Alien is based on the Dark Horse comic series by Peter Hogan and artist Steve Parkhouse and follows Harry (Alan Tudyk), disguised as a doctor, replacing the one that died under mysterious circumstances.
Using every bit of his being, Tudyk morphs into the perfect “superior” alien in a creative transformation montage that eerily resembled the initial werewolf transformation in the 1981 film An American Werewolf in London.
Now a proper and respectable human, Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle is still condescending and completely guileless in this human form. The fun is in what happens after Dr. Harry puts his all into the assimilating process in small-town USA.
The series has a complexity of storylines with more layers and angles than our titular alien just fitting in to get by.
Especially appreciated are the juicy and layered roles for real and relatable female characters, notably Asta Twelvetrees (Sara Tomko) and D’Arcy Bloom (Alice Wetterlund). Dr. Harry is at his best when in a scene with either or both actors.
Our Resident Alien will absorb how to become a doctor — overnight, of course — thanks to the Internet and TV in a bid to foil hapless humanoids. Disguised and learning on the go as he trods through Patience, Colorado, he suddenly is faced with their immediate needs to replace the possibly murdered Dr. Sam.
If only he can thwart the local kid, Max (Judah Prehn), a one-in-a-million person (and major thorn in this alien’s side) who can actually see Dr. Harry actually is an alien.
The problem is, some of the people Harry interacts with closely are leaving a mark, and he seems to be processing his reactions and seeing things perhaps in a different way than he was instructed to handle the situation.
Even plotting our collective demise, Tudyk is a non-stop gut-buster of subtle gestures and zinger lines that snap a few heads and give him the appearance that he’s odd, at the very least.
But his guileless unfiltered honesty is refreshing to several who work closely with him, like Asta (Tomko).
The perfect physical approach and the awkward hot takes make this a memorable character, and collectively Tudyk’s angsty-awkward style has earned him legions of fans. A favorite in Firefly and Rogue One, Tudyk continues to eat the scenery in Resident Alien, and we love every second of it.
Monsters & Critics had a quick chat with Alan about this fun new Syfy series that has everyone buzzing, even the “dumb pandas.”
Monsters & Critics: You are masterful in the conflicted smile, the feigned humor, the emotions that surprise even you. Talk about how you wanted to make Harry come across initially?
Alan Tudyk: I focused on the physical challenges facing a creature that has never occupied a human body before.
He is starting from scratch with walking, sitting, and talking. Luckily, I have played robots before, so I can draw on that training.
What is the most efficient way to move? It becomes mechanical in a way. If I focus on those elements, Harry comes across as “other,” while in my head, I am trying my best to be “normal.”
M&C: Harry/alien has no filter and appears to be on the spectrum, is that a deliberate affectation?
Alan Tudyk: Harry has an affectation because he is learning how to be human. Our showrunner’s intent was not to imply that he is on the spectrum in any way.
Harry happens to be different because he’s from another planet, but everybody is different from each other in one way or another.
Most people are accepting of those differences, and that’s how they see Harry, just different. The people of Patience, Colorado, have no idea how different Harry really is.
M&C: The lines are golden. “All I need is the internet, and I can graduate in five minutes,” says your character. An Oz reference, and the dumb pandas and a diss on almond milk — do you get to inject any references, or is this all the writers doing?
Alan Tudyk: (Showrunner) Chris Sheridan is responsible for the funniest lines. I love the panda diss as well. It’s just so ridiculous.
Chris wrote for Family Guy for years and years and then more years. His mind is forever warped by that experience thank God.
I liked the exam with Judy when I prepare to meet a young boy with a wart to be removed. I say something like, ‘You’re not a 12-year-old boy with a wart.’ And Judy says, while her legs are up in stirrups, “Well, I’m not a 12-year-old boy.’
M&C: Max the kid is one of my favorite aspects of the alien Harry trying to fit in, Max is a fly in the ointment. He’s becoming a real nuisance to you. “I can’t just kill this kid; it will draw too much attention,” It’s a great sidebar to Harry’s mission…
Alan Tudyk: Max is a great nemesis to have. I should be able to get rid of him easily, but he is very resourceful and a good match for Harry. As the season goes on, they develop a respect for one another.
They have similar maturity levels. They are natural friends.
M&C: And speaking of your mission to kill all humans, does Harry get distracted by Asta or D’Arcy by any chance? And by the term “distracted,” I mean does Harry the alien discover he has a male sexual organ and plug into the pleasure part of human life?
Alan Tudyk: Procreation? Yeah, he is here to complete a mission and will do anything to fit in even if that thing is The Shape of Water level disgusting.
M&C: Who or what was your favorite science fiction film, TV series, or book/author?
Alan Tudyk: I liked Mork and Mindy growing up. I was the right age when that was on TV.
I had a pair of the suspenders I wore every day. I was a huge Robin Williams fan.
M&C: You are a Texan. Ever check out the lights of Marfa, Texas?
Alan Tudyk: No. I’ve never been to Marfa although I will get there at some point.
The lights seem impossible to me. I want an alien experience that I can’t explain away without reaching the level of abduction.
M&C: A production sequence question – the transformation scene when the alien turns into Harry, the human, was it a nod from the film American Werewolf in London’s werewolf transformation scene? Talk about doing that scene and what you had to do for it…
Alan Tudyk: It reminds me of American Werewolf as well, although I don’t think that was the thought.
Being on all fours is just a good transformation position. The process was mainly in post.
First, we shot my stunt double Keith in alien costume falling to his knees — an underappreciated stunt — then I put on some skivvies and transformed… Then 1’s and 0’s magic fused us together.
M&C: Corey Reynolds is “Big Black” Sheriff Thompson — and he seems to be another one who is really getting under your alien skin, talk about him and your scenes this first season…
Alan Tudyk: Corey Reynolds is fantastic as Sheriff Thompson. He is suspicious of ‘Alien Harry’ immediately so Harry is conversely immediately wary of him.
I love his scenes with Deputy Liv, played by Elizabeth Bowen and him. They are such a funny pair.
She is obviously the smarter of the two. They have a great arc this season.
Resident Alien airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy.