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Resident Alien’s Alan Tudyk on fame, Netflix, and Linda Hamilton

Alan Tudyk looks up and ponders in Resident Alien.
James Dittiger / SyFy

Resident Alien and its star, Alan Tudyk, are having a moment. The sci-fi series about an alien pretending to be human became a big hit on Netflix when it premiered on the streaming service in February 2024. Resident Alien is one-half sci-fi mystery and one-half endearing comedy, resulting in an entertaining series that found a spot in the top 10 most popular shows on Netflix. The show’s popularity has found its way into Tudyk’s personal life, where he jokes that the newfound fame has led to interesting perks in coffee bars.

In Resident Alien, Tudyk plays Harry Vanderspeigle, an alien sent to Earth to wipe out humanity. After crashing outside a small Colorado town, the alien takes on the identity of Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle. By watching Law & Order and working as the town’s doctor, Harry slowly becomes more like a human every day. What Harry didn’t expect was how much he enjoyed being a human. As Tudyk mentions below, Harry has been “infected by emotion,” resulting in a change of heart for his original mission.

Ahead, Tudyk discusses Resident Alien and the evolution of Harry through three seasons. Tudyk also mentions how he came up with Harry’s voice, what it’s like to work alongside Linda Hamilton, and what character is closest to him in real life.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Digital Trends: At the beginning of Resident Alien, Harry famously watched Law & Order to learn what it’s like to be a human. Let’s say someone’s watching Resident Alien for the first time, and they’re discovering you. What would be the next thing you tell them to watch to get a better understanding of your work?

Alan Tudyk: The security cameras in my home, probably. I mean, that’ll give you the most realistic idea of what my life is like. As a performer, I would say Wash from Firefly. That character is the closest to me and my temperament and sort of attitude and degree of smartass-ness.

I figured most people would pick that. It’s A Knight’s Tale for me. It’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Luckily, that is not me. [laughs] I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t know how well I’d do in a daily fight.

Resident Alien 3x08 Promo "Homecoming" (HD) Season Finale | Alan Tudyk series

I would die pretty soon if that [daily fight] happens.

Yeah, exactly.

This show [Resident Alien] has found renewed popularity on Netflix. I know people are probably discovering it for the first time, even though it’s been on the air for three years. What’s it been like seeing popularity for the show and people discovering it for the first time?

I don’t have to give my name at coffee bars now.

Really?

That’s a new thing. I go in, I order my coffee, and they write my name down without asking. Ones I haven’t been into before, they say my name. I was in Richmond, Virginia, and instead of a heart on the top of my coffee, the barista made an alien. It wasn’t subtle. I knew what it was about.

People do a double-take when they see me a little bit more than they used to in places like Los Angeles. Nobody cares in Los Angeles, especially character actors. [Angelinos care more about] reality stars. Who wants to look at me? But it seems like I’m now worth a second look, at least.

A man and a woman stand next to each other and look confused as they stare at a man.
SyFy

Being famous doesn’t sound that bad. Being known in the coffee shop, that’s a good perk.

You got to get the right amount of fame. You can’t go too far. You don’t want people coming up all the time to you. When I have seen reality stars in public in LA, they invite this circus. There are photographers all around them. You’ll see a shop in Beverly Hills with photographers all hanging outside like, “Oh, somebody famous is in there.”

You think it’s going to be some kind of sports legend or pop star, but it’ll be … I don’t know their names. Somebody just got a great deal of plastic surgery inside that shop. You’re like, “Oh, no. That’s Vander-Flav.” I don’t know what they do. Big Brother’s Keeper or something. I don’t know.

With the evolution of your character. [Harry from Resident Alien] starts as dark but gets a softer side as the season goes on. He bonds more with humans. Was that always the natural progression of this character? He becomes more human and emotional, especially in this third season.

Well, he’s been infected by emotion and empathy, which has been great. There’s a lot more fun to be had in that. You mentioned the third season, which involves more romance with my character. Falling in love was a lot of fun and to go back over those feelings of first love and to get to embrace loving with abandon was great. And it is goofy. It’s goofy when it happens when you’re a kid, but it really looks goofy on a man my age. It’s kind of sad, too. [laughs] But it’s fun.

I think that was always the plan. You could only go so far in a character without having emotion. I don’t know, it becomes a different thing. I’m glad he can now display human emotion because it’s more fun to play. I even cheated in season 1 when he wasn’t supposed to have emotion. I’ll see little clips of him when he pulls off a wanted poster that Max has that Deputy Liv drew. I pick it up, I scowl at it like, this is bad. It should be [pretends to have blank stare] just looking at a thing, and that’s a new piece of information. That’s no fun.

In the script it pretty much just said “Harry and Heather kiss”. @alantudyk and @EdiPattersonHi are unbelievable together and improv-ed this whole kiss — brilliant! Everyone on set was dying the whole time. https://t.co/mSGdwH6DiO

— Chris Sheridan (@Sheridalien) March 14, 2024

Speaking of love, I know Harry had the famous first kiss with Heather. I saw Chris Sheridan tweet that it was an improv between you and Edi [Patterson]. What was that conversation going into that day with you and Edi?

It was somewhat of an improv. We were prompted. It was in the script. It says they kiss. That’s all that was there. I think we said something like anything goes. I had suggested to her one of the times in one of the takes that I wanted her to take a bunch of sunflower seeds, which she was spitting all over the kitchen [laughs], to chew them up and spit them in my mouth.

With that information, she understood what I meant by I don’t have any boundaries here. We did that take. It didn’t end up in the final edit, but it’s only because you can’t see she’s spitting them in sort of a shotgun formation. It was very funny, but I think it was just more funny for us in the room. It didn’t really translate. It would gross out most of the viewing public.

Well, if we saw a dip in ratings, it would be because of that.

Yeah. [laughs and nods]

One of the famous guest stars this season is Linda Hamilton. She said going to the set with you and the other actors is like going to comedy camp. I’ll flip the question to you. What is it like going to set with Linda Hamilton?

Well, in the beginning, I was really nervous because she’s Linda Hamilton, and I had a lot of anxiety about that. But she very quickly puts you at ease, so you feel like you’re a friend very quickly. This last season, we had a lot of scenes together. I would always watch her reaction to my takes to see [laughs] … to gauge how she felt.

I guess working with her, I’m still experiencing my acting through her, like looking up to her to see if she approves or not. She doesn’t sit there and judge, but I could see that she likes some takes better than others. When I did, I would lean into those choices more. She was the shadow director for me.

A man with a feather boa stands next to a woman inside a house.
James Dittiger / SyFy

Harry has this distinct voice, and you have a famous voicework career. When coming up with a voice, it doesn’t even have to be Harry’s, is there a set process you go through with every character to discover a voice? 

I just think about their history like any character. What would impact their physiology? How would they form words, or how would they talk? If it’s just a regular character, where they’re from … any accent makes something, for me, 6,000 times easier to do. It just gives you a sort of mask to wear. I don’t know, I just suddenly become much more at ease when I have an accent.

With alien Harry, he didn’t have a mouth like humans. Now, he has a new mouth, and he didn’t know how to talk. When he talked, it was like he was moving everything independently. In the very beginning, he just spoke [in Harry’s voice] like this. And then, that voice got informed by the mask* of all things because when I wear the mask, I’ve got these teeth in, and I can shriek in a certain way, so he ends up becoming a little bit more gruff. Then somewhere in season 2, they [Harry’s voice with and without the mask] melded together into one, so it became Harry Vanderspeigle’s voice. There’s more gruffness to it now.

An alien and a young boy walk down the street in Resident Alien.
SyFy

I voice Joker for the Harley Quinn animated show on Max. He was dipped in acid. He had that big acid bath, which was his origin story. I just think of how when you get like acid reflux, how it screws up your voice. [laughs] His voice came from somewhere like this [doing Joker’s voice] because his whole body was ripped and his brain was washed in the acid. So it’s that. I try to think about what their circumstances are, and what’s affecting their voice and speech.

*In Resident Alien, Tudyk wears a mask and makeup in some scenes to show Harry’s alien form. The mask has a distinct set of fake teeth, which alters Tudyk’s voice when he speaks. 

The Resident Alien season 3 finale airs on SyFy at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Wednesday, April 3.

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