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Interview - Alphas, The Series

Syfy is trying its luck with a new scifi show, “Alphas,” which begins airing Monday, July 11 at 10 p.m. ET. In this new series, you’ll meet a team of superheroes—kinda. Actually, an alpha is a person who has special mind capabilities, which are not all that far out of the bounds of reality. Dr. Rosen is in charge of harnessing these special skills so that the alphas can solve crimes of all kinds. But these are normal people, dealing with the downsides to their powers—social, emotional and mental--as well as their neurological nuances.

The following is from a question and answer session actors Ryan Cartwright and Azita Ghanizada and writer Ira Steven Behr conducted with the media last week. We posted the first part of this interview last week.

Q. Where is this first season going to take us?

Ira Steven Behr: Well, oddly enough in about three and a half hours I will be going into the network and pitching the final episodes of the season and telling the network where the series is going. So I’m going to be very interested to see if they agree with us. One of the things that really appeals to me about the show is in line with some of the other stuff I’ve done—that this is a show that is going to evolve and is always evolving, and is not a cookie-cutter kind of series where every episode is exactly the same and plays out basically as the episode the week before and the episode the week after. So the show is evolving. It evolves in five episodes, and it’ll evolve more when we get to the tenth episode. So I think what’s going to happen, without giving anything away, is that this is a group of people who are not really your first choice to be an investigative unit, or to be going out into the field and getting shot at. They are kind of working for the government, but the government doesn’t totally know whether to trust them; they don’t know whether to trust the government. They’re working against this organization of alphas called Red Flag, and Red Flag keeps telling them that they’re on the wrong side. And it’s a very precarious position to be in. And, as we like to say in the writer’s office, the center cannot hold. Eventually, things are going to start cracking. Cracks are going to appear on the surface and I think by the end of season one there will be cracks appearing all over the surface.

Q. There are plenty of superhero shows out there. What are some of the keys to making this one work, beyond the super-abilities?

Ira Steven Behr: Well, I do think there are a couple of major ones. One is, we are dealing with neuroscience and brain chemistry. We don’t consider ourselves a superhero show by any means. We’re trying to take what’s already going on, or what can already go on within the human brain, and just up it a little bit—more extreme science, I guess. I think it’s interesting, the fact that the characters themselves are not exactly suited to the position that they’re in. These are not your typical heroes, if I dare use that word…I think there is a real, honest and true humor to the show, and humor to the situations these people find themselves in. I mean, the stories can get extremely dark. Don’t get me wrong—they can be dark. They can be violent at times. But we try to remain true to what would ordinary people, how would they react to being in those situations? And there is a lot of humor in extreme situations, as protection just to get though them, because people yearn for the normal. And to get them there, they will depend at times on their relationships and the humor within those relationships.

Q. With your characters’ abilities, they’re essentially disabled in some ways while using their enhanced senses as well. However much sensitivity you try to bring into it, is there some concern you might do something or say something would offend someone?

Azita Ghanizada: For Rachel, at least, it’s going into something that is so special and unique because when she goes into any of her senses, the rest of her body shuts down. So every other sense is asleep. We rooted it in as much humanity as possible, so it’s as honest as possible. In that way, 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…I think the goal is just to communicate how much affects her emotionally to have these special abilities, and how vulnerable it makes her, both physically and emotionally.

Ryan Cartright: I think with Gary, everyone was very sensitive to the portrayal of him from day one. We’ve been very careful, but 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. I think a lot of the time when people create roles like this, they mollycoddle the character and try to play it too safe with regard to what you end up doing, just patronizing the character and the condition. And you want the person to be a real person. I think once we knew that we had this guy and he was real and he was off the page, we all felt confident enough to just run with him.

Azita Ghanizada: I think that’s what so great about our characters; (although) they actually work from a position that could be considered disabled, truthfully they are so special because of their abilities.

Q. Can you talk about Rachel; how you see her and where she could go?

Azita Ghanizada: Well, I think Rachel is all heart. I think she’s extremely emotional and very sensitive and 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, the evidence and all of the cases. She can discover all, 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. She hasn’t been able to date, she hasn’t been accepted at home. She hasn’t be accepted out in public. People look at her like she’s weird. 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 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 solving these cases. She becomes proud of her abilities and you see her blossom as a young woman….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.

Q. Your show is being aired on Monday nights with “Eureka” and “Warehouse 13.” Would you say “Alphas” is similar in feel to those, or different in its general tone?

Ira Steven Behr: I think they’re both lighter in tone. We have a lot of humor in our shows, but our shows do tend at times to get dark in their plotlines. We’re the 10:00 show and we deserve to be the 10:00. show. That said, I do think we all share this character-driven humor, and obviously we’re all ensemble shows. So we have similarities and some strong differences.

Q. Do you feel that the tone of the show itself has changed as the episodes have progressed? Have you had to make adjustments based on outside elements, or because the characters are playing differently than you thought

Ira Steven Behr: The show evolves every week, and the show is different every week. We could have a really tense, dark episode, and then we do an episode which has the title “Bill & Gary’s Excellent Adventure,” which gives you an idea that it might not be the darkest show in the history of television, where Bill and Gary go off…and get to work together. So I think that the episodes are a little different from week to week. And the show is evolving at a pace that I had hoped for and expected it to. In terms of the actors, actors always impact on characters and you find relationships that work. Certainly since I’ve already mentioned it, the Bill and Gary relationship has sparked all the writers. There is a nice give and take there that we’re writing toward and enjoying.

Q. And what’s your favorite part about working on this series?

Ryan Cartwright: I like the set. I love the character. It’s a little holiday playing him every day. He’s just got a very cheeky sense of humor, and it’s getting more and more fun each day just going up. And you can actually see the crew has completely warmed to this character because I think the 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 none of the kids obviously knew the show and what we were doing. And there’s 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. He was like, “Is this the first day you’ve ever acted?” And the cast—everyone is lovely.

For additional information on this series, check out Syfy's website at www.syfy.com.

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