ALPHAS Guest Star Summer Glau and Showrunner Bruce Miller Talk Ramping Up the Action, Challenges of the Finale and Glau Becoming a Regular in Season 3

     October 22, 2012


On the Season 2 finale of the Syfy drama series Alphas, Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn) and his team of alphas will have their final confrontation with season-long antagonist Stanton Parish (John Pyper-Ferguson).  This unlikely group of ordinary people with superhuman physical and mental abilities are willing to risk their lives to help save the world, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to get there in time.  The show also stars Malik Yoba, Warren Christie, Azita Ghanizada, Ryan Cartwright, Laura Mennell and Erin Way.

During this recent interview to promote the last episode of the season, executive producer/writer/showrunner Bruce Miller and guest star Summer Glau, who plays tech-savvy alpha Skylar Adams, talked about ramping up the action this season, what role Stanton Parish plays in the show’s mythology, the biggest challenges of the finale, and the possibility of making Skylar a regular character in Season 3.  Glau also talked about Help for the Holidays, her Christmas movie for the Hallmark Channel, how much she’d love to do a guest role on Game of Thrones, the possibility of an animated Firefly series, and voicing Supergirl for Superman: Apocalypse.  Check out what they had to say after the jump. 

summer-glau-alphasQuestion:  Summer, you’ve played so many great characters on so many great shows.  What was it specifically about Skylar that was so fascinating and that attracted to you to the role?

SUMMER GLAU:  The first thing that attracted me to Skylar was the fact that she was a mother.  That was really exciting for me.  I hadn’t played a mother before.  One of the most challenging things about Skylar is that she is a mother, but it doesn’t come naturally to her.  In my mind, the backstory that I’ve created is that she’s been on her own for a long time and is used to just fending for herself.  And then, when it comes to her child, she’s very conflicted because she has all of these new feelings that she’s probably never experienced before, in regard to loving something so much more than she loves herself, and caring for something and protecting someone else, and making unselfish decisions.  For me, as an actor, that was just a very, very fertile storyline, creatively.

BRUCE MILLER:  In regard to Summer, I inherited the character from last year, and the reason we wanted to bring her back was just because there’s that conflict between someone who’s very self-sufficient, but not selfish.  She has to battle those two parts of her personality, in being a mother, which is really, really interesting.  It’s so hard to be a parent and be a person, in the world, who can take care of themselves, but also have to take care of somebody else.

Bruce, do you think Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn) has gone too far?  Can he come back from what he’s done?

MILLER:  In terms of what Rosen has done, and can we ever come back from the bad things that we do, I always think that we can.  Most of the time, you meet people on television and the terrible things that they’ve done are all in the past.  We meet them when they’re on the other side.  So, I thought it would be very interesting to see someone who’s going through the darkest part of their life, up until now, and see how they actually go through it and come out the other side.  You can probably list 300 characters who have done darker things than what Rosen’s been going through, but they all happened before the story started.  We’re just actually getting to see it happen.  So, can he come back?  Absolutely!  And to see someone like David go through it is really what’s interesting.  We just wanted to play it real.  Here’s a guy who finally made a connection with his daughter, and then lost her again, so how shattering would that be?

summer-glau-alphasAssuming that Summer would be up for becoming a full-fledged regular cast member next season, is there any chance of that happening?  Also, would you ever consider making Skylar and Zoe the focus of an Alphas-based web series?

MILLER:  Yes and yes.  From our point of view, Summer was an absolute pleasure to have on the show.  She already knows that I love working with her, and seeing that character on TV was so fantastic.  Also, getting to see someone who has played many tough characters show a different side was great.  I think she was spectacular and I would love to have her on the show, as much as we possibly could.  And as far as a web series goes, it’s not really my department to make those decisions, but I would certainly love that.  The very young, very talented actor who plays Skylar’s daughter, Zoe – who strangely is named Skyler, in real life – is just wonderful, and the two of them together are terrific.  One of the toughest jobs we had in the editing room was deciding which moments to cut from that because they were so terrific together, the whole time.  So, it would be nice to have someplace to do longer stories about the two of them.  I think it was really one of the coolest relationships in the whole series, with the idea of someone like Skylar trying to raise a child and having that dynamic.  You could build a whole show around it.

Summer, when you originally guest starred on Alphas last season, did you ever think that the character would develop on the scale that it has throughout this season?

GLAU:  Well, I love doing TV, and I really like sticking with a character and getting to watch them evolve, and contribute to a storyline that continues, week after week, so I was hopeful.  And this season, I’ve been so blessed to come back as much as I have.  I would be very excited to come back again, next season.

After working on shows like Firefly and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and now Alphas, what keeps drawing you back to the sci-fi genre? 

GLAU:  I’ve always found, in sci-fi, that the roles for women are really exciting and dynamic and outside the box.  The finale of Alphas is a perfect example.  We were sitting and discussing a scene that involved all of the girls, and I thought it was so cool to get to do a scene that involved all of us.  We are four different girls, and our characters are complicated and fleshed out and dynamic.  It just made me realize that I’m really happy to be in a story that creates this opportunity for all four of us actresses.  That’s why I keep coming back to it.  I just go for the character that I like.

summer-glau-malik-yoba-alphasBruce, the action definitely seems to have been ramped up this season.  Was there a conscious decision to sort of improve on last season?

MILLER:  Well, I think you’re always trying to improve everything that you work on.  The first season of shows is really difficult.  The show is finding its legs, and finding what works and what doesn’t work.  On any show, especially a show that only gets 13 episodes in the first year, it takes awhile for a show to grow into itself.  They put such great storylines in place last year that we really had the benefit of that this year, moving ahead.  They had done a lot of the hard, heavy lifting, in setting up the world and the characters.  We were able to move forward with those characters and move them in really interesting places because they had already set them up.  So, I’m glad it’s getting better.  We try.  Everybody tries, from the cast to the crew, and everybody on the creative side, to make it absolutely fantastic, every week.  We’re just hoping to keep it moving forward and get more interesting and have the characters lead us to interesting places.

Summer, do you enjoy getting to do so much physical action?

GLAU:  Absolutely!  Coming from being a dancer, it was a great way for me to transition into being an actress.  I get to really be expressive through my physical self, and that was just a comfortable way for me to start experimenting with how to get my character across.  When I started in Firefly, the character had a very hard time communicating with the rest of the cast, and I found it really interesting to play with her physicality.  And over the years, I have been fortunate to get to play a lot of really kick-ass girls.  What I like about Skylar is trying to find new ways to make her an effective part of the team without being the physical character.  That’s hard for me.  I do get jealous sometimes when I don’t get to throw any punches, but it’s been good practice for me because Skylar’s a bad-ass, in a different way.  And who knows, maybe next season she can throw down a little bit.  She always has a good spot on the team because she can build stuff.

summer-glau-ryan-cartwright-alphasWithout giving anything away, what can you say about how Skylar helps the team thwart the bad guys’ plans in the finale?

GLAU:  Well, she definitely integrates into the team more than she has in the past.  Where Skylar left off in the last episode was a humbling and scary experience for her to realize that she’s not always in control.  She was taken advantage of and she needed help, and the fact that she got that help from the other alphas is a vulnerable position for her.  But, now she sees that she does need help and that it can be beneficial to her to be a part of a team.  In the finale, you’re going to get to see her very awkwardly, at times, become part of a team, which is something that I’ve been wanting her to do for awhile.

Bruce, what role does Stanton Parish (John Pyper-Ferguson) play in the finale and the series, in general?

MILLER:  John is a wonderful actor.  He’s terrific and generous with an optimistic and sunny personality.  He makes everything we do turn out better and more interesting.  And he really makes the best kind of adversary because I often feel like he seems to be on the right side of the argument.  I always liked Alan Rickman in Die Hard better than the other people.  So, he’s been terrific.  And when you have someone like David Strathairn, and the rest of the team, if you’re going to have a foil on someone who they’re opposing, you can’t just have a cardboard cut-out.  You have to someone with the acting ability and the depth that John Pyper-Ferguson brings to it.  Honestly, it’s the sympathy that he can engender in the audience.  If he just wants to destroy the world, that doesn’t really seem very logical.  That character has lived a very long time, and I think that John brings a grace and a wisdom to everything about that role, from the way he dresses to the way he reads the newspaper to the way he sits.  There’s a nostalgia in the whole way he plays the character that is just lovely.

GLAU: I had one scene with John and he was just so charismatic.  I find his character so fascinating.  He’s hundreds of years old, and John has a way of conveying that with a grace and a charisma that I’m really fascinated by.  I didn’t have very many lines with him, but I cannot picture anyone else in the role because he does it so beautifully.  He’s very powerful, and he has this quiet intensity.  The way that he plays the character is so compelling because it’s not black and white.  You can almost understand his side of the story and almost see why he does the things that he does.  He’s a very, very dynamic actor.  I hope to get to watch him and be around him more because he’s really, really fun.

summer-glau-alphasBruce, was there anything that you found particularly difficult with the finale?

MILLER:  Writing a finale is difficult because you feel like you’re writing the last act to 12 other episodes.  You’re not really writing an episode.  It’s hard to find something that holds it together.  You really want the characters’ stories to be completed, or at least put away for a few months, until we get to come back to them in a satisfying way.  But, being able to bring Skylar back and have the scene where the women are talking, and bringing the human element into what could have just been a bit of an action fest, made it a lot more interesting and also a lot more fun to write just because it’s more fun to write those things.  We have a very, very talented writing staff.  Even though my name is on the last episode, that’s not how things work, in television.  Like every other episode, it  was a group effort by the entire writing staff.  Every day on the set, things change.  You move things around.  The actors are creating the roles and bringing them to life, and bringing the moments to life, as they happen.  That’s the best thing about television.  I think it gets misunderstood, when there’s one credit that says, “Written by,” because that’s certainly not the way it happens, in real life.

What was it like to add Erin Way to the show, this season?

MILLER:  We came into this season looking to add another puzzle piece, just to have someone new come in who was interesting and had an interesting ability.  But, more than an interesting ability we wanted someone who had an interesting downside, and that their ability made them live a certain way, which was something we learned from the guest stars that had worked well before.  A great example of that is Skylar, who is great with machines and not so great with people.  Our show is much more about how people with superpowers live their lives rather than being about their powers.  It’s about what it’s like for Batman to make dinner.  We auditioned a lot of people.  There were a lot of people in the mix, and Erin just bloomed, from the very beginning.  She sparkles, in real life, as much as she sparkles on screen. Personally, I don’t tend to go into casting sessions.  I try not to have a preconceived notion in my head because it just reduces my options or ability to find someone cool.  But, she just was terrific.  From the first time I saw her read, I felt like she brought that character to life.  And then, it’s been influenced by the way she’s played the character, so the character has grown and changed, and the arc has been decided as a combination of what we think would be cool and what Erin actually brings to the character.  You’re not just writing in a vacuum, and then handing it over to someone else to shoot.  You’re writing, and then getting feedback from the actor and hearing their voice and how they play things.  Certainly, Erin’s particular sense of humor and rhythm brings a lot to it.  I think the show had plenty of spirit and humor and energy, and we were just trying to find someone cool to add into that mix.

summer-glau-alphasWill Lauren Holly’s character ever return?

MILLER:  Well, she was a pleasure to work with, and having a scary Senator was really interesting with an interesting power structure.  I don’t know.  We love the character.  I’m not sure whether we’ve played that string out or not, but I know that we had a terrific time with Lauren and she had a terrific time with us.  It all goes back to the characters and the story.  If the characters lead us to a story where we’d like to bring that bitch back, then that would be great.

Having come over from Eureka, have you had a chance to reflect on some of the great work you did there, and being a part of that team? 

MILLER:  Yeah. Eureka was a spectacular experience and, luckily, I was able to bring over some of the people from that show, so some of that family came along with me to Alphas.  I’m very thankful.  Most shows, when they end, you find out sometime in between seasons that it’s not coming back, and you don’t get a chance to end it the way we were lucky enough to get to end the story of Eureka.  Jaime Paglia, the original creator, and I were co-showrunners for a number of years, and he was able to tie up those storylines that he had been working on for so long.  I look back on it with real affection, and I’m really grateful that it was able to move along the way it did.  It was a blessing.  Syfy did such a terrific job with the show, in letting it be its odd, quirky self.  The only shattering regret I had was that we never had Summer on.

Summer, do you have any other projects coming up?

GLAU:  Well, I just finished a Christmas movie, Help for the Holidays, that’s going to be on the Hallmark Channel during the 12 Days of Christmas.  That was very different for me, and really fun.  I actually play an elf.  I was sent the script when I was shooting the last episode of Alphas, up in Toronto, and we shot it in Simi Valley, in August when it was 110 degrees.  And there’s also Knights of Badassdom.

Having worked with Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage before, do you have any interest in possibly doing a guest role on Game of Thrones?

GLAU:  Oh, I’d love to!  I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, and they’re both phenomenal on the show.  I did have quite a fan moment at Comic-Con, when I saw the cast walk by.  I got giggly and hyper and ran up to them, and they looked at me compassionately, but wary because I got a little bit over-excited.  I love the show.

summer-glau-alphasThere has been some talk of a possible animated revival of Firefly, as a TV series.  Is that something that you would want to do?

GLAU:  Absolutely!  I would take any opportunity to get back together with my whole family and keep telling that story.  I think we’d all love that.

Have you ever been approached to do one of Syfy’s original creature movies?

GLAU:  No, not yet.  I think that’s a great idea, but I haven’t been approached yet.

What was it like to voice Supergirl for Superman: Apocalypse?

GLAU:  Voice-over is really, really different than filming, so I was nervous about it.  I didn’t know what it was going to be like, to be in the room by myself.  But, I had the most amazing coaches and it was a very addicting experience to strip away everything but my voice and paint the pictures that way.  It was a really, really good exercise for me, as an actress.  They pushed me quite a bit.  I did things that I didn’t know that I could do and that I didn’t feel comfortable doing, and that’s always very exciting for artists, in general.  I want to keep doing it because I’m really learning and challenging what I’m comfortable with.  There were times when I didn’t even recognize my voice. It was really, really cool!

The Season 2 finale of Alphas airs on Syfy on October 22nd.