Alan Tudyk has shown countless times in his long acting career that he’s quite capable of playing a normal human, whether in normal-human comedies or normal-human dramas. It’s just that he’s also proven himself quite adept going way, way beyond that.
Since his breakout role as the easygoing pilot “Wash” in the short-lived-but-much-beloved series Firefly, he’s twice played a robot (I, Robot and Rogue One), voiced characters in eight other Disney movies (from the sardonic Macaw Iago in Aladdin to bootleg-DVD-shilling weasel Duke of Weasleton in Zootopia), and portrayed superheroes Flash and Superman in DC animated films.
Recently, his roles have only drifted further from Earth. In addition to portraying super-villains in both live action (Mr. Nobody in Doom Patrol) and animated (The Joker in Harley Quinn) series, he has two new series coming out this year. He’s the titular crash-landed alien in Syfy’s Resident Alien, who murders and takes over the body of Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle in his quest to hide out in a small Colorado town until he can plot the death of all humanity. And in Syfy’s new late-night animated show The Devil May Care, he plays the Prince of Darkness himself, Satan. We spoke by phone to Tudyk about his new series and his new home in Vancouver.
Paste: Let’s see: two criminally insane comic-book villains, an alien, and the devil. I never imagined the actor who played Wash would be so great playing evil and unhinged. How did this happen and how are you enjoying this phase of your long, varied career?
Alan Tudyk:I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been really lucky to play a lot of different things. A lot of different people and robots and aliens and pirates. But Harry in Resident Alien has a very special place in my heart, because he’s a villain—he wants to kill everyone, humans anyway—but he’s also an idiot in so many situations so there’s a lot of opportunity for humor. I love doing comedy. It’s a dramedy, but there’s a lot of opportunity to play with Harry.
Paste: It’s very funny. It’s a dark comedy, but because your character is literally learning what it is to be human the dramatic beats are surprisingly touching in places. What was it that drew you to this story? What do you love about getting to play Harry?
Tudyk: I love the challenge of him learning his body, learning the whole world. His arc in the first season is great. I realize just as you said this that I’ve done a character a little similar to this. There was a similar dynamic within it. I did a play by Paul Rudnick called the Most Fabulous Story ever told. And it was the story of Adam and Steve. And I played Adam. It was off-Broadway in [old-time radio voice] Nineteen hundred and ninety-eight. And Adam had to learn, “What is this? How do my legs work and why am I making noise and why does it make sense?” And love and all of this discovery and movement. And it was also a very funny play. That’s a really fun dynamic to wrap your head around, especially when it comes to love and affection and all kind of human relations. That’s what I was excited to get to do. And he’s an alien, which is also a lot of fun.
Paste: You’ve done so much voice work, to play a role that involves so much physical comedy—was that refreshing to get to use your body a little bit more?
Tudyk: Yes, it feels almost theatrical in a way. There’s a lot of clowning in it. I took clowning in school, and I have a lot of friends who are clowns. I have a lot of respect for clowns in the world. Not the freaky Venice clown. There’s a clown in Venice who doesn’t where white makeup—it’s always a little dirty. His clothes are always a little dirty, and he makes the balloon animals. And it’s like “Why does my dog have five legs?” “That’s not a leg!” Not that clown. These are like European clowns—a lot of mime involved, magic—clowns that don’t just make you laugh but bring you joy. I find them to be magic. There’s a lot of that in him. And the opportunity for that challenge doesn’t come along very often.
Paste: When did you shoot the series? Was this pre-pandemic or there in Vancouver during the pandemic?
Tudyk: We shot the pilot two years ago. And we got picked up, but they kept deciding when they wanted to start shooting the series, like what kind of weather they wanted to have in Vancouver. And so it got pushed down the road a bit, and then the pandemic happened. We had two weeks left of shooting, and then we took a break for like six months. When we got back, it took me a week to find what we were doing. I was 10 pounds heavier. It’s going to be a fun moment for people when they see me like walk from one interior shot into an exterior shot, and I’ve gained 10 pounds through the magic weight-gaining threshold. “What happened to the alien?”
Paste: You ate some little kid. You ate Max.
Tudyk: The kid is now smoking cigarettes. He’s a teenager. There’s going to be a lot of shows like that. Watch shows; there’s going to be a moment like “Why did everybody just get heavier and age like five years between that scene and that scene.” That’s the COVID aging.
Paste: A lot of actors have found themselves with a lot of time on their hands during the pandemic, but I imagine your schedule has been a bit busier with both the voice work and putting the finishing touches on Resident Alien. What did this last year of sheltering in place look like for you?
Tudyk: Well luckily we did Devil May Care while we were sheltering in place. That whole series happened during the pandemic. Because I’m in Vancouver, the sound studios didn’t close here. They closed in L.A. I moved to Vancouver during the pandemic. We still have a place in L.A., and my wife and I are still American citizens, but she’s also a Canadian citizen. She has dual citizenship. And now we live here and have a place here. I’m getting to know my new city. I love it very much. There’s a park here that’s called Stanley Park that’s a third bigger than Central Park, except it’s a temperate rainforest. It has some trails in it, but there are a lot of sections that have no trails that go through it. You can start trying to cut through this stuff, and you’ll have to turn back because it’s just so overgrown. It’s incredible! I am so excited by this park! I’m in there almost every day because I have to run my dogs, and they go crazy for it. They love it. So that’s what I’ve been doing, I’ve been running through the woods pretty much since we’ve had a lot of time off. I find myself surrounded by trees, running through woods, getting muddy and washing my dogs every day because they got muddy.
Paste: I can relate. I feel like I’ve learned more about the wilderness inside my city this last year than ever before.
Tudyk: I feel like that’s the place to gain any kind of sanity and grounding and, of course breathing—trees make the oxygen. But that’s been the best place to go to find a place to meditate in nature.
Paste: Get right with nature and then turn all that energy into playing an alien bent on destroying humanity and the devil.
Tudyk: [Laughing] Exactly!
Paste: So tell me about Devil May Care. What’s it like playing Satan himself?
Tudyk: The Satan in Devil May Care doesn’t want hell to be so much of a hassle for people. He wants it to be a great place that people can enjoy. C’mon!
Paste: Make hell great again?
Tudyk: Yes! And they get everything that you don’t want up on Earth. Somehow everything gets shifted down to hell. Like you’ll find all the bad electronics ideas of the years. Those exist in hell. Anything from Goop that didn’t sell very well, that’s all in hell. He wants to bring the internet to hell. He wants to get social media happening in hell. He wants people to enjoy it. C’mon. Eternity and damnation doesn’t have to be that bad. That’s fake news. And Syfy is doing a few different animated shows that are going to be on at midnight. It reminds me of MTV’s old Liquid Television. It had really cool animation—it was the first time I ever saw Aeon Flux. The animation is very cool, and I think people are gonna like it. It feels a little like Adult Swim. That’ll be out in February, which will be neat. And [Resident Alien] will premiere Jan. 27, but we’re doing it old-school where it comes out weekly, which is better from my perspective because it takes so long to make.
Paste: Yeah, you don’t want it to be over just like that.
Tudyk: Yeah, and I’ve binged plenty of things that if I ever end up rewatching, I go, “Yeah, I kinda remember this,” because it was like two in the morning, and I’m like, “I’ve got to watch another episode.”
Paste: So you’ve got the Devil, you’ve also been playing The Joker on Harley Quinn these last few seasons. Both of those are villains that have been played by so many people. Particularly when you think of The Joker—the Devil has been played in so many ways, but The Joker is The Joker. And so many legendary actors, both in live action and in animation, have taken on that role. Did you feel the weight of that, in taking on that role and bringing something new to The Joker?
Tudyk: Certainly. And luckily Harley Quinn is very funny. The Joker gets to say things that I had never seen before. The stuff with Bane—Bane in our series is a complete joke. He doesn’t even get a chair at the Legion of Doom. “Where’s my chair?” “Shut up Bane. God dammit, Bane!” We also cussed—“Fuckin’ Bane”—which is a great help. I don’t think Mark Hamill ever got the opportunity to drop F-bombs all over the place. He kills somebody and wears their flesh like a mask, which is fun. I was nervous, but I trusted Patrick [Schumacker] and Justin [Halpern], who created it. We’d worked together before—they worked on Powerless. I trusted them that if they gave me the role, they thought I could do it. I auditioned for the role; they didn’t just hand it to me. They listened to a lot of people. And I get to play Clayface, who’s a lot of fun because he’s a moron. And he can turn himself into anything, so I get to play different roles within him. [thespian voice] Clayface is the worst actor ever! Overactor! He’d rather go watch the Tony Awards than go out and do crime. But he can turn himself into Stephanie, the sorority girl [Stephanie voice] who’s in love with Chad. He has huge areolas. They touch in the middle. Like that’s ridiculous writing. That’s fantastic. They touch in the middle?
Paste: You also get to play that iconic DC character, Condiment King.
Tudyk: Condiment King! [Laughs] Exactly. It’s The Joker and Condiment King. Those two are what people think when they think DC. When is Condiment King getting his own stand-alone?
Paste: Seriously. Who is Zach Snyder’s Condiment King?
Tudyk: It’s going to go to like Timothy Chalamet. You watch. Hot young kid is going to come in there, and just really blow up Condiment King.
Paste: That’s perfect. So you got to create and write your own show with Con Man, which was so much fun. Is that something you want to go back to? Have you spent any time since then dreaming up that next project?
Tudyk: In addition to playing in the woods during the pandemic, I wrote a script. It’s something that I wanted to write while we were making Con Man. It has a musical element. It was when we were making the musical episode in Season 2 where we did a version of Of Mice and Men with Lou Ferigno. And it was called I’m with Stupid. It’s where they get trapped in the basement of Comic-Con and they put on a show. I really enjoyed making that. My wife is a choreographer, and she did a brilliant job. And John Dynasty did our music, and he’s a great composer. And it’s that kind of show. And I’m working it into—originally as a single-camera, but I kind of what to make it—I know everybody has a podcast. But right now with COVID and everything, it’d be a great time to make a musical, but good god, Broadway and off-Broadway and all live musical performances are shut down. I would like to make it into a podcast because we could make it fast. And it’s a very funny show. I can’t wait.
Resident Alien premieres Wednesday, January 27th on Syfy.
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