“Dammit, I forgot to ask him about playing Shipwreck in the GI Joe musical short!” This is what regret sounds like as I peruse Alan Tudyk’s ridiculously long and diverse IMDB page. From ample voice work to on-screen stabs at villainy, heroism, comedy, nice-guyism, and everything in between. Tudyk has a means of connecting with fans of every genre across TV and film. Chances are he’s probably popped up in one of your favorite things. From Firefly to Star Wars: Rogue One, Dodgeball, Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil, I, Robot, Doom Patrol, Rick And Morty, 42, I should stop.
In his latest two projects, both for Syfy, Tudyk voices the Devil in Devil May Care (which premieres February 6 as a part of their Adult Swim-esque TZGZ animated block) and an alien in Resident Alien, the network’s small-town dramedy wherein Tudyk plays a reclusive doctor forced to interact with townsfolk who he’s trying to exterminate… because he’s also an alien masquerading as a human. The show debuts tonight (January 27), and it’s why we had the chance to talk with Tudyk recently, reveling in his joy over playing someone who wants to destroyed the human race, similarities between portraying an alien and a robot, how he returned to the set of the show from the first COVID shutdown with a little more of him to love, and the truth behind his awful dance moves. And because his career is so diverse, there naturally had to be some talk about Steve The Pirate from Dodgeball, what he’d be doing now, and a pretty fantastic endorsement for rum-soaked pirate fairs. But first, as one does, we begin with Alan Tudyk telling us about committing that most human of mistakes — texting a video of himself to the wrong person.
Alan Tudyk: Chris’ [Sheridan, the Resident Alien showrunner] name starts with CH. My wife’s name is Charissa [Barton], CH. So I sent a dance, which is of my wife and I dancing. Her sister just turned 50, and her sister’s a choreographer and a dancer. My wife’s a choreographer too. Anyway, all these dancers from all over the world did dances to this song and it got put together into a video, so I accidentally sent Chris a dance of me with my shirt off. I’ve got sunglasses on. It’s not… There’s no song going, so it’s just me making sounds to the beat, so there’s nothing supporting the dance.
So if that gets out, then everyone will know what it would be like to have a Cameo message from you.
[Laughs] And they’ll want a refund. But also they’ll know what it’s like to want a refund from Cameo.
So how’s the world treating you on this fine day?
It’s lovely. I’m in Canada. My wife is Canadian. And when we were up here shooting… It’s where we shoot Resident Alien. And when we all broke for COVID and the bulk of the cast went back to the States, her and I stayed. And now we’ve just been living here this whole time for COVID and the new developments.
How was it getting back into production?
That was tricky, but this production has not followed a typical timeline of a series. We shot the pilot, and then we didn’t start shooting the series until over a year later. So, it was already drawn out. And then we shot everything, save two weeks’ worth of work. And then everything in Vancouver started shutting down that week. When we came back, we were given three weeks to shoot two weeks, which was great because there are all the COVID protocols, which took a lot of extra time. There were a lot of safety meetings. They really got it right.
I think my costumes went up in size by a couple of inches, though, which would be exciting because of the way it was shot… I think you’re going to see this in other productions as well. A character’s going to leave an interior scene, they’re going to walk out a door, and you’re going to pick them up in the exterior, and they’ll put on 10 pounds. And how did they put on 10 pounds? It’s the magic 10-pound doorway which just adds six month’s worth of being sedentary and eating your feelings, and then we just carried on.
You mentioned that your wife has a choreographer. There are some pretty terrible dance moves that you’re putting on in this. I’m hoping that was intentionally bad. What was her take on the dance moves there?
[Laughs] She embraces my bad dance moves, which are purposely bad! Although she did inform me yesterday that… “Your dance moves are funny until you think they’re funny, and then they stop being funny.”
It’s a real cone of truth that spouses have.
[Laughs] Isn’t it? I said, “Well, how do you know the ones that are funny are not the ones where I’m being serious?” But she realized that probably was the case. I’m not talking about it right now.
I understand. You need to heal.
Exactly. She’s the dancer of the couple, for sure.
You’ve played androids and robots in a few different things and there’s a detachment from humanity that kind of runs through those roles and this one as an alien.
There are similarities. The robot I played in I, Robot, he was the Pinocchio robot, the wooden boy with emotions. He was the machine with emotions. But as far as the movement goes, the way we approached it was that he moved in an ergonomic way. I think that’s the word I’m looking for. That way that the skeleton is supposed to be used, the most efficient use of movement, is how a robot would move. And in a way, an alien who’s pretending to be human and navigating this new physical form, he’s operating it somewhat like a machine. Move this leg, move that leg, alternate arms swinging to the legs. So in that way, it’s similar. The trajectory for Harry, the alien, as far as emotions go, is that he begins, throughout the first season, to be infected by his new human form. He’s got a mission. He doesn’t feel the same way as a human, and it takes him a while to come around to it, and it catches him off guard. It’s fun playing a character that has to learn to walk and talk. And even though he is an advanced being in his knowledge of the universe, he is very remedial when it comes to humans. He doesn’t know the species he’s sent to eradicate. He wasn’t supposed to interact with them. So, he makes a lot of dumb mistakes. So he’s very smart, thinks very highly of himself, but then is constantly doing stupid things, And that’s really fun to play.
How he’s impacted by human emotions and obviously turned by human beings… not to strain to find some powerful message here, but right now, finding entertainment that reminds us that people aren’t all bad… That sure is okay.
Was the ability to kind of shine a light on why humans aren’t worth blowing up part of the appeal?
Yes. That. You said it so well. That was a huge draw, but it was coming at it from the place of someone who starts out wanting to kill everyone. That was also exciting to me. I love stories that have central characters that are bad, I guess.
I’ll ask a question I’m sure you’ve been asked a bunch: do you believe in aliens?
I absolutely do. I think whenever you see those telescope shots of the universe that they can see, and they’re like, “In this little dot is the Milky Way.” And I mean, there’s so much. We know so little, but then there’s also the… What’s that water bear, the tardigrade? Those little things. There are things that seem like aliens that are already here, but aren’t what we would think of as aliens crashing in Roswell. But those things can survive in space for a certain amount of time. You can’t kill them and they don’t seem to follow our rules of nature. They’re their own thing. But then there’s also Roswell and there are all of these sightings. There’s too much. They exist.
Are they among us? And you work in Hollywood, so it’s okay to acknowledge. If you want to name names, that’s fine. I’m here for that.
[Laughs] Oh my god! Yeah. I can’t name names. That’d be fun. I believe… I don’t know. Sure, they’re among us, I guess. We can see so little. Even our visual spectrum is very limited. Our awareness of the world around us is very limited. So I think they’re among us.
I got a lot of requests to ask a Dodgeball/Steve the Pirate question. I just want to know what you think he would be doing right now?
I would hope that he was still pirating, maybe making some jewelry.
Maybe he has an Etsy store? This could be a venture for you right now.
I know. I would hope that he would not be on Etsy. That he would, like the old school ways of doing it, going around to different trade shows. I’d love to see him at a trade show in his garb. But there are pirate fairs, much like Scarborough fairs. He would probably do the Scarborough circuit for a while. Until he injured someone.
I did not know that there were actually pirate fairs. I’ve been to a Renaissance fair. I’m guessing it’s the same thing.
Yes. It is very similar. I did it in preparation for the movie. I lucked out, the guy who made my gold tooth, the special effects guy, named Richard Snell… And while he was taking the impression, he’s like, “So what is this? Are you guys making fun of pirates or what?” I’m like, “No, no. He’s totally a pirate, man.” And he was like, “Well, cool, because I’m a pirate.” And he was part of the Rum Runners, and he invited me up to Ojai. They were going to have this pirate fair. And I went up there and they make their own rum. They basically get wasted and wrestle, and people make their own jewelry. That’s where I got that from. They make weapons. They shoot off black powder guns a lot. A lot of explosions going on. I saw people hooking up left and right.
That sounds like a good time, actually.
It was. They camp out for days. They don’t just come and then go, they’re there for days. They’re pirates. Every year they make a base rum, and then they each break off into little groups and they spice a rum and make their own. And they do a taste test, and they find the best one. They’re like, “That’s this year’s rum.” And then they make a huge, big batch of that rum, and that’s simple high octane. You would enjoy it.
‘Resident Alien’ premieres January 27 at 10 PM ET on Syfy. Check your local listings to find a pirate fair near you.