The Syfy series ALPHAS is premised on a group of humans known as Alphas with special abilities that try to help other’s like themselves or to protect the rest of the world from those who seek to abuse their newfound abilities. Prior to this current season, these extra special humans were largely unknown to the world at large, but in an effort to stop an impending war between humans and the Alphas, their secret existence came out. In a recent press conference call co-star Ryan Cartwright shared all the fun he is having portraying his character Gary, who reads frequency waves as if he were watching television, and what new challenges the Alphas face in the second season.
Could you talk about how you decided on Gary’s mannerisms, his cadence and his accent and how you prepare to get into character?
RYAN: Sure. Well I had luckily I was in a good position whereby I had a like a good month and a half from getting the role to actual production so I had plenty of time to do as much research as would make me feel comfortable stepping into Gary’s shoes. And it was great, it was really good fun just looking at a part of the world that you’d never seen before and also with autism if you research it enough you end up appreciating looking at the world through their eyes as well. Basically I started with lots of documentaries, lots of movies and lots of like online blogs and stuff from autistic people talking about how they experience things and just reading the books like from Daniel Pampett, Temple Grandin and Oliver Sachs and stuff. And the firsthand account stuff from autistic people in its true form really helped because it helped me understand the neurology behind it which gave me the grace to come up with the mannerisms and stuff myself knowing the reason I’d be doing them as opposed to just meeting someone and copying mannerisms. Like I was invited to like go to meet a group of autistic people in the day like a camp or whatever but by that point I kind of didn’t need to do it because I had already figured out Gary on his own and knew the reasons I would do certain things so it was really nice. And I would just like pad around Toronto when I got up here, kind of walking around as Gary and doing the voice and stuff and reading poems and repeating things that people would say and stuff. So it was a luxury to have all that time to get comfortable in his skin so that I’m super comfortable doing it now.
What are some of the changes that we’ll see with Gary this season?
RYAN: He’s still petulant which I’m sure everyone will enjoy. He’s still outspoken, I don’t think that will ever change. But he’s kind of making some different life decisions that affect that other Alphas quite substantially. Like I think everyone knows by now he is not just working at the office. So he decides to move out his mother’s nest and descend on the office 24/7 and tries to make it his new home. Also his continuance of trying to keep Anna’s voice alive because when she died at the end of the last season. It affected him deeply and made him question his place within the Alphas and also kind of people’s motivations, which he’s not very good at figuring out. But it definitely did once she died. It made him question Dr. Rosen and the whole Alpha phenomenon and his place within it and he wants to keep her voice alive and her message because it seemed to inspire him and seemed a bit more holistic to him.
When the season starts Gary’s in a unique place, he’s in prison and all this stuff is happening. It’s really kind of a Gary story. What do you want to tell us about where Gary starts this season?
RYAN: Yes, he’s in a worst place than prison. He’s like in Building 7 and he’s pretty much comatose because to control Alphas who are bad there’s a lot more moral flexibility that people believe they can take with them so they put like these chips in their heads which make them completely comatose and devoid of any personality and sense so they’re pretty much like these neutered brain-dead zombies who just sit around and drool which is my natural state normally. So he’s in Building 7 for he was a little bit too disruptive because they wanted him to go and work with the other people over there, the government agents, but they didn’t appreciate Gary’s idiosyncrasies and he ended up lashing out and got in trouble. None of the other Alphas knew for a while until they have a little visit and they can just see him sitting there kind of gawping at the floor. So Gary needs rescuing.
Does the arc of this season pretty much deal with the Alphas being known and how they deal with that being out in the public sort of thing?
RYAN: Yes, it deals with it but there’s a lot more of a storyline with regards to the kind of reemergence of Red Flag and Stanton Parish is very heavily influential on the arc. And you kind see the two a lot. Obviously the Alphas are kind of falling apart as a group and just trying to stick together and weather the storm and are just wearing each other down with their abilities and their own passions. And every Alpha has their own motives and they all have their own kind of modus operandi of what they want and they’re at loggerheads with each other a lot more this season. It’s not so much just bickering about who stole who’s pudding — although pretty much that is for Gary — but the second tier to that is Stanton Parish is mixed in the pot again and he’s really coming on full force again. He comes back with a vengeance and it gets really heavy without giving too much away. But Parish is up to his old tricks and he proves a lot more menacing and dastardly this time around.
You alluded to Gary’s situation this season being more than a little different than what we might expect what with the trauma of Anna at the end of last season and then on top of that the trauma of Building 7. Gary as an autistic probably isn’t the best-equipped person in the world to handle the kind of traumas that he’s being dealt. Can you speak a little bit more specifically as to how that will be handled?
RYAN: Sure. Well I mean there are certain things that as an autistic person that he’s better equipped at handling, like he won’t get caught up in the day-to-day kind of brick-a-brack of people’s emotional tangles like the minor stuff kind of passes him by just because it’s not on his radar, he doesn’t notice it. And a lot of that there’s a lot of kind of love triangle stuff this year and obviously Gary’s not getting involved in love trysts quite yet. I guess you know the closest he came was Anna but it wasn’t sexual; it was a kindred spirit kind of thing. So I think his main struggle is it’s kind of that gut, he just knows there’s something wrong in hit gut this year and he’s one of those people who will if he feels that something’s wrong in his gut he’ll turn and go the other way and then he’ll have to try and assess it and figure out what’s going on after the fact. He’s very much he’s very impulsive and it’s difficult for him to understand the literalness of what’s going on and also his own feelings. It’s not that he only has to contend with understanding everyone else’s motives and emotions, it’s also just his own because certain feelings will flare up that don’t fit the situation or everyone else will be quite neutral yet he’s feeling terrible. And I think this year he’s speaking up a lot more and going with his gut a lot more. There was a bit of trepidation before and he would often defer to Bill and the other Alphas and especially Dr. Rosen and to a lesser extent his mother whereas this year he’s kind of accepting his instincts a lot more and following those obviously for the drama dangerous places.
It seems like this season Gary’s relationship with Bill might be a little different and with Nina, those are the two people really he’s closest to even more so than Dr. Rosen. So what can you tell us about his relationships with those people?
RYAN: He’s still respects Bill and he likes him as his partner. I think the main wedge for him is Erin who joined as the character Kat. That kind of drives a bit of a wedge between himself and Bill. And he doesn’t like it. He starts throwing all the toys out of his cot because Erin — Kat — is the new baby and Gary’s like put in the backseat. And as we all know Gary likes to be in the front driver’s seat. So he kind of loses a lot of the attention, which makes him a little bit more insular as well on top of how he’s already kind of mediating on his position within the Alphas. So it’s mainly like Kat coming in pushes him away and a lot of people don’t have as much time for Gary this year. Like there was a lot more people would mother Gary a little more in the first season than this season. They just don’t have enough time so he’s kind of spinning around out there. But I think it’s good for him in the long run to kind of not have people look out for him. He’ll get his hand burned, but he’ll learn.
Can you tell how Gary might react or act with Erin Way’s new character on the show?
RYAN: Yes, well he hates it to begin with, because it’s like I said it was like the new baby in the bathtub and he wants to drown her. He’s intrigued by her, but completely intimidated and just wants her gone, because she doesn’t follow the supposed Alpha code. She’s more rebel than anyone, she’s on the outskirts, and she comes from a bit of a darker background. And he thinks she’s unprofessional, he just doesn’t want this cute little blond girl grabbing everyone’s attention, because he’s the one that needs care and the one that wants all the attention. So, he just wants her gone. But, maybe he’ll end up liking her. We’ll have to see.
What would you say your biggest challenge is this season so far?
RYAN: I just think keeping the consistency of the character and kind of not coming out of the character to get laughs. Because Gary does change as time goes on but in a different way to everyone else and it’s a lot more subtle. So the kind of Gary’s arc has to be a little bit more concentrated and mainly just keeping his voice the same, the dialog and just how he would react to these different situations. Just keeping a close eye on that, not wanting to abuse Gary’s personality and where he is on the autism spectrum. And then once he’s like taken care of that, that he’s character consistent, then it’s just all about coming up with funny lines on the day. I have to try to make the other actors and Alphas laugh. Once he’s like grounded then you can like inflate him with all this hot air and just watch him ascend and annoy everyone. So just that.
How much improv do you have in your portrayal of Gary?
RYAN: A lot of it is improv. I mean normally the beat will be there. There will be like a joke beat. Sometimes there’s a surprise moment when you’re like, “Oh, a joke can happen here or something funny.” But a lot of the times the beat is already there and it’s just about working it in a way that Gary would say it that’s a lot more Gary-ish and funnier and sometimes just pushing it that little bit further and just like kind of rewording it as Gary, through Gary’s lens and stuff. And a lot of it is just me trying to make the rest of the cast laugh and stuff, which is good fun. It makes the days go by. And everyone jumps in, everyone will mess with some of their jokey lines and stuff and often that’s all it takes. Just a slight rewording to make a decent joke hilarious. And as you’ll see it’s not joke jokes. Sometimes when Gary will make a joke it’s quite clear because it’s normally a mess but it’s that thing of just having a joke that’s with the character not against him kind of thing.
Does Gary’s autism overshadow any other work that you want to do with the character or are trying to do with the character?
RYAN: No, because his stuff is just a little bit more micro. He’s just a little bit slower moving with his dealings with people and his arc. But the wonderful thing about this medium is that you can quite literally zoom in on those moments and see the changes. It’s like people — because I’ve being living in L.A. for like 10 years now — and people are like, “Oh, don’t you miss the seasons?” and to an extent I do, but when you’re there long enough, if you look closely enough, there are seasons and there are certain plants that come out at certain times of the year and there is still a season for everything and there are the changes. It’s just like Gary. It’s how you look at things and the angle that you view them from. So I’m having a ton of fun still with the character. I don’t think there’s anything lacking. It’s just he has the same emotions as everyone else, it’s just will be for different reasons that don’t seem dramatic to everyone else but when presented to Gary and he sees them. People, I think, watching it realize how important certain things are to him and if he doesn’t get them it really upsets him. And obviously when you see autistic people get upset with certain things to an unknowing outsider it’s like, “Oh, why is he overreacting?” But once you get to know them and the day in and day out thing and how they relate to it, you appreciate that. So it’s nice to show that, but it doesn’t have to be woman slapping you in the face or breaking your heart or someone blowing up. There can be a lot of emotion attached to the small things in life and the devil-in-the-day kind of thing.
Can you talk about working with these actors? Is it a joy to go to work and work with them?
RYAN: Oh, yes. Now everyone’s lovely and we spend a lot of down time with each other as well. It’s just everyone’s like really relaxed and there’s no like ego on the set. It’s all about the product and the characters and it’s just so much fun to work with a cast who cares so deeply about the end product and we’ll have like script meetings and tone meetings and a lot of our down time apart from Warren and I, like playing X-box in his room and massaging each other. A lot of it is just talking about or how can we play this scene: what’s an interesting angle to come at it from, what’s a way it’s never been done before? So, it’s just wonderful knowing that everyone cares. And if you go to work one day and you’re not quite bothered if they’re like, “Oh, let’s just get the day done.” Normally one of the actors will be like they’ve come in to have a big acting day and you’re like, “Alright, alright, alright, let’s get on with it, let’s make sure it’s really, really good.” So, yes, everyone all the actors get each other’s back and we like to play with the dialogue and make it fresh and stuff. So it’s just an absolute joy it’s quite a privilege, the kind of system that we’ve ended up sitting up here, it’s lovely.
What are the differences that where the story wants to go this season as opposed to the first season?
RYAN: I mean, like I still haven’t seen any of the episodes, but I know there’s a lot more like fireworks and stuff and there’s a lot more action and I believe there’s a lot more effects. I wouldn’t be able to completely confirm that, because I’m never invited to set on those days. But, I think it’s pretty much the same. Just a lot more questioning about if these guys just aren’t good for each other, why don’t they just kind of disband? And there’s a lot of new blood and like some new Alpha’s and stuff that mix the part. But I don’t think it’s changed that much. I mean, I know there was some lovely like, political analogies and stuff when Iro was on it, that were nice. And I think those carry over, I can’t see how they can’t. But, I guess won’t know until I see, like the full until I’ve seen the whole season, how it blends. But it seems pretty much the same on a day-to-day basis. It’s been nice, but I won’t know if it’s different until I’ve seen them all.
Will there be any evolution of Gary’s powers, perhaps something with more and more cloud technology being implemented in the real world?
RYAN: It’s almost like a backward step for him. Well, I guess it’s a forward step, but there is one episode where basically Gary is taken away. He’s taken to a bit of a blind spot with regards to electromagnetic wave lengths and stuff. And he starts noticing other streams and that’s quite a new opening to him, because having like being brought up in the city, I don’t think he knew he had access to certain wave lengths that he experiences in the countryside.
Gary’s always trying to be like the rest of the team, but he seems to be hindered by his autism. Do you think we’ll get to see him in a bit of a leadership role this season? And how does his autism play into that?
RYAN: I think he becomes one later kind of just onto himself. Like he doesn’t need the people as much this year. The whole idea of people being above him and them being a kind of maternal father-figure, he kind of disappears from that and he goes off on his own. He’s very much his own boss this year and will do stuff behind the backs of the Alphas. And I think the autism plays into it. He doesn’t feel as guilty about doing the stuff. Like he kind of knows that you shouldn’t, it’s the rules though. Once you see everyone else breaking the rules they’ve set, why can’t you kind of thing? The “do as I say, not as I do” and he’s seen everyone doing and saying bad stuff they shouldn’t everyone – so he was following examples, I guess. There was no specific leader. It was just everyone else’s example and now that they’re all breaking these rules and following their own passions against the grain of what the Alphas are supposedly standing for. I think he just switches. His moral switch just flips because he realizes if “everyone else commits a crime, I can commit a crime.” So it’s just about coming into his own, becoming the boss of himself kind of thing this year.
Does any peer pressure kick in for him?
RYAN: No, no, like I think it would have and he knows that there are responsibilities, buy because he’s very literal and takes people at their word if they say, “Oh, you must do this and this is what I do this is illegal” then he still stick to that. But the second he sees you do it and it’s noted then he’s realizing this year not to take people at their word as much, which is a huge change for someone with autism, because that’s the world that they often live in, is the literalness of the spoken word and the images it creates. But when he starts paying attention to the actions that follow these sayings, then he quickly changes his own suit and pursues his own passions.
What can we expect from Red Flag this season?
RYAN: Oh man, they just want to blow everything up. Then they infiltrate the Alpha’s group a lot more and tear us apart from the inside and yes, they completely kind of start destroying the Alpha’s as a group. And Stanton Parish is he makes a comeback and he’s quite adamant about pursuing his vendettas to the end. And he just exhausts all the Alpha’s trying it he finds everyone’s weaknesses and abuses them. You know, he’s the perfect bad buy, especially for Dr. Rosen. So that is that’s the big fight this year is just trying to keep the Alpha’s group together, because they can’t take down Parish individually.
To see how Gary’s journey evolves and transforms this season, as well as the difficulties all the Alphas face both internally and externally from various tensions and threats, be sure to tune in for an all new ALPHAS on Monday, July 30th at 10:00 p.m. on Syfy.