Kicking off Season 2 in January, SyFy's Resident Alien just aired its midseason finale and left fans with plenty of burning questions. The SyFy series follows Harry Vanderspeigle (Alan Tudyk), an alien who lands in a remote Colorado mountain town with a mission to destroy humans. Things, of course, don’t go quite as planned and Harry must assimilate in the community before he can execute his ultimate plan. *Spoiler:* Season 2 Episode 8 ends with Harry learning an alien race has already infiltrated the planet, but which race? That he’s not quite sure of.
As we wait for Resident Alien to return this summer, LA Confidential chatted with Sara Tomko, who plays Asta, the first person to know Harry is secretly an alien. In the most recent episode, she also saved his life.
You started your career with experimental theater and musicals. What skills or lessons or wisdom or anything did you gain from that time that you still carry with you?
I think the biggest skill— something my husband and I call impulse work— is something that I learned first in college during my experimental theater days. It started with what we would call back then “dancing in the dark.” But it was this way that you get out of your head and into your body and try to just stop thinking and just be impulsive and use your whole body to really seek out the feelings that you're trying to work on in that particular scene or with that particular character. But you do it at first in the dark because there's this idea of when other people are watching, there’s judgment. So if you can manage to find what you're looking for without that judgment—then eventually we would bring the lights up a little higher and higher— the idea was you should be able to be just as impulsive and in your body in front of an audience as you would be in the dark. And it was so much fun, and it was such a bonding experience with other castmates, with other students that were in the program. It's something I still love doing today, just turning the lights off and trying to understand how my body feels out what I'm saying.
I've been a singer for as long as I can remember. And that's something that I still use for preparation sometimes, especially when I have days as Asta when she needs to be really tender and soft and she's going through some emotional stuff. I can kind of go right back to a very vulnerable place when I'm just singing acapella by myself in a room.
What was your favorite musical as a kid?
Oh, man, West Side Story. As I got a little bit older, I understood that it wasn't politically correct and I was always a little bit confused by that. I just recently saw Steven Spielberg's newest rendition. I was weeping, just weeping the whole time. I was looking over at my husband, he was weeping. We were both just so in awe, but also so grateful that he gave it this new life in the most correct, authentic way. So I was a big West Side Story junkie. And I always wanted to be Maria, but I was always more of an Anita anyway.
I'm also a big, big fan of Phantom of the Opera. There's something so sad and haunting about Phantom and I remember when I was younger, watching that musical with my mother and being so intrigued by him and his underworld, but also that moment with the chandelier coming down in the actual audience and it being terrifying to me. And I thought that was such a cool trick that they did for the audience. That soundtrack, I find myself singing it still to this day.
Now that I think about it, it’s sort of similar to Harry and Asta. They don't have a normal relationship when it comes to their friendship and how they feel about one another. And for all intents and purposes, he's sort of this monster from the underworld and she's so intrigued by him that she follows him wherever he goes. But they both feel so strongly about one another, but they don't know why and it's this way that they're drawn to one another.
On Instagram, you posted about how Resident Alien makes space for women's voices. Can you tell us more about that?
We're really fortunate to have a showrunner, Chris Sheridan, who really cares about giving each one of us a voice and having an opinion on our character and our storyline, but especially the women of the show. He’s sort of made it his mission, since the beginning, to make sure that we feel heard and seen. He has a daughter and I think he's sensitive to women in the world who maybe aren't seen and heard, and I think it’s just really important to him. So it's really nice to have a showrunner who cares in that way and then further to be able to execute that on screen. Like when you have episode three of the season, written by Jenna Lamia and then executed by Shannon Kohli and the rest of us doing like a girls’ night episode. I just remember how much we felt empowered. When we looked at each other in the room and we were having so much fun dancing around and being able to just be in our bodies and be with each other. It's so nice that people are much more open to that these days in the industry. Because it is important that we are seen as equals and it is important that we have a voice and we use it for good. But we don't always get the opportunity or we have to fight back twice as hard. I feel like we're in a society now that's a lot more accepting of that, and certainly the industry is sort of pushing that now as a main medium for its media. I feel like it's so nice to be able to be a woman and be celebrating other women that are so strong and inspiring and put that out there into the world, even in such a medium sci-fi— in a world where it's mostly about this alien crash landing. You don't think you're gonna really fall in love with these characters, but you do and I feel like the women as a whole have such a connection. I think it's really nice to see women connecting like that on screen and it not having anything to do with a relationship to a man. It's female friendships that I think we really showcase quite well on the show.
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How would you describe Asta’s journey so far in Season 2?
This season has been a lot lighter. At first, she went through a lot of grief in Season 1. I feel like Season 1 happened in like a week's time and Season 2 is more like a couple months. So you get to experience a little bit of summer, a little bit of fall, transitioning back into winter. I've gotten a chance to play Asta as not angry or sad. I've gotten a chance to play her as really having a good time, letting her hair down, laughing, making jokes, which has been really interesting. I had to pull Chris aside one day and say, “ Well how does Asta joke?” I know she's sarcastic, but this is the first time that I feel like I've had an opportunity as Asta to be on the comedy side of things, even though I get to be the straight man with Harry. I get to have these really fun reactions to what he's doing, but I'm rarely the comedian in the room. So it's been fun to be able to have a couple of really sarcastic joke moments that I had to just stop and go, “Wow, this is new for me. I've never never experienced this before. This is fun.” It's something I get to see my castmates do a lot of improv onset together. It's such a blast to watch them work, so that's been really great about this season. Also reconnecting with Asta's daughter Jay. We are still in a very complicated, sort of awkward relationship, trying to figure out what we are to one another, but constantly still trying to be in her life and understand what that means for Asta, I think, has been a really interesting journey for me.
It seems society will always have a fascination with aliens. How do you think Resident Alien elevates the mythology around extraterrestrials?
I think that we do a really great job of reminding our audience that there could definitely be aliens that walk among us and that there probably are. I really love the journey that Harry takes to find compassion for humanity. And I think in society, we have this tendency to villainize aliens in this way where clearly they'll come to Earth and they'll kill us and they won't understand us, but we do this amazing job of actually showing how, “OK, maybe he didn't kill us because he just sort of messed up, but he actually fell in love with us as a species and now he doesn't want to kill us.” I think there's something to be said about that kind of compassion that you can find even for other species. I think that's something that we offer to our industry and to society with this show by reminding each other that we're all an other and not having compassion for that is really doing our whole society a disservice.
To jump off of that, why is science fiction such a powerful way to gain insight into humanity?
My girlfriend and I, we have this thing we say to each other, which is “just just remember you're floating in the sky.” We're on a rock floating in the sky. There's this grander purpose. There's this galaxy. There's this other world. It feels like the whole universe is out there and it's so easy for us to forget in our day to day lives. I think what's great about science fiction is it reminds us to think beyond where we're at on this planet, to think beyond this hemisphere and into the possibility of other Earths, other entities, a greater meaning of life. I think actually there's a lot of people that really relate to science fiction for that reason alone because it's easy for us to say that we're the humans and they're the aliens, but we’re the aliens too. And maybe they're the humans, like we're making a judgment on something we really don't know anything about. I think science fiction does a great job of reminding us that we're not the only ones that exist, and not everybody believes in that. But I'd like to say that they probably don't believe in it because they don't want to see the truth. They don't want to reflect back on, “Oh, there's more to this.” It's scary to think about when you really go beyond the Earth's hemisphere. It's really scary to think of how small we are in comparison. So I can understand why people might be in denial and not wanting to really deal with that thought Process. But for me, I feel so deeply connected to the universe and to other beings here and there that I'm just glad that I can be a part of a genre that celebrates that.
Do you have any projects you're looking forward to this year?
My husband and I have a production company called In the Pocket productions and we have a feature film that we are getting into pre-production. We're going to try and get that on its feet in 2023. I'm going to be going into meetings with my husband, Theodore Pederson, who's the director, and our best friend, John Lyle, who's our cinematographer. We're going to be spending some time really getting into the guts of the script, making sure we have all our ducks in row so we can properly bring it into the world.
I think the best description would be that it’s an arthouse horror film. We’re really into arthouse movies in general, and we also love international films. That's sort of our taste at home…It’s a bit psychological and keeps you on the the edge of your seat.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Photography by: Philip Jarmain