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Alpha Male: Talking to Alan Tudyk about FOX's "Dollhouse"

Despite the identity of Dollhouse's malevolent Active, codenamed Alpha, leaking over the internet a few months ago, the reveal in last Friday evening's episode of Dollhouse ("Briar Rose") that Alpha had managed to infiltrate the Dollhouse with the help of Paul Ballard... in the guise of Dollhouse designer Steven Kepler, left many viewers' jaws on the ground.

Dollhouse's Alpha and the faux Steven Kepler were, of course, played by frequent Joss Whedon collaborator Alan Tudyk, best known as Wash on Whedon's short-lived FOX series Firefly (and the subsequent big screen adaptation Serenity).

Tudyk participated in a conference call on Monday with press to discuss his role on Dollhouse, what a potential Season Two could mean for Alpha, and how on earth Wash got to play Dollhouse's "god-like" Big Bad, who Tudyk says is comprised of 43 different personalities. (Just don't expect one of them to be Steve the Pirate.)

So was waltzing off with Echo into the sunset in "Briar Rose" really Alpha's game plan all along?

"I think that’s Alpha’s plan, sure," said Tudyk. "Everything that Alpha has done has been to get Echo. Whenever you see Alpha, he’s screwing with the dollhouse and it’s always around Echo and his obsession with Echo. It was his plan all along to come get Echo and that’s what it was all about. So now he has her and he gets to fulfill his plan now, which is to make her like him. Alpha isn’t really Alpha. He is Alpha, but what Alpha is this composite of people. We understand that he’s a bunch of people crammed into one. He’s 43 people at once. He’s ascended in his mind to a god-like place."

As for what a second season of Dollhouse would mean for Alpha, Tudyk was playing his cards close to his chest. "I think, the second season for Alpha--wow, I want to be able to say this without giving away," said a sly Tudyk. "I can’t say because Alpha may not make it through the next episode. He does have Echo and Alpha is a formidable person to deal with, but he has Echo and that’s playing with fire. It could blow up in his face."

As for how Tudyk landed the role, it all came down to a game of Pictionary at Nathan Fillion's house, apparently.

"[Joss] set me up really well because he didn’t tell me he was offering it to me or that he wanted me for the role when he first described it," said Tudyk. "He laid it out like the role does this, and he does this and he’s this composite of these people. He gave me a full scope of the guy that he was this person who was obsessed with Echo and was 43 people at once and has all of these skill sets crammed into one, but because he’s 43 people at once, he’s mad. But he can do many things, because he is also 43 people at once and he’s sort of godlike in his own mind. I was like, 'Oh, my God, that’s sounds so amazing. Who’s playing that?' [Joss:] I want you to play it.'"

"It was really cool. It wasn’t like we were in his office discussing work. We were over at Nathan Fillion’s house for Pictionary," he continued. "We were on a Pictionary break when he said, 'I want to talk to you about' – I was asking, I brought it up. 'What’s going on with the show? I want to hear about your new show,' because it had yet to start and we were just getting into the strike time. I was really blown away that he wanted me for it and I was excited to get to play it. [...] I don’t get to play bad asses very often."

But Whedon did give Tudyk some room to create his own take on Alpha, though Tudyk says that he was definitely relying on Whedon's own take, given how integral Alpha has been to Dollhouse's overarching plot.

"I think I had space to create him, but I was hungry for anything he gave me," said Tudyk. "Any idea he had or any information he could fill in with his vision of Alpha because it’s been shaped by all these other episodes, these different things of what other people have said about him. So I’m adding up everything people have said about him and then going to him and saying, 'Are all of these impressions of Alpha true because they’re saying that’s who he is, but are they right? What is your vision of Alpha?' I was really dependent on his vision because it’s definitely, he’s had this guy in mind since the beginning. "

"In the playing of it, in the actual shooting of it, we got to have fun and there was a lot of little bits," he went on. "But the main thing for the last episode is he wanted... that stakeout as much as possible, although it wasn’t a very well kept secret, but they created a really great role in Steven Kepler. He wanted that to be a full person that people could believe in before he flipped into one of those other personalities."

Tudyk says that he believes that Alpha has the ability to become the most perfect human specimen. "I think he has the ability to be," mused Tudyk. " I don’t think that he—like any of us, experience because in a lot of ways when you’re downloading a bunch of people, you’re downloading perspective and his experience. Somebody can go through one experience and have a conclusion about that and another person could have the same experience and have a different conclusion. Somebody can end up enlightened and somebody else could end up a villain. I think he takes the wrong lessons from his downloaded experiences. He is certainly evolved, but I don’t know, the swine flu is evolution, isn’t it? In a way, it’s an evolution of flu, that’s sort of him... I bet Alpha believes that there won’t be anybody [in the future]. Heck, no, there will be Alpha. Alpha will be there. Alpha is a god. He is forever now. He can live forever. He has the ability to live forever."

In the meantime, look for Tudyk to get to showcase some of Alpha's numerous personalities. "There’s sort of a Mickey personality that I like a lot," said Tudyk. "He’s fun, good old boy. He’s fun. He’s one of the more distinct ones that you’ll see. He has a little more room to breathe, yes, him. And then just sort of the overall Alpha, the composite guy, because there is a basic, there is a center. There is a center that when he’s in control of things, which is egomaniacal and he believes he’s God. Maybe there’s a Gar, but it’s very subtle. Actually there’s a great dodge ball player in there. He was just never given a shot. It doesn’t get a chance to do that. If he survives this episode and there’s a new season, hopefully we can flesh that out."

As for whether Alpha and Tudyk will turn up in the bonus episode of Dollhouse ("Epitaph One"), Tudyk isn't saying. "You’ll never know until you buy the DVD," he joked. "I don’t want to comment on my state beyond this episode, or Alpha’s state, my fate beyond the episode totally alive, living a healthy life in Venice, California. But Alpha’s fate, it’s uncertain."

Meanwhile, Tudyk is sworn to secrecy on his next project, ABC's pilot for a remake of sci-fi series V, written by The 4400 creator Scott Peters. "I can say this, it’s really good," said Tudyk. "I hope that they pick it up. If you’re a fan, which I was at the beginning, of the first one this is kind of everything that you remember without going back and watching because if you go back and watch the original V, you’re like, oh, I thought this was great. It looks really kind of cheesy. It fills in your memory as it should be. It’s like really awesome effects. The effects are done by [Firefly's] Zoic [and they do] all the spacecrafts and anything requiring digital enhancement... and they do a great job. And then, of course, Morena Baccarin is in it and she’s the leader of the aliens, so you can’t get any better than that."

What can viewers expect to see Alpha get up to in Friday evening's season finale of Dollhouse ("Omega")?

"I love how 'Briar Rose' ends. It was that whole Sleeping Beauty thing and you knew somebody was going to get kissed at the end. I’m glad it was Alpha kissing her, but you see that, both of us together. 'Oh, my God, yes, I know who you are. Yes, I know who you are. Come on, let’s go,'" said Tudyk. "We take it on the road. There’s maybe a kidnapping or two in the episode, but [...] for Alpha it’s about fulfilling his plan, which is just the last step. Getting Echo was the second to the last step of his ultimate plan. He’s got one more thing in place before they can really go on their worldwide domination killing spree, ruling the world spree. It’s about making her in his own image really, as far as he is this, he’s a god. In his mind he’s a god. He’s ascended and he wants to bring her up to his level of multiple personality person. So it’s cool, you’ll see."

"Tim Minear directed the next episode," continued Tudyk. "Tim was part of Firefly. He did 'War Stories.' He did my favorite episode and he’s one of my favorite directors on Firefly. The next episode he wrote and directed and I really like this next episode coming up. I think it really shows off Tim and he gets to play with all the elements, it’s such a heightened episode, as far as Echo has been kidnapped by Alpha. There’s so much to play with and he does a great job."

Dollhouse's season finale airs Friday at 9 pm ET/PT on FOX.


ben said…
There had better be a season 2. Seriously, if I ruled the world, FOX executives would be shot at birth.
There'd also be free chocolate for the poor.
Heatherette said…
I still think that Dollhouse has some serious faults but I did enjoy seeing Tudyk in such a different role. I loved him as Wash. He has great comedic timing. But he obviously is good at playing the dark stuff too. Now I'm really looking forward to seeing him in V if it gets picked up. And the fabulous Morena Baccarin too!
tony libido said…
I truly hope they put this incoherent mess of a show out of its misery.

Said as an eternal fan of BtVS & FIREFLY. Even the episodes that have been hyped as improvements put me to sleep.
Anonymous said…
Sounds a bit like the old (1960's) Star Trek episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before". A man (Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell) is given god-like powers. A woman gets similar powers. He wants to rule the galaxy. He wants her at his side. Kirk has to foil his plans. (A bit of trivia: The grave marker that Mitchell creates for Kirk's grave says "Capt. James R. Kirk", but we all know his middle name is Tiberius.)
Mazza said…
Great interview. I knew the twist was coming but it was still totally shocking. I'm looking forward to tonight's DH more than I have the last few eps b/c of AT. If it comes back next season, great. If not I won't be sad either.
Eric said…
Seriously Whedon is off his game with Dollhouse. Boring and not nearly as deep as it thinks it is.
John Golden said…
This is a great show, and this was a strong episode.

The layered metaphors of abuse, dolls, and sleeping beauty was very cool. Multiple lines that can be taken multiple ways. And the continued moral meditation on who is right, when you know it's going to be no one.

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