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Interview with Ira Steven Behr, Ryan Cartwright and Azita
Ghanizada of "Alphas" on
Syfy Conference Call - Alphas
Ira Steven Behr, Ryan Cartwright and Azita Ghanizada
Moderator: Stephen Cox
June 28, 2010
10:00 am CT
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to
The Alphas conference call. I would now like to turn the conference over
to Stephen Cox. Please go ahead sir.
Stephen Cox: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us this morning. I know
itís a little early on the West Coast but we appreciate you coming out.
Today we have a great call for you for our new series Alphas, which
premiers Monday, July 11 at 10:00 pm.
We have executive producer Ira Steven Behr on the line as well as Ryan
Cartwright who plays Gary Bell on the show. Azita Ghanizada is actually
on set right now and might be able to join us but she is not with us
right now but hopefully she will join. So weíll now turn it over to your
questions and theyíre really excited to talk to you.
Operator: Thank you. Our first question comes from the
line of Pattye Grippo with Pazsaz Entertainment Network. Please proceed
with your question.
Pattye Grippo: Hi. Good morning. Thanks for joining us today.
Pattye Grippo: So let me ask you how did both of you become involved
Ira Steven Behr: Ryan, go ahead. You were there before me.
Ryan Cartwright: Okay. Yes. I think I was the first actor on board. I
was having another fun horrible pilot season in LA running around doing
my monkey showings trying to get a job and then this really good script
turned up and I just wanted to be a part of it immediately.
And went into the audition and it was a tricky role for me because the
character has autism and it was a bit intimidating. But then once Iíd
signed on one good piece after another fell into place and everyone that
got on board after that and that was already on board that I met was
fantastic and smart. So I was super happy to get it.
Pattye Grippo: And Ira?
Ira Steven Behr: I had taken a year off actually to finish up a novel I
had started a couple years ago and decided to finish it. And I just
turned down TV work for a year, which did not make my agents happy or my
She wanted me out of the house and as soon as I was done I called my
agents and said letís see whatís out there. And one of the first jobs I
went on was Alphas and I saw the pilot, which I thought was really
interesting and I really liked the characters, which is what I really
look for in a pilot.
And I met with Zak and Michael Karnow because itís really important you
know, if youíre going to be the show runner itís always nice if you can
get along with the guys who thought up the project so thereís not going
to be any kind of tension.
Pattye Grippo: Yes.
Ira Steven Behr: And we got along really well and I just thought the
possibilities for a really good show were there. So and I had been doing
a dance with the Syfy Network for about ten years of them offering
projects and me turning them down or me going to them and it not working
So I figured you know what, letís just end this once and for all and let
me do something for Syfy. And here we are.
Pattye Grippo: And for both of you, you have both done several different
projects on television. What was it particularly about Alphas that
Ira Steven Behr: Ryan.
Ryan Cartwright: For me, I was actually excited by a lot of the good
humor in it because you know, I love comedy and been in really good
comedies and stuff. And a lot of the pilots that I was going up for were
comedies (and good comedies).
But they didnít compare because the comedy was kind of just a lot wetter
and not as real. And the humor in Alphas from the people trying to rub
along Iíve realized is actually a lot funnier and drier and more real
and comedy is best when it comes from a real place. So that really
excited me. Yes, I really liked the comic element of the charactersí
relationships with each other.
Pattye Grippo: Right. And Ira?
Ira Steven Behr: My answer is pretty much in line with Ryanís. Iíve done
a lot of genre television and itís always been a struggle, one that I
have kept fighting sometimes when fighting will seem to be the most
ridiculous thing to do.
And I wish I would have just stopped fighting but I was always fighting
to try to get humor into the shows. And it wasnít always easy and
sometimes it was impossible. And here was a chance, I mean like right
there on the plate to do honest, real character driven humor in a show
that had enough other elements in terms of you know, drama and mythology
that the humor was going to be woven into that fabric in such a way that
it could not be pulled out.
And I thought yes, finally, they can cut this, they can cut that but
they canít cut it all, in each episode. So and as it turned out much to
my shock, everyone was really serious about the humor and they were not
you know, turning around and saying you know what, second thought, screw
They actually have supported the humor and as long as it stays as Ryan
said, as long as itís real I think it will remain a really important
part of the series and a really true and unique part of the series.
Pattye Grippo: I look forward to seeing it. Thank you both for your time
Ira Steven Behr: Thank you.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks very much.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Curt Wagner with
RedEye. Please proceed with your question.
Curt Wagner: Hey guys. Thanks for taking the time.
Ryan Cartwright: (Of course).
Curt Wagner: First of all Ryan, rest in peace Mr. Nigel Murray.
Ryan Cartwright: Thank you very much.
Curt Wagner: I was sad to see him go but here you are now.
Ryan Cartwright: Thank you.
Curt Wagner: But bringing that up, I kind of see a little bit of
similarity between him and Gary in that they sort of are able to retain
a lot of information and have this you know, have sort of extra
abilities to do that sort of thing. Could you sort of give me your take
on Gary and how you approach the character and what fun things youíre
going to be doing this season?
Ryan Cartwright: Yes. Sure. Obviously the first thing that came up was
the fact that he is autistic. And Iím not sure Nigel Murray was. I think
he was just a bit mad, see? I think he was a little bit just eccentric.
But this guy is like 32 on the Karr scale and that was the first thing
that I had to tackle just because if youíre playing anything like that
you have to go in with a lot of respect and it was fascinating actually
just getting to research that. I just read a load of books on the
subject and saw a lot of documentaries and stuff and spoke to advisors.
And it was really good actually. It got me thoroughly interested in
neuroscience and stuff, which is great for this job because itís like
every week thereís a new kind of extreme neuro condition that we get to
investigate. So what was lovely was like once I had researched the
condition/syndrome part of it, it was really good piecing together Gary
to the point where I could actually give him a good sense of humor and
lift him like all actors say, you want to lift the guy off the page and
not have him.
You donít want to play the syndrome, you want to play the character and
the person. And the way it was written as well was really good. He had a
voice already there. So yes, it was a really good challenge but a fun
challenge and now heís up and running itís really good to be Gary every
Curt Wagner: And you do - I love he does bring a lot of humor, which is
a lot of fun.
Ryan Cartwright: Thank you very much.
Curt Wagner: So for Ira I wanted to talk a little bit about the themes
of the show. It seems that there are a lot of little things like the
gifts are not really a problem but some people perceive them as
There is sort of that be all you can be thing. And also even some of
these Alpha gifts I guess are sort of run of the mill, day to day
capabilities but they are to the tenth power so to speak. So is there
some sort of you know, is that some sort of thing - you know, work hard
and be an alpha type of thing going on?
Ira Steven Behr: Well, as Ryan said, we certainly use neuroscience as a
basis for a lot of the jumping off points for the tales that we tell. If
you go on YouTube youíll see the most amazing things that people can do.
I mean growing up it was always heís a savant, heís a savant. Now
instead of being a savant youíre an alpha, you know? And maybe the
skills are pushed up a little bit beyond the savant scale but I donít
know if youíve seen the gentleman who they take up in a helicopter and
fly him over a major city like Rome for 45 minutes in a helicopter.
And then when they land they put him in a room, which is filled with
white drawing paper covered every wall and they leave him in there for
five days. Obviously they feed him and let him sleep and he draws the
entire city, every window to scale, every pillar, every post. Itís an
amazing thing to watch, you know? And if that isnít an alpha ability, I
donít know what is.
So yes, I think the thing that dramatically we like is that every
ability comes with a down side and how true is that? I mean look at Gary
is a perfect example. Heís this incredible transducer who can pick
signals out of the air. But obviously his down side is very apparent
with his autism.
Or you have someone like Hicks who is hyperkinetic and has the most
amazing ability and control over his body and yet at the same time he
has certain psychological problems that have put him in AA, heís
divorced. So all these abilities come with a down side and I think
thatís an interesting thing.
But I think if youíre talking about themes, we could talk until the sun
goes down and the stars come out. I mean there are a lot of themes and
obviously weíre only in the first season so weíre getting close at least
in the writing towards finishing the first season. And you know, a lot
of the ideas are only going and themes are only going to get deeper and
richer as the show continues on its 14-year stay on Syfy.
Curt Wagner: Right. Okay. All right. Thanks guys.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks very much.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Joshua Maloni with
Niagara Frontier Publications. Please proceed with your question.
Joshua Maloni: Hi guys. Thanks for your time.
Ryan Cartwright: All right mate.
Ira Steven Behr: Hey. How are you doing?
Joshua Maloni: Good. So Ryan, you know, Iíve heard stories of Tom
Welling sort of getting teased on the Smallville set for his facial
mannerisms and the things that sort of went into playing Superman.
So Iím wondering for you and for your cast mates from an acting
standpoint what are some of the challenges of playing out super powers?
Ryan Cartwright: I mean apart from on a technical level like every now
and again when you have to do your certain skill you know, sometimes the
shot is a little bit tricky and everyone has to stop and wait for you to
kind of look very serious.
But to be honest, itís actually I think a lot of the crew are jealous of
our powers because theyíre like because theyíre quite real itís not that
crazy. So they all like at the end of the day youíll just hear them
murmuring and wandering off set saying man, I wish I could just do that.
Man, Iíd give that guy what for.
And apparently like some of the people they said that their wives are
telling them not to do Gary when theyíre on the telephone. Theyíre like
I know, I can tell that your hands are waving in the air and youíre
trying to open windows while youíre talking to me. So just stop it. So
no, I think theyíre quite fun. I think theyíre going to imitate in a
Joshua Maloni: All right. And Ira, what do you like about this cast?
Ira Steven Behr: Oh man, Ryan is on the phone. I hate all this self
congratulatory stuff. But you know, the cast is phenomenal. I mean the
cast is one of the things that drew me to the project.
I mean David is David, you know? I mean Iíve enjoyed his work all the
way back to Matewan. Heís one of those actors who you know, when I look
back at people Iíve written for itís like thatís the guy Iím really
proud to know heís read lines that Iíve written. Malik is really focused
and powerful and knows his stuff and is a pro and just plays the truth
to the scenes.
And Warren - heís our loner. I always try to find some kind of a McQueen
character right, that I can play with, the guy who doesnít say a lot but
is able to communicate a lot without a lot of dialogue at times. And
Warren is able to do that. The funny thing about Warren is heís a really
sweet guy, a really nice guy.
And when I was up there in Toronto it was like youíve got to play
against that nice guy at times, you know? Youíve got to do the mystery
thing and heís doing that now completely. And Azita is a riot in the
fact that she is the absolute antithesis of her character Rachel. In
real life Azita, if she was on this call I donít think any of us would
get a word in edgewise.
She just has the life spirit in her letís say and obviously sheís
playing this really conservative, really uptight, really quiet girl
searching for her identity. And Azita has like seven identities in ten
minutes so itís sheís great and Lauraís terrific. She has that she is
able to do the push as we call it when sheís able to get her victims to
do what she wants if they are indeed victims.
But she does this thing with her eyes and itís pretty damn cool to
watch. And obviously she has a really interesting physical presence. I
mean sheís kind of magnetic on screen and Gary you know, Ryanís
character - whatíd you say?
Ryan Cartwright: (Unintelligible) - you can skip me.
Ira Steven Behr: Yes. No, Iíll do that in the script. But no, I mean it
is amazing. Iíve said this already in other interviews. Iím sure Iím
going to say it to death but, Iím shocked at the level of work that Ryan
has done with this character.
We keep talking amongst ourselves whenever weíre not sure whether Gary
would do something or someone with autism would do something itís like
we should just call Ryan because heíll tell us. Heíll know. He has done
a ton of research. You know a character is successful and Iíve been on a
lot of writing staffs.
You know a character or an idea is successful if everyone on staff wants
to write for it or for that person. And you know, everyone wants to
write Garyís scenes. Everyone wants to come up with Garyís scenes and
that really is the highest praise you can give to a character or to an
actor is when everyone is just jazzed to sit down at a computer and
think up stuff for that person to say and do.
Joshua Maloni: Great. Thanks guys. Looking forward to the show.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks very much.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Kathie Huddleston
with Blastr.com. Please proceed with your question.
Kathie Huddleston: Hi. Itís (Kathie). Hi guys.
Ryan Cartwright: Hi. How are you doing?
Kathie Huddleston: Hey. Iím doing great. Congratulations on the series.
Kathie Huddleston: The first episode was awesome. So Ryan, tell me what
kind of journey would you say that Gary is on this first season?
Ryan Cartwright: Well, heís gone straight into the deep end now that the
team has suddenly like properly stepped into the arena. Obviously
theyíre still having therapy and itís an ongoing process helping.
Dr. Rosen is helping everyone with the down sides to their abilities and
stuff and their own neuroses and everyone getting along. But also now
thereís just a ton of action and itís gotten seriously dangerous and
itís at a certain point now for Gary where he is having to decide
himself and also those around him are having to decide whether itís even
right to put a person like Gary in these dangerous, life threatening
And itís very interesting because it seems like it actually is the best
thing for him in a way because he is his own person. And even though he
is making decisions within a limited capacity itís still his decision.
So itís a very trying time I guess for little old Gary but he seems to
be having fun so let him get shot at.
Kathie Huddleston: And Ira, where is this first season going to take us?
Ira Steven Behr: Yes, thatís the question. Well, oddly enough in about
3-1/2 hours I will be going into the network and pitching the final
episodes of the season and telling the network where the series is
So Iím going to be very interested to see if they agree with us. One of
the things that really appeals to me about the show is you know, in line
with some of the other stuff that Iíve done is that this is a show that
is going to evolve and is always evolving and is not a cookie cutter
kind of series where every episode is exactly the same and plays out
basically as the episode the week before and the episode the week after.
So this show is evolving. It evolves in five episodes and itíll evolve
more when we get to the tenth episode. And so I think whatís obviously
going to happen without giving anything away is this is a group of
people who are not really your first choice to be an investigative unit
or to be going out into the field and getting shot at as Ryan said.
They are kind of working for the government but the government doesnít
totally know whether to trust them, they donít know whether to trust the
government. Theyíre working against this organization of alphas called
Red Flag and Red Flag keeps telling them that theyíre on the wrong side.
And itís a very precarious position to be in.
And as we like to say in the writers office, the center cannot hold.
Eventually you know, things are going to start cracking. You know cracks
are going to appear on the surface and I think by the end of season one
there will be cracks appearing all over the surface.
Kathie Huddleston: Wow. Thatís awesome. Thank you so much gentlemen.
Ira Steven Behr: Thank you.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks very much.
Stephen Cox: And Iíd like to announce we have great news. Azita
Ghanizada has been able to join us for the rest of the call. She plays
Rachel on Alphas.
Ryan Cartwright: (Hi Azita).
Azita Ghanizada: Hi guys. I actually donít know that Iíll be able. I
think weíre just about to block. Weíre shooting a very action packed
scene in this distillery and (Laura) is chasing Alpha right now and I
might have to jump off real quick for blocking. But hi.
Ira Steven Behr: Hey.
Ryan Cartwright: Hello Azita.
Azita Ghanizada: Hi guys. Iím going to get yelled at by our director in
Ryan Cartwright: You troublemaker.
Azita Ghanizada: I am. I know.
Stephen Cox: We can take the next question.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Reg Seeton with
thedeadbolt.com. Please proceed with your question.
Reg Seeton: Hi Ryan.
Ryan Cartwright: Hello.
Reg Seeton: Hi. In the process of understanding Garyís ability can you
talk about what you unexpectedly learned about yourself and what youíre
Ryan Cartwright: On a personal level or the character?
Reg Seeton: Just on a personal level and understanding his abilities,
what you learned about yourself.
Ryan Cartwright: Crikey. I mean I guess just on like a neurological
level it was amazing how just learning about how I and I guess most
people as well, just how we think and the fact that we donít always
We donít always go to pictures in our minds, how we kind of fill in the
blanks a lot of the time. Our brains do this wonderful job of making us
socially aware of the minutiae of what people are actually saying and
just we live a lot more - we get by a lot more living on the gist. Like
we just take little clues of what people are saying and just run with
And also the eye contact thing was quite bizarre because itís quite
relaxing sometimes when you play Gary, when I play Gary on set because I
realized that apart from when youíre having a conversation with someone
there are two conversations going on. There are the words that youíre
saying to each other.
But then when youíre looking in someoneís eyes there is a whole other
conversation going on, not just a body language thing but this back and
forth in your eyes. You can understand peopleís intent a lot more and
itís quite relaxing to play Gary and just to deal with language during
the day. And then sometimes when you finish filming itís kind of
difficult to go back to looking people in the eye.
Itís kind of exhausting. Sometimes people will just look me in the eye
and Iíll go not now. I donít want to talk about it. So that was
Reg Seeton: Ira, since there are so many projects out there with
superheroes, what are some of the keys to making the show work beyond
the super abilities?
Ira Steven Behr: Well, I do think that there are a couple of major ones.
One is we are kind of dealing with you know, neuroscience and brain
chemistry and weíre trying to keep the show.
We donít consider ourselves a superhero show by any means. Weíre trying
to take whatís already going on or what can already go on within the
human brain and just kind of up it a little bit more extreme science I
guess. So I think that is interesting. I think the fact that the
characters themselves are not exactly suited to the position that
These are not as Iíve said before; these are not your typical heroes if
I dare use that word. So I think that is really interesting. And I think
there is a real honest and true humor to the show and humor to the
situations these people find themselves in. I mean the stories can get
extremely dark. Donít get me wrong. They can be dark.
They can be violent at times but we try to remain true to what would
ordinary people, how would they react to being in those situations? And
there is a lot of humor in extreme situations as protection just to get
through them because people yearn for the normal. And to get them there
they will depend at times on their relationships and the humor within
Reg Seeton: Great. Thanks guys. Good luck.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Kenn Gold with
MediaBlvd Magazine. Please proceed with your question.
Kenn Gold: I want to thank all of you for taking the time today. I
really appreciate it.
Ryan Cartwright: Sure.
Kenn Gold: I guess the first question I have both I guess related to
Gary and Azita both, with both of your characters with Garyís autism and
Azita, essentially when youíre using one sense youíre disabled in terms
And I was wondering if there is any I guess concern for hypersensitivity
of people worried that however you play the character, however much
sensitivity you try to bring to it, that you might do something or say
something that somebody takes offense at as to how a disabled person
would function (with other people)? Have you thought about that?
Azita Ghanizada: Well, I mean for Rachel at least, going into something
that is so special and itís so unique because when she goes into any of
her senses the rest of her entire body shuts down.
So every other sense is asleep and kind of finding that we kind of found
it and we rooted it in as much humanity as possible. So itís as honest
as possible. And in that way weíre kind of if we keep it as real and as
close to the bone as possible I donít really think that there would be
anything in there that would offend anybody hoping, knock on wood.
Thatís definitely not the goal. I think the goal is just to communicate
how much it affects her emotionally to have these special abilities and
how vulnerable it makes her both physically and emotionally. And I think
kind of conveying those emotional and physical things, I think that will
affect the audience more than insulting anybody for sure.
Ryan Cartwright: I think with Gary I think everyone was very sensitive
to the portrayal of him from day one. And everyone has been - weíve been
very careful but then once we knew we had the character we have been
careful to make sure that we actually utilize him and make sure heís a
real person who will do big, old things.
Because I think the main things a lot of the time when people, when they
create roles like this is to mollycoddle the character and to try to
play it too safe with regard to what you end up doing is just
patronizing the character and the condition. And you want the person to
be a real person and I think once we knew that we had this guy and that
he was real and that he was off the page, we all felt confident enough
to just run with him.
And Iím supersensitive to the idea of anyone being offended by it and I
feel completely confident that heís fine. Heís a real person now. Heís
his own person so I think everyone will be very happy. Iíve only heard
nice things so far. So I mean weíll see.
Azita Ghanizada: Yes.
Ryan Cartwright: Iím sure someone will be like what? But.
Azita Ghanizada: And just to add on to that I think whatís so great
about our characters actually work from a position that could be
considered disabled is truthfully they are so special because of their
And I think thatís really a key element is that what would be considered
a disability is really their gifts and it makes them unique and it makes
them an alpha and that makes them special. So if anything weíre really
applauding the fact that you know, this thing that could be considered
odd, which is why theyíre a band of misfits that come together and need
each other really to work together in this unique way, itís really
If anything itís more special than just the disability that other people
would see them as having and other people have seen them as having a
condition or whatever it is, is really what makes them so unique and
gives them the ability to be alphas.
Kenn Gold: Great. And Ira, I wanted to say I was so happy when I saw
that you were attached to this. There is nothing youíve done that I
havenít just absolutely loved. And when I first saw this show when I
first saw the premise, one of the reasons I was really attracted to it
was because I was such a big fan of The 4400.
I wondered if you could talk about I think youíre probably going to have
a cross over from that audience coming over and how is this show going
to appeal to those fans of The 4400?
Ira Steven Behr: Well, hopefully itíll appeal to them because itíll be
another quality show with interesting characters, a different but
equally fascinating mythology. Obviously the major difference is that we
were unable to add much in the sense of humor to The 4400 even though
you know, USA turned into the Blue Skies Network and it was all Monk all
And we were always being called the dark, apocalyptic show on their
lineup, which is why ultimately we were off their lineup. But every time
weíd try to put humor in the show they would yank it out. And so you
know, the simple way I guess of saying it is this is The 4400 with a
sense of humor.
Kenn Gold: Thatís awesome. And just one more real quick follow up, I was
wondering since you came in after the pilot was already done, is the
pilot that weíre going to see that youíre going to premiere with, did
you go back at all and change anything? Or is that as it was shot, as
you saw it I guess?
Ira Steven Behr: Yes. Itís as it was shot. I mean things were picked up
that they might not have gotten but I mean I started work on some of the
post with Zak and Michael. The pilot is the pilot. The pilot is theirs.
I mean the pilot is what got me to agree to do the show. I just thought
that the characters were really interesting and I saw a lot of potential
where the series could go. And there were a lot of things up in the air
of where the series was going to go from the pilot and those are the
situations I look for because if itís all written in stone what the fuck
do they need me for? So I just you know, felt there was a lot of
potential to be tapped.
Kenn Gold: Great. Thank you so much.
Ira Steven Behr: Thank you.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jamie Ruby with
Scifivision.com. Please proceed.
Jamie Ruby: Hi. Thanks so much for talking to us today.
Ryan Cartwright: Hey. How are you doing?
Azita Ghanizada: Hey Jamie.
Jamie Ruby: Hi. I just wanted to say I saw the pilot. Itís absolutely
awesome and I think this is going to be my new favorite show.
Azita Ghanizada: Hell yeah.
Ryan Cartwright: Yes.
Jamie Ruby: So what I wanted to know is if you could choose to have an
alpha power like would you choose what your character has or would you
choose one of the other charactersí? And Ira, you can pick any.
Azita Ghanizada: Well, hereís the thing. Rachel has sensory overload. So
when she like even kisses somebody itís a good time. So I donít know. I
think it would stick to Rachelís powers.
No. Iím kidding. No, Iím dead serious. I think what she does is super
cool, the fact that she can hear and see. I think it also makes her
extremely sensitive and human and I love all those aspects. It makes her
precious here in a way that I think is really interesting and canít
always happen in real life because we build up all these barriers to
deal with the world and to shut ourselves down from certain things.
And she feels everything and I think that thatís kind of a very special
thing to have, kind of walk around and have to see and hear and taste
and touch everything and really feel it to 150,000%. So I would kind of
stick with that. I mean I think that what Nina does, Nina Theroux played
by Laura Mennell, her ability to push people, kind of just to be able to
look at people and tell them what to do and they do it.
I would like to maybe have that ability at some moments in my life. Iíd
like to be able to look at people and I donít know, tell them to take
their pants off or something like that and just see if they would do it.
I mean I would just kind of walk around all day and just make people do
random, crazy sh*t. I think that would be awesome. And Laura does it
really well and so that could be a lot of fun.
Ryan Cartwright: I wish I had a better memory, long-term memory and
short-term as well. I wish I could learn dialogue a lot quicker. I have
a British accent, which is kind of a super power when youíre not at
And I donít know. Iím pretty good. I think Iím pretty good. Iím doing
pretty well without super powers I think. As Iím seeing, they all have
horrendous down sides. So Iím not going to do the monkeyís paw thing. I
think Iím just going to plod along and giggle my way into eternity.
Jamie Ruby: Ira?
Ira Steven Behr: I need so much help I cannot even think where to begin.
Yes. Itís best not to go there. I mean I do have an alpha ability I
suppose I can turn gold into sh*t. But even that - you know, I kind of
gravitate I guess in a way where it just shows I guess where my ego is
But I kind of gravitate to Rosen because you know, if I have any ability
besides a writing ability I can kind of galvanize a team and kind of
move a small team into 13 episodes. So I donít know if Iíd want his
ability but I might want to be Rosen. Heís a hell of a lot smarter than
Azita Ghanizada: Yes.
Azita Ghanizada: Please go ahead.
Jamie Ruby: I was just going to say Azita since you werenít here
earlier, can you tell us how you got connected to the show?
Azita Ghanizada: You know, I was the last person cast. I think they had
a hard time finding Rachel. She was originally written as somebody kind
of very different than what she has become now that Ira and Zak and
Michael and everyone else in the writers room have really dug their
teeth into her.
And so, I think in my real life Iím a little bit more ballsy and
courageous than Rachel is and so I think people had a hard time
originally seeing me as that. But I kind of went in and rearranged bits
and pieces of myself and understood very quickly what it was like to
live in a conservative home.
Iím a child from a Afghanistan and grew up with very strict parents in
the United States and that was part of Rachelís journey from the pilot,
kind of not fitting in at home was something I responded to. And I just
kind of went in and did it and they hired me, those silly bastards. And
I got on a plane, I went to Canada and we really you know, kind of found
it on the day.
It was like building a play every day when we were shooting the pilot.
We really kind of found all the nuances and it was such a new experience
and I really credit Zak Penn and (Jack Bender) and everybody that was
there that just really kind of helped fill her out flesh and bone. And
now even so even after the pilot meeting Ira and everybody else in the
writers room, kind of took a step back and just saw the character and
decided to kind of build so much more of a story for her that I respond
to even more so.
And itís been really interesting. I mean if you liked the pilot Jamie,
youíre going to love the series. I think all the characters get faster
and sharper and I think the writing, the stories that theyíve been
breaking are just so cool. And the concepts are just so awesome. Itís
just from the pilot it only goes up and thatís just a really cool
feeling because the pilot was cool to me.
And the series has just become even cooler. So Iím lucky that they were
foolish enough to cast me in the first place. You know, so thatís how I
got involved. I lied. I acted my way into this job.
Jamie Ruby: Great. Thanks. And quickly Ryan, was it hard to get rid of
your accent for the show?
Ryan Cartwright: I mean not so much now because Iím kind of up and
running because Iíve been in LA for so long during pilot season now. And
90% of the auditions that I have to go in for are with the American
So I can kind of turn it on and off now like at bars and stuff until the
ladies try and leave and I say no no, not really. Iím actually British
and then they return.
Azita Ghanizada: Yes. Thatís the case.
Jamie Ruby: Thanks guys.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks very much.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Joseph Dilworth with
Pop Culture Zoo. Please proceed with your question.
Joseph Dilworth: Hi guys. Thank you for all your time today.
Joseph Dilworth: Well, Iíll hit up Azita first since she might disappear
on us at any moment.
Azita Ghanizada: Yes.
Joseph Dilworth: What kind of research or reading did you do to prepare
yourself to play Rachel?
Azita Ghanizada: Wow. Because I got the part last and everybody was
already up here and god, I was scared sh*tless. So I read the script I
donít know, a dozen times between the day I got it on the plane and the
first day of shooting.
I think I was really up the second day was Rachelís entire introduction.
And I kind of started to look online for different things in regards to
people that actually have the ability to super see and hear. I did a
little bit of work on echolocation.
Joseph Dilworth: Cool.
Azita Ghanizada: Yes. And kind of saw how peopleís bodies physically
passed out as they were hearing/seeing with their ears and then kind of
tweaked that into Rachel as much as possible as far as trying to find
her abilities and how to do that as honest and human as possible.
So I just kind of looked at all that stuff online and really kind of
tried to look at the news and documentaries and things that were, people
that actually had abilities or are really known for things like being
able to hear really well or see microscopic pieces of writing on
microscopic pieces of rice and all that stuff and how they just did it
Then I watched a bunch of sci-fi stuff like scanners and all those
things and just tried to tap into you know, what other people were doing
in the past and whatís been done before and just kind of have a general
understanding of it.
Joseph Dilworth: Very cool. And this next question can go to Ryan and
Ira. What I found interesting about Gary in the first episode was when
heís at home he seems to be very insular and non-communicative.
Yet when heís with this other group thatís when he kind of turns into a
smart ass and talks a whole lot more. Is that a contrast weíll see
continue to play out for Gary?
Ryan Cartwright: Yes. Definitely. It definitely goes that way. Thatís
his play group.
Ryan Cartwright: Yes. And because like I think what happened with Gary
was he was a lot more insular before. As his ability grew he would just
like sit on his own and rock in corners and keep his eyes closed and
play with these lights not fully understanding what was going on with
And itís Iím sure that was a hell of a time for his mother because she
didnít understand the neuroscience behind it and how to bring him out of
this world whereas Dr. Rosen saw exactly what was happening here and
created a system with Gary and for Gary, which helped him blend the real
world as we know it and Garyís world and to kind of mesh the two.
Whereby he would be able to look at these signals and read them with his
eyes open and while walking around instead of just sitting all curled up
in a ball living in this world in his head. So yes, as the series
progresses heís definitely trying to be a bit of a cock of the walk in
the office as well because itís the first time heís been appreciated for
what he would have been taken the piss out of for most of his life and
would have got strange looks for.
And now all of a sudden heís with a group of people that really
appreciate him. So you know, heíll probably be cocky for a while and
then everyone will smack him down and yes, itís a good growing process
Joseph Dilworth: Excellent. Well, thank you very much for your time. The
first episode is great and Iím looking forward to the rest of the
Azita Ghanizada: Yes. Thank you.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks very much mate. Cheers.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Lindsey Turner with
Pop Culture Madness. Please proceed with your question.
Lindsey Turner: Hi. Thanks for talking to us today.
Lindsey Turner: I think any of you guys can answer this. I was wondering
what kind of audience you think that Alphas will appeal to. Do you think
that people who are really big sci-fi fans are going to watch it or do
you think that anyone who is just looking for a new TV series would like
Azita Ghanizada: I think it fills a big void in summer television but I
mean Ira, please take the lead.
Ira Steven Behr: No. I just think that obviously we want the science
fiction audience to come to the table. But there is definitely room for
the cross over audience as well. Thatís what happened when I did The
4400. We were shocked at the cross over audience at the time.
It really felt good to meet people who were not your usual run of the
mill you know, fan boys who really dug the show. And I think this can
happen with Alphas as well. I think there are plenty of stories, drama,
humor to go with the science fiction elements that will attract a wide
range of you know, discriminating viewers.
Lindsey Turner: Thank you. And also do you think that because we know
that the characters have their unique supernatural powers and unique
capabilities. Do you think that viewers will be able to relate at all to
the characters or do you think that theyíre too different (and
Lindsey Turner: Do you need me to repeat the question?
Ryan Cartwright: No. I think people will relate entirely. I think thatís
a huge part of the show that all of the characters like we say, have
their down sides and stuff and these powers.
And not to get too twee about it but everyone has their own abilities
and itís just in more of a looking at it through a macro lens, a lot of
it is about just trying to accomplish what you can with the gifts that
you have in the face of all the obstacles that you know, get thrown at
you because of your situation in life.
Alphas premieres Monday, July 11, 2011 at 10:00 pm part of Syfyís all
new scripted summer Mondays. So I got that in.
Lindsey Turner: Sure. Thank you. Good luck with the show.
Ira Steven Behr: Thank you.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks very much.
Operator: Our next question is a follow up question from the line of
Curt Wagner with RedEye. Please proceed with your question.
Curt Wagner: Yes. Is Azita still on?
Azita Ghanizada: Yes Iím here. Can you hear me?
Curt Wagner: I can hear you.
Azita Ghanizada: All right. Let me see if I can - hello?
Curt Wagner: Yes. Iím glad youíre here because...
Ryan Cartwright: You killed everyone on set?
Curt Wagner: After watching the pilot I kind of think Rachel is becoming
my favorite character.
Azita Ghanizada: Youíre my favorite person.
Curt Wagner: Well, I feel like sheís sort of the heart of this group
maybe and sheís also kind of a workhorse, she does most of the work in
the first episode it seems like.
And I also love her conflict that sheís really shy and everything but
she has this big gift, her family doesnít think itís a gift. I was
wondering if you could talk just about her, talk about your character
and how you see her and where she could go.
Azita Ghanizada: Well, I think Rachel is all heart. I think sheís
extremely emotional and very sensitive and sheís also - here finally in
the pilot you see her being the authority on so many things because she
has the ability to track all of this you know, the evidence and all of
She can discover all that so you find her discovering a lot of things.
But in the pilot you see her, sheís not very confident in that fact
because she has been told her whole life that this is a condition, if
anything itís a disease, itís a curse. And itís created a lot of fear
for her to be able to communicate you know, that she has these abilities
and sheís seen them as nothing but a curse for her, her entire life.
She hasnít been able to date, she hasnít been accepted at home. She
hasnít been accepted out in public. People look at her like sheís weird.
I mean if you could imagine being a little person and all of a sudden
going into supersensory mode when youíre playing with kids, you would
panic. You wouldnít understand why you were feeling that way.
And if you didnít get this type of support from your family you would
really be confused. And I think therefore she has a lot of heart and you
definitely feel her struggle the most with her family as the series
progresses and kind of try to make these choices to become confident and
to become the authority. Sheís extremely bright and with Dr. Rosen and
the rest of the alphas she really learns that sheís an integral part in
kind of solving these cases.
And she becomes proud of her abilities and you see her kind of blossom
as a young woman and I think that any young girl who has had conflict
especially growing up in a conservative home, just coming into their own
and trying to balance how to be the person they want to be out in the
world and the person they want to be in their home and their
expectations both at work and their expectations in the home.
You see her kind of finding her balance and finding her way through that
stuff and blossoming and becoming more confident and becoming more eager
to be utilized and becoming proud of herself and itís a really awesome
journey. And they have done a really good job in kind of giving her this
arc to kind of break free. And sheís just so special you know? Sheís
really pure. Thereís a purity to her heart and Iím really privileged to
be playing her.
Curt Wagner: All right. Cool. And Iím totally with you about being able
to convince people to take their clothes off.
Azita Ghanizada: I kind of have that charm in my real life. Oh wait, no,
thatís Ryan Cartwright. No, Iím kidding. Thatís me.
Curt Wagner: All right. Well, thanks and good luck.
Azita Ghanizada: Thank you so much.
Ryan Cartwright: All right.
Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Heather Mclatchie
with Televixen. Please proceed with your question.
Heather Mclatchie: Hi. Thanks so much for talking to us today. My
question, Iíll start with Ira. Iím also a long-time fan. I loved The
4400. Iíve been grieved at it leaving USA like you did and Dark Angel as
You seem to be drawn to ensemble shows and wondered what it was about
ensemble shows that really clicks for you.
Ira Steven Behr: Well, you are definitely correct. I much prefer
ensemble shows. There are a number of reasons, on the most practical
one, when you have you know, a show thatís wrapped around one actor or
two actors they tend to suffer from burnout after a couple of years.
And it just becomes difficult for them, it becomes difficult for the
show. And plus, youíre just kind of mining the same characters over and
over again. When youíre dealing with an ensemble show you know, it just
seems like you have a bigger canvas. If characters are about
relationships and you want to be able to build relationships over you
know, time and over arcs and you know, itís hard to do that with guest
cast members all the time.
So when you have an ensemble show you just have all the elements there
at your fingertips to create you know, interesting characters and
interesting relationships. Plus with ensemble shows the network usually
is a little more comfortable about bringing on recurring characters and
just bringing the family even bigger. And thatís how I like to work.
Heather Mclatchie: Great. Well, thank you. Will we see any familiar
faces from your other shows visiting Alphas? Or can you say?
Ira Steven Behr: Iím expecting thatís pretty much a guarantee at this
Heather Mclatchie: Good. Awesome. Iím looking forward to it.
Azita Ghanizada: Hey you guys, I need to jump off. Weíve got to shoot.
Ira Steven Behr: Bye Azita.
Ryan Cartwright: Bye Azita.
Azita Ghanizada: So thank you. Bye you guys. Thank you so much for your
time and you guys are going to love the show. Thank you for caring
enough to call and talk to us.
Ira Steven Behr: Sheís so good.
Heather Mclatchie: Thank you. Iím looking forward to it. I adore the
cast that youíve got for this show and I was excited that you were a
part of it as well. So Iím looking forward to seeing it. So good luck. I
hope it takes off.
Ira Steven Behr: Thank you so much.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks very much.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Erin Willard with Sci
Fi Mafia. Please proceed with your question.
Erin Willard: Hi gentlemen. Thanks again for your time.
Erin Willard: Great. If youíre familiar, I donít know if either of you
are familiar with Eureka and Warehouse 13, you know, your warm up acts
on Monday night. But do you think that your show is kind of similar in
feel to those or how might it be different in the general tone?
Ira Steven Behr: Well, Iím not totally familiar. I have seen a couple of
episodes of each. I think theyíre both lighter in tone. We have a lot of
humor in our shows but our shows do tend at times to get dark in their
I think weíre the 10:00 show and we deserve to be the 10:00 show. That
said, I do think we all share this kind of character driven humor and
obviously weíre all ensemble shows. So we have similarities and some
Erin Willard: Okay. Great. Do you feel like I know you talked about the
show is evolving, itís not just the same kind of episode every week. Has
the tone of the show itself changed as the episodes have progressed? And
have you had to make any adjustments just based on a whole lot of
outside elements or because the characters are playing out differently
than you thought or anything like that?
Ira Steven Behr: Yes. Well, the show evolves every week and the show is
different every week. I mean we could have a really kind of tense, like
I said, dark episode.
And then we do an episode which has the title Bill & Garyís Excellent
Adventure, which gives you an idea that it might not be the darkest show
in the history of television where Bill and Gary go off on an assignment
or not even an assignment and get to work together. So you know, I think
that the episodes are a little different from week to week.
And the show is evolving you know, at a pace that you know, I had hoped
for and expected it to. In terms of the actors, actors always impact on
characters and you find relationships that work. Certainly since Iíve
already mentioned it, the Bill and Gary relationship has kind of sparked
all the writers. There is a nice give and take there that weíre kind of
writing toward and enjoying.
You know, but actors always impact on how you view the characters and
what an actor brings to the character is so real compared to what you
have in your imagination. Itís suddenly there and theyíre doing it and
you start seeing things that you might not have expected and thatís part
of the fun of the process.
Erin Willard: Thatís great. And I love what you said that itís darker
because I love Warehouse 13 and Eureka but really Syfy could use
something thatís a little bit edgier especially like you said, at the
And I was really pleased to hear what you both said about the humor
because my favorite comedies right now are not comedies. Theyíre the
dramas that incorporate some humor like youíre saying. So Iím really
looking forward to the show. But real quick, will you be at ComiCon?
Ira Steven Behr: We will be at Comic Con.
Erin Willard: Excellent. Okay. Great. Thanks very much.
Ira Steven Behr: Along with a billion other people.
Erin Willard: Well, Iíll be there so Iíll be at the panel. So thanks
Ryan Cartwright: Okay. Thank you very much.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Sheldon Wiebe with
eclipsemagazine.com. Please proceed with your question.
Sheldon Wiebe: Thanks for doing this. I really appreciate it. Saw the
pilot, loved it. Ira.
Ira Steven Behr: Yes.
Sheldon Wiebe: If you distill the series down to its most basic
components to put it in a single line for a network executive it would
be something like itís a hybrid of procedural superhero shows with a
blue collar sensibility.
Now doing that kind of a show on a TV budget must be difficult and I was
just wondering what some of the challenges were and how you faced and
what kind of ingenuity you need to produce some of the episodes when
theyíre maybe power heavy and you know, some of your experiences with
Ira Steven Behr: Well, for the most part the history of television is
there is never enough time and thereís never enough money. But thatís
okay, especially when youíre a character driven show because at the end
of the day itís the characters that drive the show and itís the
characters that the audience bonds with and returns to see.
The fact is I have no complaints about the budget. The budget is fine.
We can do a lot of stuff on the budget. The problem is time. Weíre a
seven day show. I havenít done a seven day show in about 12 years or
more, maybe even more than that. You know, to get it all in seven days,
thatís a trick.
Clearly weíre discovering how much action you know - Iíd rather have
less action well done than lots of action not as well done. But you
know, weíre also into suspense and tension, which I think we can do very
well. And we have to pick and choose, you know. Itís a business and you
fight for more money when you can get it.
But the idea is to make the best possible show that you can make and
action is part of that. And like I said, the stuff that we do I think
weíll do well. But weíre not dependent on you know, just bang for the
buck. We have a lot of other great elements. We have great actors, we
have great themes, we have interesting plots. So I think weíre all good.
Sheldon Wiebe: Cool. Have you done a bottle show this season?
Ira Steven Behr: Oh man. Some guy who knows his business. Have we done a
bottle show this season? You are so right moífo. We did a bottle show.
You got it.
Sheldon Wiebe: Cool.
Ira Steven Behr: And I just want you to know in fact weíre doing it,
weíre filming it in about a week and even though it is a bottle show in
that the whole show takes place in the office, we do have guest cast so
that officially means itís not an actual bottle show because in a real
bottle show you would not have guest cast even.
And we also tend to blow up the office, which theyíre all looking at us
like you donít blow up your office, your standing sets in a - well, not
blow them up but set them on fire and stuff. So itís a bottle show plus.
Sheldon Wiebe: Sounds excellent. Ryan.
Ryan Cartwright: Yes.
Sheldon Wiebe: Earlier Ira was mentioning that you had done a lot of
research to play Gary and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit
about that and if there was maybe a key element to the character that
opened the door for you to get right into the guy and feel comfortable
in the role?
Ryan Cartwright: Yes. Sure. Well, I read Zak had told me that theyíd -
some of the inspiration for the character was this guy (Daniel Tammet)
who was a (synestesia was the word) - he was like a bit of a savant in
England who would experience like numbers via (synestesia) and could do
these amazing things with his mind.
And heíd written a book called Born on a Blue Day that was very
interesting. And although apparently now heís a bit of a fake apparently
from this new book that I read but heís autism is still real itís just
his memory stuff might have been a bit of a trick. The (Temple Brandon)
book Thinking In Pitches was really good.
That really helped a lot. And some of the (Oliver Sacks) books just
about general neuroscience and stuff and I think one thing that really
helped me is actually coming from the literature first because I think
it would have been an easy thing to do to go to like footage of people
and just go straight to mimicry. And I think the problem with that is
you do end up just mimicking like certain mannerisms that people would
have as opposed to actually knowing the reason behind why theyíre doing
And the beauty of that is that we could then create a new kind of - we
had the brushes in our hands and we could create new things for Gary
based on the deep science behind it. And it also helped me kind of
conjure up like Garyís little short hand, like the way that he controls
his world and the little mannerisms and ticks that he has.
It just felt a lot better. I felt a lot more confident and rock solid
coming at it having just researched it from a literature point of view.
But then there was one guy in particular. There was a clip on YouTube of
this guy who has autism and he was just really funny. It was like a fly
on the wall documentary, just him like with his dad and going to group.
And he was just hilarious. He was just really like you could tell he had
this great sense of humor behind his eyes and he was like teasing and
ribbing people and it was just nice to see that because I have said and
Ira as well that you want the guy to have this good sense of humor and
not just be so kind of automaton playing syndrome.
So I think reading about it, books win on this one for me. Thatís what
helped me get in there.
Sheldon Wiebe: Great. Thanks very much.
Ryan Cartwright: Thank you very much.
Sheldon Wiebe: Thank you.
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, as a reminder to register for a question
please press the 1 followed by the 4. Our next question comes from the
line of Jamie Ruby with SciFi Vision. Please proceed with your question.
Stephen Cox: This is actually going to be the last question. Thank you
Jamie Ruby: Okay. Can you talk - sure. For all of you, whatís your
favorite part about working on the series?
Ira Steven Behr: Go ahead Ryan.
Ryan Cartwright: I like the set. I love the character. Itís a little
holiday playing him every day. Heís just kind of got a very kind of
cheeky sense of humor and itís getting more and more fun each day just
And you can see like you can actually see the crew have completely
warmed to this character because I think first day you turn up and
people are a bit is he all right? Is that kid all right? It was funny
actually we were shooting this episode the other day in a high school
and like none of the kids obviously knew the show and what we were
And there is this scene where Iím walking down the hallway just in my
own world doing Garyís autism thing and going through my windows and
this little kid came up to me and he obviously didnít know what I was
doing and he was like is this the first day youíve ever acted?
Jamie Ruby: Thatís cute.
Ryan Cartwright: Yes. And the cast - everyone is lovely.
Operator: There are no further questions at this time.
Stephen Cox: Thank you all very much for joining us today. Weíre very
glad to have had Ira and Ryan and Azita on the phone. And just a
reminder Alphas premieres Monday, July 11 at 10:00 pm, part of the most
powerful night on television.
Ira Steven Behr: Thank you everyone.
Ryan Cartwright: Thanks everyone.
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