Interview with Zak Penn and Warren Christie of "Alphas" on Syfy - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Zak Penn and Warren Christie

Interview with Zak Penn and Warren Christie of "Alphas" on Syfy 7/7/11.

I like both these guys, and I think they generally do great work, even though I was not too fond of the "Alpha" pilot and gave it a bad review. It was kind of hard to know what to ask them when I felt like asking, "So why did it suck?"  But I refrained. I am very surprised that Zak Penn did this show because he did the superhero movies for X-Men and The Incredible Hulk so well. He also did the story for "Last Action Hero", which I really enjoyed.  But this show is not at all as cool and fun as those movies. I think he tried so hard to be realistic and pander to the average person (as you can tell by his comments below) that he forgot to appeal to the superhero fans and what they like: lots of cool stuff like outfits and gadgets, action, and special effects...and he also didn't make the characters very appealing. Well, anyway, it was a very interesting interview, and we'll see if I am right and it gets canceled quickly, or I am completely wrong and it's a hit!

Warren Christie is the star of the new show, and he does a great job in it. In fact, he is the only likable character, IMHO, and he is an awesome actor. He was the bad guy, of sorts, in his previous shows, like Happy Town and October Road.  He is gorgeous in all of them, though, and sounded very nice on the phone. I hope for HIS sake, at least, that it is a hit. I really want to be wrong because TV needs more superhero shows (especially now that Heroes and Smallville are gone).

Syfy Conference Call
Zak Penn and Warren Christie
July 7, 2011
12:00 pm CT

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the Alphas conference call. During the presentation all participants will be in a listen-only mode. We will be conducting a question and answer session. At that time if you have a question please press the 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone. And if at any time during the conference you need to reach an operator please press star 0.

As a reminder this conference is being recorded Thursday, July 7, 2011. I would now like to turn the conference over to Stephen from Syfy. Please go ahead.

Stephen Cox: Good morning everyone, thank you for joining us today. We have Warren Christie on the line, star of our new series Alphas which premieres Monday at 10:00 pm only on Syfy. And unfortunately Zak Penn is unable to join us at this moment but weíre hoping that he might be able to join as the conference call continues. So with that weíll turn it over to your questions so you guys can get started talking to Warren.

Operator: Certainly. Ladies and gentlemen, to register your questions please press the 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone. You will hear a three tone prompt that acknowledges your request. We ask that you please limit yourself to one question and one follow-up. Then you may re-register for additional questions. Our first question comes from the line of (Kathy Huddleston) with ( Please proceed. Ms. (Huddleston) your line is now live.

Kathy Huddleston: Hello?

Warren Christie: Hello.

Operator: Ms. (Huddleston) please unmute your line, youíre live.

Kathy Huddleston: Oh great, great. Sorry, I got disconnected for a sec. Warren, hi.

Warren Christie: Hi (Kathy), how are you doing?

Kathy Huddleston: Iím doing great. How are you?

Warren Christie: Iím doing really good thank you.

Kathy Huddleston: Itís so good to talk to you. So what can you tell us about your character Christian Hicks?

Warren Christie: His name has been changed, itís actually Cameron Hicks now.

Kathy Huddleston: Oh Cameron Hicks. Why did that put that in - okay sorry.

Warren Christie: No problem.

Kathy Huddleston: Iím glad you told us that.

Warren Christie: Itís all right, everybody calls him just Hicks anyway so it will work out fine. Cameron is a guy who we meet in the pilot, heís had a bit of run of bad luck and heís divorced, his son doesnít really want to spend much time with him. Heís a recovering alcoholic and through a chain of events is brought into this group run by Dr. Rosen who wants to help him while at the same time using the ability that is just new to him that he is just figuring out that he has to help him investigate other alpha abilities.

So I think Cameron is interesting because I think in the pilot specifically heís kind of the eyes for the audience because as he is brought into this group of individuals who have been together for a short amount of time, he doesnít just jump right in with both feet.

Heís very skeptical, he doesnít understand what these abilities are. He doesnít necessarily believe in them. And so itís not like a type of thing where heís just all gung ho and sign me up and letís do this. Heís very resistant to the whole thing. And by the end of the pilot heís almost forced to choose to work along with them.

And so heís spent a lot of time as a loner and he has had a really bad run of luck and so heís got trust issues and used to being alone. So immersing himself into a group is not the first thing that he is looking to do.

Kathie Huddleston: Well I thought the pilot was great. And so now tell me, and to your opinion you want people to watch this obviously. Why should people tune in to Alphas? What makes this unique?

Warren Christie: I think what weíre doing is weíre putting a new spin on a genre that has been around for a while. Anytime you have a show of this nature people want to compare it to this and they want to compare it to that.

But weíre putting our twist on it. Weíre really delving into people and how their abilities which are exciting and yes there are these action packed sequences but really thereís drawbacks to it. Whether it be physical, whether it be psychological, theyíre all dealing with things. And when you bring this eclectic group together it causes drama but a lot of humor. Itís just a very dysfunctional group, you know, individuals and as a group.

So like I said, I think that at the end of the day weíre working very hard to make sure that we are going to entertain the hell out of you for an hour every week and hopefully at the end of the day thatís what we do.

Kathy Huddleston: Wow, thank you so much.

Warren Christie: You got it, have a good one.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jamie Ruby with Sci-Fi Vision. You may please proceed.

Jamie Ruby: Hi, thanks so much for talking to us today.

Warren Christie: Hey Jamie, how are you doing?

Jamie Ruby: Good, you?

Warren Christie: Iím good thanks.

Jamie Ruby: Great. So how did you come to work on Alphas? How did that all happen?

Warren Christie: Yes Alphas, you know, it was kind of a very boring, regular process. The script came my way and I kind of fell in love with it right away. And then the order of events with Zak and then next Jack had signed on to it, Jack Bender. And Jack and I had worked together about - I think about a year before that. We had worked on another pilot together.

And I was a huge fan of his and I knew that in his hands he could take what was already a great script and great characters and really take it up a notch. And then finally when David Strathairn signed on it kind of became an I need to get into this project and do whatever I have to do.

So, I was working on something up in Vancouver, I sent a tape in and they kind of took it through the works. And I was working so I wasnít able to kind of follow up on it and I just kind of got the job from there.

Jamie Ruby: Okay great. And as a follow-up, what do you find the most challenging about filming the show?

Warren Christie: Like any show we have extremely long hours. Anytime you add, you know, we have great character development, we have a lot of great things going on but we do have stunts and stunts end up taking time and things like that.

I really love that aspect of it, it was another thing that attracted me to it. Actually itís the character and what heís going through but the physical elements that - something that I hadnít really delved into as much as I have on this show in a while and it has been a great challenge. It has been a fun challenge, itís interesting the things that we try and do.

And the other thing is with Hicks, heís new to the group and because he is just scratching the surface of what he can do his abilities are expanding and growing. And so the stunts are getting, you know, bigger and more elaborate and I find that itís a really fun challenge on a daily basis.

Jamie Ruby: Great thank you.

Zak Penn: Hey Warren?

Warren Christie: Yes?

Zak Penn: This is Zak Penn calling from Los Angeles.

Warren Christie: Oh hello Zak. Do you have a question?

Zak Penn: Yes I do. How come I didnít call in ten minutes earlier? Guys Iíd like to apologize. There was a bit of a mix-up on my end and I was under the impression I was going to have someone call me but I am now calling in.

Stephen Cox: Thank you for joining us Zak, Iím sorry about that mix-up.

Zak Penn: Totally my fault.

Warren Christie: Just so you all got that, Zak Penn doesnít make calls, he takes calls.

Zak Penn: I take calls, thank you Warren. What did I miss? Could everyone repeat everything theyíve said so far? No Iím just kidding. Iím sorry.

Warren Christie: Hey Jamie are you still there? No? Jamie from Sci-Fi Vision? Wow, Iíve got to be honest Zak, it was going well and then you came on.

Zak Penn: Is it over now? Itís over, no more questions?

Warren Christie: You can collectively hear...

Operator: Jamieís line is live.

Warren Christie: Okay.

Jamie Ruby: Yes Iím still here.

Warren Christie: Oh there you are.

Jamie Ruby: I guess I was muted, Iím still here. Yes Iíll ask you the same questions then. I asked him first how he became involved in the project.

Zak Penn: Well we saw his audition and thought he was excellent. Jack Bender knew Warren, I guess they had worked together on something. What show was it Warren that you guys had done together?

Warren Christie: We had shot a pilot about a year before that never went to air so I refuse to name it.

Zak Penn: Okay so Jack had known Warrenís work so we got one of those audition tapes from Canada where the person is like off in the distance shot through a dirty drinking glass. But even that way we could see that Warren has a charisma that we wanted for the role. I distinctly remember actually, I guess you had shaved your head for the audition or cut it down?

Warren Christie: Yes I had done it. No no, I hadnít done it.

Zak Penn: And he immediately popped for us so it was actually one of the less controversial, you know, thereís always a lot of back and forth but Jack had told us about him and I was aware of his work. He had worked for some friends of mine so we saw him, we said that guy is Hicks, letís go get him. And we did.

Warren Christie: And I sent a blank check.

Zak Penn: That blank check really did help by the way. I mean, none of the other actors did that.

Warren Christie: You didnít even watch the tape. You were like this guy knows the business, get him.

Zak Penn: Yes and once I got that check and I was able to buy myself that solid gold Prius that Iíve always wanted, I was like weíve got to cast him.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Pattye Grippo with Pizzazz Entertainment Network. Please go ahead.

Pattye Grippo: Hi guys, thanks for talking with us today.

Zak Penn: Pleasure.

Warren Christie: Hey Pattye, how are you doing?

Pattye Grippo: Pretty good, thanks. So let me ask you. Warehouse 13 is an effects-based show -- oh God, sorry, Alpha is an effects-based show.

Zak Penn: You can call us Warehouse 13, itís fine.

Warren Christie: Yes weíll answer to that.

Pattye Grippo: Sorry about that, itís early here, okay? Do you have to do a lot of green screen work and what exactly does that involve?

Zak Penn: Do you want me to field this one Warren?

Warren Christie: Yes, go for it.

Zak Penn: Okay. What screen? No, we do have to do some green screen. Most of the movies that I work on are like I feel like theyíre set at a green screen. Theyíre just like - thereís so much green screen in the big comic book movies.

We donít have to do anywhere close to as much of that on this show partly because our goal with the effects is to make them as naturalistic as possible so weíre quite often enhancing in more subtle ways. But that said, sure there is plenty of green screen. I mean, Warren and I, we have certainly had to do a number of green screen shots when Iíve been up on set.

But itís less - hereís the thing. The show is so set in the real world that quite often if we are doing green screen itís not to put in some sort of amazing backgrounds or to show them jumping out of a plane or whatever. Itís far more often simply to make the locations in New York City feel more seamless.

Pattye Grippo: Okay. And well let me ask both of you this then. Do you have a favorite artifact from the series that you wish you had for yourself?

Zak Penn: Warren, Iím sure itís that giant sniper rifle.

Warren Christie: Well, Iíve been stealing things since day one so thatís why itís such a broad question, itís a tough one to answer. Iíve been pilfering things from the get-go.

Zak Penn: But I donít think they meant office supplies Warren, I think theyíre talking about more substance.

Warren Christie: Oh cool stuff, then I misunderstood.

Zak Penn: Yes.

Warren Christie: I canít really think of anything thatís really that mind blowing which is funny because normally you would think - oh I probably would steal one of the cars I guess. I mean, thatís all I can really think of.

Zak Penn: Yes thatís a good...

Warren Christie: Is that too big? Would I get caught? I would probably get caught. Thatís too big.

Zak Penn: Take it.

Pattye Grippo: Nah.

Warren Christie: Yes Iíll take a shot at it today.

Zak Penn: Do you mean like artifacts like a prop or something from the show? I mean, or...

Pattye Grippo: Yes I do actually.

Zak Penn: Because actually I will tell you that the one - well I have a couple. This is weird, youíve kind of asked me the perfect question. First of all the ghostís notebooks I wish I had taken. I probably could have gotten away with taking them. You have seen the pilot I assume?

Pattye Grippo: Yes.

Zak Penn: Those notebooks, you know the scene where theyíre looking through the ghost stuff and thereís like these meticulous drawings of everything he ever did?

Pattye Grippo: Right.

Zak Penn: Itís got even a drawing of Hicks firing his sniper rifle. Our artist, you know, one of those people in our art department meticulously drew those over the course of weeks and they are incredible, they really are. So I wish I had taken one of those and maybe itís not too late.

And the other thing is that they mocked up for the record store scene with Dr. Rosen and Iím going to say this because my friends from high school will be psyched. I was in a band in high school and kind of as a joke they took the picture of my band and created an album and when Dr. Rosen is looking through albums in the kind of vintage record store one of them is my crappy band from high schoolís album.

Warren Christie: What was the band called?

Zak Penn: It was called Oedipus and the Mamaís Boys. And they actually framed it and gave it to me at the end of the shoot. So of all the artifacts I have gotten from almost any movie Iíve worked on or show, that actually meant quite a bit to me.

Pattye Grippo: Well great. Thank you both very much for your time today.

Zak Penn: Thank you for that question.

Warren Christie: Have a good one.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Reg Seeton with Please go ahead.

Zak Penn: Hey Reg, how are you doing?

Reg Seeton: Not too bad. Now Zak can you talk about the Alphas and how theyíre a metaphor for tapping into your true potential as opposed to superheroes?

Zak Penn: Well interestingly, I mean, obviously when you do a superhero movie usually that is working on a metaphorical level, right, because no matter how Jean Greyís struggle with turning into Phoenix is obviously so extreme but itís operating on a metaphorical level.

I think with Alphaís part of the point is these peopleís abilities and problems are so close to reality that sometimes itís not only not metaphorical, it allows us to actually tell the same human story.

You look at Hicksí story. Itís pretty close to the story that any of us would have who have a talent that kind of we have trouble managing. Even look, thereís a long history of writers who have an instrument that they can access occasionally but when they canít they turn to drinking or turn to other things to manage that problem.

And Warren can speak better to this but we really tried to keep both the upside and the downside of their problems so close to human that we end up writing stories that are, I mean, I donít mean to get all semantic and a lecture about semantics versus metaphorical but itís actually a real - itís fun.

I mean, on the X-Men itís pretty hard to write a story about Wolverineís problems, paying his rent and working in a grocery store, whereas with Hicks those are real issues. Warren?

Warren Christie: And byproducts from what has led him up to this point in his life. Like Zak said, I think Hicks sees this as much more of a curse than a gift because he has known there has been something different about him but it seems to always have failed him at the biggest times.

So because of that, like Zak pointed out, because Hicks is so agile you can have something like a professional athlete. Professional athletes go through a lot of different things where they have these highs and then because of that they have these very big lows. And I think itís that fine line and that balancing at that is what makes each of the characters so rich in the show.

Zak Penn: And also, yes and most professional athletes by just the thread thatís in there, like whenever you read about, Iím a big baseball fan, Iím a big sports fan. Warren and I have talked about this a bit.

But almost every professional baseball player, 70% of their job if theyíre good is failure. Any good hitter, if they bat 300, 70% of the time theyíre failing. So itís something that Hicks is kind of coming to grips with that, you know, I think is real even for quite a few players.

Reg Seeton: Excellent. And I also wanted to know what interesting things did you learn through neurology research on that side of the story? And is there anyone out there like Gary and Rachel?

Zak Penn: First of all, in terms of what I learned during the research, itís so, so much more and so voluminous compared to anything else I have ever worked on just because itís been five years Iíve been working on this project. And everything about the brain fascinates me and I was already a huge fan of Oliver Sacks and so I had already read everything he had written. So, I really wouldnít even know where to start.

I can just tell you maybe the persistence of vision, the nature of the persistence of vision was one of the things, the way that our sight is so much less real than we think it is something that kind of blew my mind when I first uncovered the idea that you have two giant blind spots in your vision and your brain just kind of fills it in for you. So that was fascinating for me. And what was the second part again?

Reg Seeton: Is there anybody out there like Gary and Rachel?

Zak Penn: Yes absolutely - in terms of Rachel thereís people who are incredibly close to her in terms of - there is a woman who, you know, and all of these people we did a lot of research. We put together videos. In fact part of the way we sold the show was presenting, you know, hereís the real people that are the equivalent of this.

Now with Rachel there is this one woman for example who has a very similar type of synesthete which allows her to perceive things with her senses that other people canít. Admittedly it is a science fiction show so itís all - Rachel is maybe ten times better than she is.

And certainly that woman doesnít have the same downside although for example there was a very touching thing where she talked about her inability to go to certain public places because sound is color to her, it would overwhelm her and she could not deal in big public situations. So for Rachel, and we talked with Azita a lot about this, itís incredibly close to reality albeit, we need to push it at times.

Gary, I donít know that there is a person out there like Gary. Thereís certainly people who can perceive different wavelengths that others canít. Thereís people who can hear things that others canít. I do think his ability is probably the one that we most took a leap with, I mean, just to be - just to divide them up. His is the one where we said we havenít found a person like this but what if they existed.

Reg Seeton: Excellent. Thanks guys.

Warren Christie: Yes, have a good one man.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jim Iaccino with MediaBlvd Magazine. Please go ahead.

Jim Iaccino: Hi Zak and Warren, how are you doing?

Zak Penn: Great.

Warren Christie: Good Jim, how are you doing?

Jim Iaccino: Okay. Iím not too sure if youíre familiar with other Sci-Fi shows of this particular genre oft of which are good and all of which have survived several seasons starting with the 4400 and then going into Heroes. And so there is sort of a legacy of these gifted individuals not only in the comic books but also on TV. So one remark is that I think youíre going to have a long life on Syfy with multiple seasons hopefully.

Zak Penn: Well thank you. Are you - could you possibly become the head of Syfy or of the (unintelligible)?

Jim Iaccino: I would like to do that.

Zak Penn: That would be great.

Jim Iaccino: But I did want to know first of all, are you familiar with those shows at all? Hopefully you are and how does your show help us take a different spin on what has been done before?

Zak Penn: Okay I think Iíve got to field this one.

Jim Iaccino: Okay.

Zak Penn: To start although Warren you feel free to interrupt when I make mistakes. Iíve never seen any of those - no, okay I have - I am of course familiar with those shows, some more than others.

For myself personally obviously Iíve worked on the X-Men franchise so even though itís not a TV show it definitely had, you know, I have worked in the business of people with extraordinary abilities so Iím pretty familiar.

Warren Christie: Thank you.

Zak Penn: Sorry?

Warren Christie: I thought you were talking - I said thank you.

Zak Penn: Exactly, I mean, Iíve worked with Warren and he is an alpha of acting and particularly of acting with his shoulder is something I have learned. But what I would say is first of all (Ira Bear) who is the show runner of our show and my co - and my partner in crime obviously worked on the 4400 and so did a number of people on the staff and we have some people who worked on Heroes here and there.

Weíre definitely aware of those shows. One of the things that we did set out to do from the very beginning, we always said as opposed to most of the shows that weíve seen like this which usually start with letís say a pretty heavy science fiction or fantasy premise, we tried to start from the standpoint, Michael Carnell and I when we first came up with the idea of whatís the most real version of this story we can tell? How can we start at the absolute reality of it and then build up from there?

And so, it always gave us this perspective of there would be times when we would accidentally arrive and we would go oh my God, thatís actually pretty close to something that happened on one of those shows. The difference is our guys are driving a minivan and they donít get there and Gary has to be home by 9:30 and Hicks misses the shot and Harken has a heart attack.

So, that became the real differentiation point from those other shows. I think thereís a reason why the Marvel movies have been so successful which is thereís just something innate in all of us, that idea that a regular person could have abilities that fulfill some sort of fantasy or wish fulfillment in our head that is just so powerful that it endures.

People who donít understand comic book culture for example who donít get why do these people want to keep seeing these stupid comic book movies or why do they want to keep doing things about, you know, people with extraordinary abilities? Theyíre not getting that is our modern mythology.

I believe it was (Neil Damon) who astutely said, he might have said this to me actually but he made the point that the Marvel universe is the single largest work of contiguous or continuous fiction in civilizationís history. More than Greek mythology, more than the Bible, more than anything. Itís an enormous mythology.

And I think the reason for, and obviously DC is closed and all those other shows you mentioned. But thereís a reason why people want to keep watching stuff like that. Itís not because theyíre dumb or they donít know what else to do, itís because it touches into something really profound that appeals to us.

Jim Iaccino: And Iím glad you mentioned the X-Men because as youíre familiar with the X-Men, thereís a good core of mutants and then thereís a bad core of mutants too.

So I guess my other question, without revealing any spoilers but will we get to see if there is an Alpha, is there going to be a group like the Omega? Is there something like that the Alphas have to defend against by the end of or the middle or the end of this first season?

Zak Penn: There absolutely is and Iím going to have a good segue to Warren at the end of this Warren so be ready.

Warren Christie: Cool.

Zak Penn: So first of all Red Flag which is introduced even in the pilot is a group of alphas with a very different agenda than Rosen and our government. One of the things I will tell you, and I feel like perhaps, you know, one of my contributions to the X-Men franchise was from the very beginning I felt like, you know, letís pull this as far away from mustache twirling villains and as much towards an actual movement or a terrorist group or, you know, etc. And, you can judge the success or failure based on those movies of whether everyone listened to me or not.

But on Alphas one of the things we set out is -- and I think you will really see this in the upcoming episodes -- that Red Flag who is absolutely the antagonist for the team is not your average group of antagonists, that they are some very unusual people with a very political and specific point of view. And the debate over whether or not theyíre right or wrong is an extremely cogent one.

So while they serve as like, obviously thereís a foil and thereís a lot of confrontation with them and obviously they werenít too nice to Hicks in the opening episode, ironically itís Warrenís character and even he has gotten a taste of this already.

Because he is the newcomer to the group and because heís not as much aware of what Rosen has been doing, the more he learns about Red Flag and the more he learns about other alphas and their attitudes, heís the one who is really kind of saying well wait a second. They kind of seem to have a point, you know.

And from my point of view, whatís so much better about what youíre saying than what theyíre saying. And to me thatís what makes a good antagonist. So I donít know if Warren, Warren that was my segue to you.

Warren Christie: Yes - the thing I would add to that which is one of the things that has been so great about this is, we donít just open up every episode and say oh weíve got to get so-and-so and then wrap it up and go. Thereís always storylines.

So the Red Flag is always hovering. We introduced them, we learned about them in the pilot. So they are always something thatís going on but itís just so blurred. Thereís no black and white, thereís gray.

And itís not necessarily always tracking down someone with alpha ability who is just out there trying to hurt people. Sometimes itís an ability maybe that just they canít control. So, itís never getting from point A to point B from the beginning of each episode to the end because that gets very cut and dry and a little bit boring. There is always different things interwoven.

And thatís the great thing. Itís like what Zak is saying, through Hicksís eyes he is kind of not necessarily saying like who are we to say - he actually says a couple of times like who are we to get in there and stop this person or that person or how do we know whatís right and whatís wrong.

And because those lines blur so much, thereís a lot of questions that keep arising. Every time they think they answer one another one pops up. And I think thatís what hopefully is going to add texture throughout the whole season. Itís not like oh letís go get so-and-so, boom, done, move on, letís go get this person.

Itís nice to have the Red Flag always being around and always being this dominant, I donít want to use the word threat because thereís no other way it works but itís the other storylines that are being woven throughout it. And these gray areas trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong I think is going to add so much texture to each episode.

Zak Penn: Right I would add, just lastly because I just saw and Warren hasnít seen it yet but, one of the episodes that Warren and I just worked on together, thereís a number of scenes where he and Rosen are watching Red Flag propaganda and Rosen is kind of trying -- and I donít think this is a spoiler -- Rosen is turning it off because he has seen it before and he has heard what they have to say and Hicks is saying leave it on.

First of all, because the motive, Iím interested to hear what their motive is but also itís not like, listening to an Al Qaeda tape thatís just filled with like horrible, death invective. Thereís a real point of view that is relevant in all of them.

So in addition to what Warren is saying, sometimes theyíre chasing people down that need their help frankly. So itís all kind of all over the place. But Red Flag I feel confident is a pretty interesting antagonist that isnít quite like what youíve seen before.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Carla Day with CliqueClack. You may please proceed.

Carla Day: Hello.

Zak Penn: Hello.

Carla Day: Thanks for talking with us today.

Warren Christie: Hi Carla.

Carla Day: For both of you, was there an ability that you had that was kind of pushing the limit of believability as far as something that they have to do, you know, in a scene but that you felt strongly about having them do?

Warren Christie: Iíll go quick just because mine will be fairly quick. When we first meet Cameron he really doesnít understand or believe in his ability. Rosen had an actual line where he said, youíre just scratching the surface. That doesnít mean that all of a sudden he becomes great at like party tricks and flipping quarters and stuff like that.

As we have gone along in the series the biggest thing heís trying to do is learn how to control it and have it not fail him at really inopportune times. So more than that, as he learns to start to control it, itís growing. And his ability within the realm of what he does is growing and itís being nurtured and heís starting to actually control it but heís starting to see things differently and do things differently.

So as it grows, new things come along all the time which from an acting point of view means we have - our stunts can be a little bit more elaborate and things are happening. So as he progresses as a person his ability is progressing with him so we can kind of introduce a few new things here and there.

We donít want to make too many giant leaps because then all of a sudden weíre getting a bit away from what we want to do which is have everything completely rooted in reality. But itís been fun to watch the character grow as a person but see his abilities and a new little twitch coming in every once in a while. Zak Penn?

Zak Penn: Yes and I would say Warren that thereís a couple coming his way that he doesnít even know about yet. But one of the things is...

Warren Christie: Ooh, spoiler alert.

Zak Penn: Yes exactly. He flies in outer space and he gets a ring and becomes a guardian of the universe. I mean, I thought that was in the tone, in the show. I donít know why.

No, but for example one of the things that happens quite often is weíll be sitting around researching their abilities even after weíve - particularly Warrenís because, itís just something that part of the way we sold the show, I donít know if you guys were told this, but we actually created a video of a guy - in the video I think his name is Christian Hicks just because the namage was different and we shot in my house for a few hundred dollars this video of this guy playing quarters.

And we released it onto the Internet as, you know, we doctored it up, I got some special effects guys I knew and for very cheap they doctored it up so it looked like he threw ten quarters into ten glasses at the same time. And we released it on the Internet actually somewhat by accident and it got a million views. And by the time we went in to pitch the show nobody believed us and we said oh no no no, we created that for the show. Itís not real.

So from the very beginning that was kind of the sales pitch of the show is this could be real but it also led to weíre always sitting around looking at okay, well wait, what is the neurology of how Hicks - if Hicks can do this what else can he do?

For example, if heís got perfect aim and perfect balance, what does that mean to have perfect balance? And could he - how does perfect balance come in a way that we havenít thought of yet? Could he survive a fall for example from a height that most of us, you know, our legs would be broken or our femur would shoot through our brain. That wouldnít be the case for Hicks. So I guess what Iím saying is Iím going to throw Warren off a building pretty soon.

No but seriously, so but there are things like that keep coming up where weíre like hey wait a second. And then there are some in an episode coming up where Hicks is able to - itís not just that he has perfect aim but itís also he can see how certain events have happened more acutely than other people can because thereís the way his mind is wired. So I donít know if thatís exactly what your question was but I answered something.

Carla Day: As a follow-up, if you could have any of the charactersí abilities, who would you each want to - whose abilities would you want to have?

Zak Penn: Warren?

Warren Christie: Somebody asked me this question once and I was totally wrong. I would say easily Ninaís. I think that everybody - I mean, all of them have (unintelligible). The ability to be able to actually tell somebody do something and actually have them listen, I donít get that very much in my life so to actually have that happen I think would be amazing.

The twist on it that I was saying to somebody I think yesterday was itís a bit tricky because Laura Mennell who plays Nina is so gorgeous that I feel if she asked somebody to do something they would do it anyway. So thatís the twist with her whole ability. But I think if I could look someone in the eye and say hey go do this and they could do it, that would be all right.

Zak Penn: And I think the subtext of what Warren is saying there is that he would like to look like Laura Mennell which, I think is something he should be proud of but he doesnít like to talk about it.

Warren Christie: I mean, like you touched on a sensitive subject.

Zak Penn: I have to, you know what, itís going to sound very unoriginal but I completely agree with Warren. I mean, for me Ninaís ability is the one that would make life the easiest.

By the way particularly for example on set with Warren, when itís the daily tantrum about where is my bigger trailer, how come I donít have the warm running toilet flush. I could just say Warren, come on man, live with it and he would be okay.

Warren Christie: We can - you can set your watch by it really every day, every single day.

Zak Penn: No but seriously I do think that Ninaís power is the one that - and even with its limitations, even with the fact that it doesnít last that long, it just seems like the one where your daily - everything you did during the day.

And even when we were conceiving the show we would sit around and say, how would Nina like - how exactly would she get an apartment rent free and we kind of figured out that she would have to find a place that has like a corporate manager and twist that guy into signing a contract giving her the apartment.

Weíve had a lot of fun figuring out if you could go around making people do what you wanted for a short period of time, how many things could you organize for yourself that would just make life fun and easy? I do think it would backfire on you and you would end as a very sad person but I sure would like to have it in the abstract.

Warren Christie: Well Zak, youíve got three kids, I mean, come on.

Zak Penn: I know, God, bedtime would be so easy. You want to go to sleep.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Heather (McGetchy) with Please go ahead.

Zak Penn: Televixen?

Heather McGetchy: Hi Warren, Hi Zak, how are you guys today?

Warren Christie: Good Heather, how are you doing?

Heather McGetchy: Iím good thank you. Thanks so much for taking time to talk to us. So I will start with Warren. Warren, Iíve enjoyed your work in your movies of the week that youíve done, your Hallmark stuff is actually real popular with my family so we have enjoyed those.

Warren Christie: Thanks.

Heather McGetchy: And your series roles have tended to be a little bit darker with Big Cat was kind of a villain, depending on how you were watching the show and then on Happy Town. So on this show what I really liked was you get a chance to see you be a good guy in a bad situation just trying to sort of figure out what all of this means.

So how did you approach this knowing that you were going to have some time to build this character, that it wasnít just a one shot, you know, do the movie, get in, get out, that you were going to have 13 hours to really work on him. What did you sort of look for as how to inform his background and dealing with all of this?

Warren Christie: Yes well, thatís always the hope. When you shoot the pilot for anything you never know whatís going to happen. But it was an interesting character and it was one of the things I fell in love with right at the top was this character. Heís just got so much going on in his life and not good, in too many ways.

What I really loved about him, heís definitely nobodyís hero. He doesnít want to be anybodyís hero, he has kind of painted himself in a corner with his life and heís had so many ups and downs and recently so many more downs than anything that he has isolated himself and he almost just kind of put his head down and said this is my lot in life and this is what Iím going to do.

And then at the end of the pilot he is given this opportunity force. I really donít think he wants to do this and you see at the end of the pilot that he is kind of brought in against what he wants to do. And I found that one of the most interesting things.

I remember the first time reading the pilot screaming like oh this character is great and then thereís these action sequences and this is so much fun. And I love the fact that it didnít get a big bow put on it at the end of the pilot and itís like oh letís go team. I mean, this guy, he is forced into a situation that heís not comfortable with, that heís not necessarily looking for.

And I just thought that the pilot left not just with Hicks but all the characters and the team so many places to go. Iíve read some great pilots before and when you turn that last page it was kind of wow that was great. And now what are you going to do? I think that Zak set up such a good situation for us to have so much play. And then when get in the Sci-Fi genre you are able to push the boundaries a little bit.

So it was about making sure that Hicks was going to fight in his own way, heís going to try and pick himself up and trying to do that.

But like I said, from the get-go he was nobodyís hero. He was an anti-hero, he was just trying to get through. And I just thought the texture of him and his life and all this different stuff was going to be a nice challenge. And it was nice to not be the bad guy again although itís not exactly loads of fun all the time.

Heather McGetchy: Thank you. And Zak my follow-up question is for you. I loved that in the pilot if you were to look over at the Alphas in traffic you wouldnít know that they were sort of potentially superheroes, they were just - they could be going to lunch from the office and that their office isnít, you know, an ultra modern, all metal, you know, dark lighting. Theyíre just refreshingly normal. Was that a really intentional thing to keep them as grounded in reality as possible so that they do have normal lives except for what they do at their jobs?

Zak Penn: Yes, I would say youíve probably hit the key point of the series for me right on the head which is not only did we want them to feel normal, you know, for me. And this is true for Michael Carnell as well who is not on this call but the guy who - a good friend of mine who really brought a whole sensibility to the show which is we felt like we wanted to see what the normal aspects of life are that we all deal with.

Itís a pet peeve of mine in every movie and TV show if a group of people are pulling up to a crime scene or wherever they park. And Iím from New York City and I can tell you that does not happen. There is not a parking spot in front of any building that you want to go to when you want it to be. And when there is you like call friends and say oh my God, I got a spot right in front, itís amazing.

And the office politics of just dealing with people every day. Those are things that you donít normally explore, certainly I havenít been given the opportunity to explore those things in the other things in the genre that I have written and that was essentially, I mean, I felt like thatís what makes - first of all itís what makes the show funny at times. Second of all itís what makes me believe that itís actually happening.

And it just tickles me and it interests me. And I donít want to spoil it because itís really one of my favorite moments in the series so far but there is a moment between Gary and Hicks that is coming up which is just this incredibly simple moment that uses both their abilities but itís the equivalent of someone turning the air conditioning down because they know the guy in the office next to him is a little too cold.

To find those kinds of human moments with these types of characters, to me thatís the reason to do the series honestly more than anything else. And obviously all the stuff about the back stories of characters are essential to creating something actors can play.

But literally finding those moments like Rachelís sense of smell, you know, when people donít clean up or when Harken leaves his food out, itís a bigger deal than when one of the other writers does it in my office although by the way it bothers me there too particularly when Carnell does it.

So I think that those elements of the show at least to me - thatís like the life and soul of it and it has been there from every- in every draft and as you can imagine itís sometimes hard - there are sometimes fights where people are like do we really need a scene of them stopping to put change in the meter?

And me and Michael are saying we absolutely need that, we need that as much as we need Hicks to fire a sniper bullet through an air grate. We need there to be change for the meter and things like that. So Iím glad you noticed that and I hope people appreciate it because itís something that we care very much about it.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Suzanne Lanoue with TV MegaSite. You may please go ahead.

Suzanne Lanoue: Hi, thanks for taking our calls today.

Zak Penn: Our pleasure.

Warren Christie: Hi Suzanne.

Suzanne Lanoue: Sorry about that. Letís see, Zak I was going to ask you if there was anything you can tell us about the episodes after the pilot, what we have to look forward to? Anything you can spare at all, any morsel or anything about guest stars and things like that?

Zak Penn: You know, I actually - I donít - this is going to reveal my ignorance for - this is the first time I have done a television show. Iíve exclusively done movies my whole career so I donít know exactly what the rules are in terms of spoilers. So forgive me if Iím - I might be more careful about this than other people would be. I think that some of them have been announced, right, I mean, Summer, right Warren?

Stephen Cox: No, whoa, whoa. Valerie Cruze has been announced.

Zak Penn: Valerie Cruze has been announced.

Warren Christie: And we all know Callum Keith Rennie was in the pilot, you know. Callum is very well known from Battlestar and whatnot.

Zak Penn: Itís really funny, I made a mistake on my first one. But I didnít say the whole name so you donít know. Okay so I will be super careful about that. I guess I now am gun shy about it. I mean, I could tell you that we will be going in a lot of unexpected directions and there will be a lot of different people coming into the mix and a lot of interesting guest stars. I know this is like the lamest answer ever but...

Warren Christie: And also what Iíll say on top of that since Zak...

Zak Penn: Iím being the low point so yes go ahead.

Warren Christie: What we do have is some really, I mean, obviously you canít give story points away. We have some really incredible guest stars who have been in and out and specifically ones that I think people who like the genre are going to be - a couple in particular are going to be really blown away by and theyíre going to really like to see how they come in.

And theyíre also going to get to see them play against type a little bit which I think is going to be real exciting. But other than Valerie Cruz and Callum Keith Rennie I think thatís about all we can really say.

Suzanne Lanoue: All right thanks. And Warren I was going to ask you, were you a science fiction or comic book fan before doing this show?

Warren Christie: Yes I was. When I was a kid I was crazy about X-Men comics and whatnot and then coming up Iíve always been a film TV junkie in general but the Sci-Fi genre. But what I really love about it is the leaps and bounds it has made in the last I donít know, Iím going to say like five to ten years.

I mean, first of all it has become so much more mainstream I think, for lack of a better term. And there was a time when maybe Sci-Fi was viewed as something with low quality, low budget. But as you have seen and as Zak pointed out with the Marvel franchise and the television series that it has become this hugely viable genre that at this point in time, not just the people enjoy but people of different generations can enjoy.

And I think that if you also get the right show, I mean, in most times itís like this, but you can have a father sitting down with his son or a mother sitting down with her son or daughter or whatever it might be and enjoying the same type of shows and doing that type of thing. Because itís really starting to bridge generations and it has become very mainstream.

But I love it because it also from an acting point of view it allows us to kind of push the parameters a little bit and do things. I mean, the one great thing about our show is that like Zak has said, itís always rooted in reality and I think thatís whatís bridging the gap a little bit.

But it gives you a lot more play and when a script comes in there are times when a script will come in on Alphas and Iím just like Iím blown away and you see how it works in. And at the end of the day I hate to say this word but itís just a lot of fun.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Erin Willard with SciFi Mafia. Please go ahead.

Erin Willard: Good morning gentlemen, thanks again for taking the call.

Zak Penn: Good morning.

Warren Christie: Hi Erin.

Erin Willard: Hi, I was looking forward to seeing you at Comic Con Warren, sorry youíre not going to be there, thatís kind of a bummer.

Zak Penn: He needs to shoot.

Erin Willard: Well okay, thatís a fair reason.

Zak Penn: We were filming that day, right Warren?

Warren Christie: Yes I think it was going to boil down to work, like we were all trying to get there in some way, shape, or form but unfortunately we are pretty pedal to the metal right now with work.

Erin Willard: So yes I think thatís an excused absence then. I really enjoyed the pilot. I thought it was just terrific and itís going to be a great set I think for that 10:00 hour. Thereís not the kind of silliness that creeps into the earlier two shows and Iím just really looking forward to it.

I did really enjoy the - I could recognize a lot of the aspects of these people, obviously not the kind of super powers aspects but knowing people, I know these people, you know, the people who didnít (unintelligible) very easily. I know these people too. So it was great that it was so comfortable but never whiny, it didnít get too dramatic and so the writing I think has just been exquisite and Iím really enjoying it so far.

Zak Penn: Thank you.

Erin Willard: Zak I was wondering if the show as it has developed then and itís actually being produced has changed very much from your original vision.

Zak Penn: Well has it changed very much from my original vision? It certainly hasnít changed that much from the pilot obviously because it has been the same people and it has been pretty consistent. There has been some stylistic changes that are partly choice, partly necessity of trying to move quicker. Obviously you have a lot more time when youíre shooting a pilot.

If you go back to the original documents we wrote up itís pretty amazing how similar it is because it seems like weíve had two years of arguments with 25 different people about what exactly the show should be and it is weird to go back and look at our original pitch and itís pretty damn close.

Thereís characters, a couple of the characters have changed. Not Hicks for example but there are a couple of the other ones have changed because either who was cast or, nationality or other details.

But no, for the most part it has been pretty weirdly consistent which I have to tell you I have such a bad track record, you know, the first script I ever wrote was Last Action Hero so I was fired the day that they bought it. And when I went to see the premiere, I was looking around at my writing partner saying oh my God, what has happened.

And that has happened to me a number of times in my career where I have written something about a bunch of real people and I go see the movie and theyíre all psychic now.

So that has been actually a fairly painful part of my certainly the early half of my career so it is kind of almost like a weird dream that I keep expecting to wake up from like Iíll turn on Alphas and suddenly it will be a wacky comedy. But so far that does not happen to me so good news.

Warren Christie: But the one great thing, obviously I donít do any writing. The one great thing I have to say about Zak and Carnell and the writing team in general is as we have gone along they have always been very open to listening to us, just little things, you know, and making it as naturalistic as possible.

And then what great writers do when they have as a group is they so quickly found everyoneís voice that you see it changing and working their characters are really flushing out. I mean, they were - they just kind of tweak things and not - as they learn more about us as actors and the characters where theyíre going.

And the little tweaks which may not seem like the biggest thing at the time has - to make it much easier on the actor and it really helps to solidify the voice of each of the characters.

Zak Penn: Thank you. Let me add to that. I have done a couple of improvisational movies and when I set out to do this show despite some protestation said I want actors who are able to improvise, who are able to ad lib where they will feel comfortable making the dialog sound naturalistic. Iím a little bit tired of like every line having to be a pronouncement.

So, the actors really do deserve a lot of credit. They all are very shy about admitting this but quite often, weíll let them come up with stuff on their own and say thatís better than what we wrote. Letís put that in there.

Because I feel like thatís one of the problems a lot of writers have is they get very precious about their words and, unless youíre Shakespeare, and Iím not, I know that sometimes happens, the confusion.

I feel like a lot of the character growth comes from each of these guys saying, you know, I was thinking, wouldnít I do this and maybe I should say that. And we try to always be open to them and take it and it really has allowed the characters to evolve. But the vision of the show I would say has actually stayed pretty close to what it was.

Erin Willard: Thatís great.

Zak Penn: Yes so I count my lucky stars.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Ann Morris with Airlock Alphas. Please proceed.

Ann Morris: Hi, and I just want to add my thanks to everyone elseís for you taking the time to talk with us today.

Zak Penn: Our pleasure.

Warren Christie: You got it Ann.

Ann Morris: Thank you. And my question, I did really enjoy the pilot for Alphas. One of the things that I particularly found interesting was the idea that things werenít always black and white and there was a big gray area. And one of the characters who really seems to be a part of that big gray area is Dr. Rosen.

So I guess Zak this question really is for you. I want to know are we going to find out more about his background and are we going to find out more how he got this team together?

Zak Penn: You absolutely will find out a lot more about that. Youíre going to find that out almost immediately I would say, in the next two episodes. You will find out a lot more and that continues to be a crucial part of the storytelling.

And in fact, with David Strathairn - we wouldnít get him if the part was just every week youíre going to deliver a case and he knew that going in that was not going to be the case.

But for me Rosen, we definitely started with Rosen when we were creating the show. For me the idea was instead of having someone whoís suited to this job, what would make sense is a guy who has got the background in the clinical and the neurological part of this but is completely unsuited to running a tactical team for the Department of Defense.

nd that is something that not only drives a lot of the plots and how they approach the cases but the more you find out about Rosen -- and look, Hicks has a good scene with Rosen at the end of the pilot which, I think is one of the better scenes where you realize that Rosen is not quite the warm cuddly guy that he appears to be.

Ann Morris: Yes that was kind of why I liked him. In fact it was funny because at that point it kind of had a little bit of a dollhouse feel to it and itís like oh, heís maybe not so nice.

Zak Penn: Well put it this way. It will not - even that will not take the twists and turns that you might expect, you know, itís not going to be exactly what you might expect. But heís also not just this benign guy who is there to help. Heís got his own agenda and heís got some stuff in his back story that a number of things are going to come out that are pretty big that will change and change again your opinion of him I think.

Ann Morris: Okay and one other question.

Zak Penn: So if you like that, get ready.

Ann Morris: Yes I really did and yes, Iím anxious to see more. So if Iím too sleepy my DVR will be set. But I also, I found the character of Gary really interesting. It has been a while since I saw the pilot so correct me please if Iím wrong. I was thinking heís autistic. Is that correct?

Zak Penn: That is correct, yes.

Ann Morris: Right. What made you decide to give him that particular disability to go along with his extra power?

Zak Penn: Well obviously that one really came out of the research and having read all of Oliver Sacksí, I donít know if youíre familiar with his books.

Ann Morris: I know who he is, yes.

Zak Penn: Okay. So, between An Anthropologist on Mars and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and all the other fascinating books he has written, the more we talked about - first of all one of the things that fascinated us was the idea that these kind of repeated stereotype movements that you sometimes see in people who are autistic.

I know people who are autistic so itís a pretty common thing. We just thought wouldnít it be fascinating if there was a secret language going on behind that.

And as Warren could attest, Ryan has created that secret language, I mean, he is the one who knows it. So when we have questions about it we call him. And we have worked with a number of doctors to make his portrayal incredibly accurate.

But I will tell you that we felt like really we were looking for in every case where we came up with an alpha ability, we tried to say like if this were in Oliver Sacksí study, you know, if this were about a guy who could draw incredibly well, what is the most likely problem or what part of his brain would have suffered.

I mean, thereís a thing about Einstein, I donít know if itís apocryphal but I believe itís true that they found, you know, after he died when they looked at his brain that the part of his brain that controls like visual and spatial understanding was enormously, it was much bigger than it should have been in a normal person.

And other parts of his brain were slightly smaller which explains why he didnít speak until he was - they thought Einstein was mentally challenged until he was five or six years old because his speech was so bad.

So for Gary the strength of his ability and the nature of it we felt like the amount of stimulus that would have caused, it seemed only natural that he would have the kind of autism spectrum disorder that he has as opposed to someone for example like, Warrenís character with Hicks, with hyperkinesis didnít seem like it would lead to that kind of problem. So it really was organic I would say.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Josie Campbell with Spinoff Online. Please go ahead.

Josie Campbell: Hi, thank you guys so much again for talking to all of us today.

Zak Penn: Pleasure.

Warren Christie: Hey Josie.

Josie Campbell: Hey. So my first question is for Zak. Sort of with Alphas the whole premise of a bunch of sort of misfits with powers also dealing with some real world issues, that feels a little bit like the comic book X-Men team. How much has your work in Marvel superhero movies and sort of your background with comic books influenced the initial idea for Alphas?

Zak Penn: Iíve been reading the X-Men comics since I was, I donít know, six so I think itís burned into my brain in a way that is inextricable. When I did an improvisational comedy about (Burner Hurtsog) I found that I was doing stuff that felt like it had some sort of antecedent X-Men which donít ask me to explain that further.

But, all that stuff has been such a big part of my life and even my professional life so thereís no question that it lurks there in the background and that universe is so rich.

I will say that thereís a lot of different stories obviously that touch on people who have unusual abilities. A number of them have been raised in these questions. The key is differentiating them, the key is making sure that youíre not starting in the same universe with the same type of people.

And so, I actually think in a lot of ways I very consciously said, in fact they kind of get sick of me in the writerís room because Iíll say we cannot do that, that was in X-Men, no, that character canít say that, thatís exactly what he says in X-Men. And after a while (Ira) jokes with me, heís like between Star Trek, X-Men, all the shows that all of us have worked on weíd never be able to write anything if that was our criteria.

But for me personally I do try to - Iím always conscious of letís try not to do what has been done well elsewhere. Letís try to do something different.

Josie Campbell: And for the following up with that, because you talk a lot about the ideas that you want to get through with Alphas and really grounding it in reality. How did you come up with the initial idea? Was it something that you and Michael Carnell had wanted to write for a while? I mean, I know you said that you spent about five years pitching it.

Zak Penn: Well it actually wasnít so much five years pitching it because it did sell, it kept selling and then there was a writerís strike or whatever. But very quickly, Michael Carnell who is a bit of a history buff came to me and said he had been reading all about these programs, the CIA, the KGB ran in the 50s and 60s and 70s where they tried to recruit people who are psychic or people that had unusual abilities.

And most of those programs ended almost hilariously in disaster. I believe that George Clooney was in that movie Men Who Stare at Goats which is kind of the comedic version of it.

But he was basically, he brought me this idea while we were making another movie and said wouldnít it be cool if that had actually worked. Wouldnít it be cool if they actually found a group or people who were helpful and that very quickly spun into the idea that we have right now.

The reason why the development has been so long as I said is that it was purchased by ABC and then there was a writerís strike and then we ended up going to Syfy. So Michael and I have been working on this thing for five years even though itís only been in production for however long it has been at Syfy.

But that is the origin. If anybody wants to write the origin story of the writing of Alphas which would probably be an amazing comic book, there it is. Thatís the secret origin.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Sheldon Wiebe with Please go ahead.

Sheldon Wiebe: Hi guys, thanks for doing this.

Zak Penn: Hi Sheldon.

Warren Christie: Hey Sheldon.

Sheldon Wiebe: Zak, okay we have established your thorough fluency with the X-Men so I would like to propose the idea that the Alphas are kind of like a blue collar X-Men wrote small who work for an underfunded subsidiary of the Department of Defense.

Now this means they get hassled by government red tape so even as theyíre trying to do their job there are problems from within. Can you speak to how that will impact the series as it evolves?

Zak Penn: I certainly can. In fact another shout out to Michael Carnell here, you know, Michael is fascinated and loves the finality of bureaucracy, you know, the fact that - I think both of us are - the idea that, so often in fiction and TV and movies youíve got some sort of imperious overlord of a government official who makes them go do something horrible.

When the truth is as we all know, most of the time that person just has to file the report by Friday and just want to, you know what I mean? Theyíre just interested in the paperwork they need to hand in or the requisition form or whether you stayed on budget.

And thatís something I feel like obviously you know, talk about comparisons. In the X-Men nobody ever comes up to Professor X and says, you know, the hangar for the jet is over budget and behind schedule and we need to cut back on the danger room. You know, like it just doesnít work that way.

So not only did we do that something that interested us and felt more real to us, it actually turns into a pretty interesting conflict for the team for exactly the reasons you just said which are itís - it makes their lives difficult in a totally different way. That some of the conflicts are enormous but some of them are as simple as thatís not the way the government works.

So I think Rosen says to Hicks in one of the early episodes, you know, Hicks says so I guess Iím on call or something and he says yes but at least you have a good dental plan and thatís true.

Sheldon Wiebe: Cool. Warren, youíve got the most complicated role in the pilot, most complicated art. Not only does your character have this unusual power, he also has the most profound art. And on top of that he also as you mentioned earlier the audienceís entry point into the show. What were the specific challenges of working under those unique circumstances?

Warren Christie: Well it was so well written that it was more about trying to stay true to what was on the page. I think that it was important when I read it I understood what this guy was going through but I think it was - one of the things was the confusion and the skepticism.

This is a very skeptical guy. Itís not until he starts to see the other peopleís powers that he start to be kind of won over a little bit. Even then as you see at the end of the pilot, like it doesnít mean that he wants to jump on board and be a part of it.

I think that the journey goes from the beginning as he is sucked into this world. Itís very convoluted. And again it goes back to what we were saying earlier about all these gray areas. And the growth in the pilot and there are times when Hicks doesnít understand whatís wrong with what so-and-so is saying, like whatís wrong with what theyíre doing, itís so cut and dry here.

So it was specifically with the pilot, I mean, heís going through so much. He has this blank period of time where he canít remember anything and heís trying to piece that together. He wakes up and heís in, heís tied down, heís in an MRI machine. Itís just very confusing to him, itís a scary situation to be chased down by people which he doesnít understand.

So I think that I see it more as a jumping off point. Like I said it was all there on the page. I think the character is very well written. He has all this stuff going on but what Iím most excited about is actually where itís going. And as we see, and like we were talking about before, I feel like the fact that thereís no ribbon at the end of the pilot and itís like oh great, high fives everybody, letís do it. Itís just scratching the surface of where I think weíre going.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of (Michael Simpson) with CinemaSpy. Please go ahead.

Michael Simpson: Hey guys, thanks for coming in and talking to us about this new series.

Zak Penn: Hey (Michael).

Warren Christie: Hey (Michael).

Michael Simpson: A question for Zak. It says on your IMDB profile that your first memory is of the Watergate scandals. My question is that true. And secondly, has that sort of inspired you (unintelligible) writing and particularly up to and including Alphas?

Zak Penn: I only heard the first half. What was the second question? You cut out a little.

Michael Simpson: Do you think that if thatís true, that was your first memory, so do you think subconsciously that has inspired your writing?

Zak Penn: I know this is going to sound crazy, I have no idea how that ended up on my IMDB page. I thought it was an old friend of mine put it there as a practical joke.

It is vaguely true that like I remember as a kid watching my parents watching the news and seeing things about the Watergate break-in but I have questioned every person who could possibly know that and they all - half of them were like whatís IMDB.

I have only not asked them to take it down because itís so weird to me that - is it still up there? I donít know that itís informed my writing. I must have been four or five when that happened. So nobody has even asked me this before but Iím glad someone finally did because itís like my own little conspiracy theory and I donít know whatís going on.

I donít know that it actually has informed my writing because I really kind of grew up post, you know, obviously being four, I didnít write much when I was four although I did start writing.

Warren Christie: Lazy.

Zak Penn: Yes, I did actually write my class play when I was nine so I guess I did start early but it had nothing to do with Watergate. Look, the stuff I grew up on more I would say, I grew up on Monty Python, on Saturday Night Live, on Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg. Those were the things that really influenced me.

But of course, Watergate, without going into an incredibly long answer you could make an argument that a lot of Spielbergís films, you know, particularly those great 70s films, feel like imminently post Watergate, you know, in their attitude towards the government. But no, I donít think that has had a tremendous influence on me. And then what was the other - and then the other part of the question was?

Michael Simpson: No that was the first one.

Zak Penn: Well then I answered them both. But if you ever figure it out.

Warren Christie: What is IMBD?

Zak Penn: Yes, one day I want to figure out who did it. I mean, Iím really curious.

Operator: And our final question comes from the line of Jamie Ruby with Sci-Fi Vision. Please go ahead.

Jamie Ruby: Hi again, great, I get the last question.

Zak Penn: Hi.

Warren Christie: Hey Jamie.

Jamie Ruby: All right, what have the two of you learned most about yourselves since you started working on the show?

Zak Penn: You go first Warren, Iíve got to think about this.

Warren Christie: Zak you go ahead, Iím ordering a sandwich and Iím paying for it so you go ahead.

Zak Penn: Okay. I have learned that Warren loves sandwiches. No, what I have learned most about myself? God thatís a tough one. I guess I would say, I donít know if this is the most about myself. I have to say I am humbled by the pace and intensity of making a television show and I say this to the guys who I work with every day.

Even compared to features, even compared to the biggest or the most difficult features Iíve done or even the lowest budget ones, it is really a daunting task to create a show like this and to work as hard as these guys do, as we all do and the actors as well for such an enormous amount of time.

So for me, I had always prided myself, certainly as a writer that it was never, , no matter how fast something needed to be written or how quickly you need to shoot something or how many changes we have to make on the fly that I would be able to do it.

And I have to say that many times making this show where I realize wow, no wonder these show runners are such valued commodities. Because television actors sometimes you wonder oh why does that guy want to leave that hit show after five years. And you realize like, itís not like a movie where youíre sitting there getting pampered in your trailer and you come out for two hours and then you have a nice meal. Itís a lot of hard work, it really is.

I think for me that was a big eye opener and as Warren will tell you, I prefer not to work so hard. So that - it forced me to actually step up my game. Warren have you ordered your sandwich?

Warren Christie: I have ordered my sandwich and I paid for it. Itís coming. This is going to be a weird answer, have an interesting spin to it. Oh thank you, my sandwich.

I think one of the things I have learned, and this may seem a little bit of a silly answer but itís how much I enjoy doing this role but what I mean by that is the character like this. There is a physicality to this role thatís new, thatís something I have not really done before and Iím loving being a part of it.

Iím loving getting the opportunity to try and do - and donít get me wrong, obviously I donít do them all. But trying to do certain stunts and trying to do certain things along that line.

And that alone I donít think would be enough to have me be as excited about the role in the show if it werenít for such a deep character and a group of people to work with. We have a fun show and we have a lot of fun doing it.

And Iíve been on shows before, the majority of my career has been television and television series and Iíve had the opportunity to work with some great people. But I have also been on shows where itís not exactly a whole lot of laughs.

I think most people are always going to say oh, itís great but weíve got a great cast, weíve got great higher ups, great writers. Everybody is great and very supportive of it. I think more than anything itís been an eye opening experience to realize how much joy can be in finding something great. I love playing this character because itís challenging.

I like the physical aspect of it so I think more than anything Iíve just learned more specifically and as I get older a little bit as well what I look for in a character, in a job, in a show.

Because Zak is right. When you sign on to do a TV series you better be ready for some very long hours for possibly five or six years. These are all possibilities. And in a good case, these are all possibilities. I could be wrong.

If you show up and on day two youíre like oh man, I canít stand these people, then itís, youíre looking at a long trek. So I think more than anything it has opened my eyes to the type of people I want to surround myself with to take the jobs that I want to do.

And real quick even though I know itís not a part of it. One of the biggest things I have to segue into David Strathairn. This guy is everything that is right with this industry. He is our leader in front of the camera and off. He is a phenomenal talent to work with and just an incredible man to be around and to work with. And so yes, his energy and he attacks his roles with such integrity, he has been a really great example to the rest of us.

So itís been a lot of fun. It is hard hours. Iím on my way to work right now, Iíve got my sandwich. But when youíre going with a group like that and everybody is on the same vibe of trying to do something great itís really exciting.

Jamie Ruby: Okay. As a quick follow-up, is there any specific stunts that like you really, you know, that sticks out in your mind, talking about the physicality?

Warren Christie: Well sometimes I consider just getting out of my trailer a stung so maybe I exaggerated a little. No, Iím just trying to think. When we were doing the pilot I got to do a thing where a car was coming up, hit the brakes and skid.

And as it was still moving but coming to a stop I ran up, ran across the hood, jumped down, another car was coming the other way, and was just kind of jumped and used my arms to push off of that and that was exhilarating. It was pretty exciting, scary, no accidents in my pants or anything like that but Iím just going to say it was close. But yes, getting to challenge myself with these things.

And Iíve got to say, Iíve had a couple of incredible stunt guys coming through and my man (Stefan) is a guy who is my stunt guy right now and he does a lot of hard core. I like to challenge myself and try to do as many of the things as I can but I have to give a hats off to our stunt crew that comes in. I mean, they do a phenomenal job. And itís those things that take our show I think to another level stunt wise.

Jamie Ruby: Great, thanks so much both of you.

Zak Penn: Our pleasure.

Warren Christie: Take care.

Zak Penn: Warren, enjoy your sandwich.

Warren Christie: Oh you have no idea, Iím so excited.

Stephen Cox: Thank you everyone for calling in. Alphas premieres Monday at 10:00 pm only on Syfy. Thank you Warren, thank you Zak, have a great day.

Zak Penn: Bye guys.

Warren Christie: All right, bye guys.

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