Ryan Cartwright is currently playing Gary Bell in Syfy’s hit show “Alphas”. The show is a huge hit and already renewed for a second season. With the show nearing the end of its first season Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ryan about the show and how he prepared for his character.
Mike Gencarelli: Gary is not only a fun and interesting character but he is also very complex, what do you enjoy most about playing him?
Ryan Cartwright: I enjoy the fact he is not some kind of tokenistic character. Everyone kind of got on board and helped give him a life behind the eyes. It could have been one of those roles that was an embarrassment. It is just really fun to have his sense of humor. He is kind of knows he is cheeky and it is that knowingness behind the eyes that cracks up myself and the cast. You can see them laughing a lot of the times and they keep it in the show. I do like to make Malik (Yoba) and Warren (Christie) laugh. That is good fun.
MG: How did you prepare for the role and do you find the character challenging to play?
RC: Yeah, when I first read the role I needed to figure out the specifics for the character. There are many different elements to him. Filming-wise, my only challenge is that I have to do an American accent and that was like the easiest part of this show. It was just fascinating going around and researching autism and general neuroscience. It is still something that is not that well understood. It is new and people are still learning about. When early reviews came out for the pilot, I was amazed that, even when it wasn’t in a derogatory way, the only reference was to “Rain Man”. It made me realize and reminded me exactly how little autistic people have been portrayed since then even. It was fascinated and a fair bit of work. I had about a month and a half though to research and figure out the character. It was so well written anyway, so it was just finding that marriage between what was on the page and what I felt comfortable doing. Once he was up and running, after the first few days filming, I got the feeling and he has just been super fun to play.
MG: What do you use for inspiration when you are “scrolling” through the information with your alphas ability?
RC: I have to figure out all those little mannerisms. I think in the script it just said “he waves his hands through the air” and I was like “hold on, hold on”. They were going to be putting in a graphic into this, so I had to figure out a whole system for what I would be visualizing and how my hands would be “controlling” these streams. After I figured it all out, I spoke to the writers and the visual effects guys and made them a little video and drew up a little chart. It was almost like a sign language chart with what the hand mannerisms meant. It was really cool and everything matched. It wasn’t just a random flurry of hands in the air. It can get confusing sometimes when he is having to multitask but like I said it is fine now that he is up and running.
MG: Already just in season one, we have seen Gary change and grow more independent, what can you tell us about this?
RC: This is his first group of people that he has hung around with on a permanent basis that haven’t treated him as a second class citizen. They realize that he has these abilities and it is the first time he is being proud of himself. There is that childish pride and the self confidence is in full bloom. As you can see in the first few episodes, he is kind of petulant. As the series is progressing though, he is maturing and realizing everyone has their own place in the group. He is maturing just from being around these intense situations and seeing people die. I think that he is realizes what a group actually is, which is something that they say with autistic people, they cannot realize the concept of other minds. They know there is other bodies but it is hard for them to see the other people’s intentions, wants and needs. I think he is getting a crash course in that just with his work with the group and it is progressing quite rapidly. He has been through in the deep end.
MG: What can we expect from the upcoming finale of season one?
RC: It is crazy and pretty intense. Gary will not be the same after the event of the finale unfold. It is definitely a bit of a life changer for him in particular.
MG: What has been your favorite episode to shoot in this season and why?
RC: I really enjoyed the episode “Bill and Gary’s Excellent Adventure” with Malik. It was that fun kind of buddy cop…like a bizarre kind of “48 Hours” [laughs]. It was really nice to play out that relationship and we improvised a bit. By that time as well it felt very organic for us to bounce off each other. That one was definitely a fun episode.
MG: How does working on this show for you compare to your other television work i.e. “Bones” and “Mad Men”?
RC: I am super happy that it is of a high caliber because you never know. With “Bones” and “Mad Men”, I was just like an actor for hire. I signed on for one episode and I would be lucky when I got the call to come back. Where as this was a commitment from day one for an extensive period of time. It was more of a risk signing on. I am just super happy that it is a cut above the rest and it is really good. It is nice to be actually proud of the work you are doing and also enjoying being able to watch it. With regards to the acting, I think it was a little bit more work upfront for me, but I do not feel like it is any different that the stuff I have done before in terms of quality. I am very happy with it.
MG: The show was already picked up for a second season, any idea when you start filming?
RC: Oh crickey [laughs], it is weird because when we got the news that it has gone to series and we were bouncing off the wall. It feels like we just got home from this grueling shoot and it is awesome news for sure. But I am like “Wait, wait, let’s not go straight back…let me enjoy some sunshine and my Xbox for a little bit” [laughs]. I am super happy about the news, of course. I am going to guess we are going back to shoot probably late March at the earliest. They have to regroup and plan the new scripts and story lines. I think because it isi also shot up in Toronto that people try there best to avoid the harsher weather up there.