LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Actor Alan Tudyk has experience playing robots and aliens in science-fiction movies, but playing an alien pretending to be human in his new TV show, Resident Alien, adds comedic levels to Tudyk's otherworldly performance.
The show follows an alien sent to destroy Earth who crash lands in Patience, Colo. The alien takes on the identity of Harry Vanderspeigle (Tudyk) while he repairs his ship so he can finish his mission. A montage shows Harry struggle with normal human tasks like sitting down, eating and smiling.
"I wanted to try to sit down and fall forward instead of going backwards into the chair," Tudyk told UPI in a Zoom interview.
Tudyk's sci-fi pedigree dates to Joss Whedon's show Firefly, in which he played the pilot, Wash. Tudyk played Sonny the robot in I, Robot, droid K-2SO in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and a lizard alien in V.
As Harry, Tudyk said he improvised the montage of physical comedy in Resident Alien. Harry tries to copy a magazine photo of Anne Hathaway smiling. Tudyk said Harry becomes very self-conscious about his smile as he mingles with the residents of Patience.
"It's an insecurity for him," Tudyk said. "He continues to try, at different levels of success throughout the season, be natural and smile."
Initially, Harry plans to wait in a remote cabin and avoid the citizens of Patience. However, the death of local doctor Sam Hodges forces Harry into town, as the body he took over was the only other doctor in the area.
The alien Harry has to fake his way through appointments with Sam's former patients. Sam's nurse, Asta (Sara Tomko) helps him adjust to the office, not knowing he really is an alien inside. Tomko said that, in a way, Harry helps her, too.
"When she's a nurse, her best days were with Sam when she would feel like she belonged somewhere," Tomko said. "Harry doesn't replace Sam, but he starts to step in and understand that Asta is really sad."
Harry also gets a taste of human romance when bartender D'Arcy (Alice Wetterlund) flirts with him. Wetterlund says D'Arcy is open to relationships with any man she meets, and there are few new ones from whom to choose in Patience.
"She's kind of oscillating between giving up and dying alone in an alcoholic death or maybe shacking up with the next guy who comes along," Wetterlund said. "She does it all while cracking wise and being the charming young woman, maybe not promising young woman, that she is."
The relationship with D'Arcy gives Harry another comedic opportunity to fail at appearing human. Tudyk said Harry researches TV shows to learn how to kiss D'Arcy and the results are hilarious.
"You get to share his overconfidence and certainty," Tudyk said. "I don't know what he watched on television that gave him the instruction that that was how he was supposed to kiss, but it's not the right way."
Asta gets close with Harry, too, through working together. They also determine that Sam was murdered, so they investigate suspects together. Tomko cautioned viewers not to expect any romance between Asta and Harry.
"It reminds me a little bit of X-Files where they really just work really well together," Tomko said. "We're all trying to figure out the murder."
Other characters in Patience gravitate toward Harry, too. Mayor Ben Hawthorne (Levi Fiehler) finds himself relying on Harry emotionally.
"He becomes my therapist," Fiehler said. "He comes over to my house for dinner parties. So there's all sorts of fun hijinks throughout the season."
Unfortunately, Ben's son, Max (Judah Prehn), doesn't get along with Harry. Max can see Harry's alien form, so Harry wants to kill the 10-year-old to protect his secret. The comedy comes out of the notion that Harry is no match for Max.
"Luckily, he's smarter than me," Tudyk said. "He's 10 and the alien isn't that mature. He hasn't been a human for that long so the kid just keeps winning in their little war."
Sheriff Mike Thompson (Corey Reynolds) also is suspicious of Harry when they meet. It doesn't occur to the sheriff that Harry could be from another planet, but it concerns Mike that Harry doesn't understand why the Black sheriff's nickname is Big Black.
"I think that instantly set off red flags in Sheriff Mike's head," Reynolds said. "From the very beginning, he puts his finger right on [the fact that] there's something different about this guy."
However, Reynolds said that Sheriff Mike has more problems than a murder investigation and an alien trying to destroy the world.
"Beyond what Harry's there to do, there are some nefarious components to Patience," Reynolds said. "We come to discover that Harry's not the only threat to the town."
Resident Alien premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. EST on Syfy.