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Season 2 of Resident Alien has done an excellent job of fleshing out its character dynamics — not just with regards to the relationship between Harry (Alan Tudyk) and Asta (Sara Tomko), but also with everyone in the small town of Patience, Colorado.
While Mayor Ben Hawthorne (Levi Fiehler) and his wife, Kate (Meredith Garretson) aren't caught up in any of the extra-terrestrial shenanigans — as far as they know, anyway — the show never gives up an opportunity to dive into their emotional beats, which help ground the larger-than-life elements of the hit SYFY series. The couple's current head-butting over the resort construction helps to keep the larger-than-life elements grounded and relatable.
SYFY WIRE recently caught up with Garretson over Zoom to discuss Kate's Season 2 arc, her real-world friendship with Sara Tomko, and the one actor she'd like to see guest star as her father.
How do you and Levi work together to find those emotional beats when the cameras aren't rolling?
I think what's really important is that these two people love each other deeply. They aren't meeting eye-to-eye, which happens when you've been with a person for a long time. But they're also taking out a lot of their own inner turmoil on one another, which we do to the people who are closest to us. They know exactly how to push each other's buttons and I think it's important to us that their relationship be really dynamic. They can be fully inside of a cozy, loving moment one second, and then they can be undone and agitated by each other in the next second.
We always manage to keep a playfulness available to us when we're fighting and I think we keep vulnerability present instead of just anger. The wound is available and I think Levi is so good at that; he disarms me with the fact that we are pushing each other's buttons, but that's because we know how to do that. We know each other's vocabulary for how to get under each other's skin. And because of where we are in our lives, we want different things. But I think we always find a way to figure out how to how to meet each other or how to keep the humanity in the argument. To keep the love in the conflict.
Like you alluded to earlier, Kate and Ben have started to butt heads on the whole resort plan. Where can we expect to see that storyline go as the season begins to near its end?
The resort is a point of contention for Ben and Kate. Kate is good at what she does; she and Kayla get on top of trying to stop this resort from coming in ... I think that her reasoning is sound [in] that she wants to help to preserve the town for what it is: a town that really has character and has real people living in it and everything isn't a CVS and a Target. I think what you will see is an evolving perspective from Ben on why he wanted the resort in the first place. You're gonna see a shift in the belief that the resort would have value in the town and you're gonna see that the resort was kind of a symbol for other things. It was a placeholder for how to fix things and how to make things better."
I love the moment in Episode 11 when Kate confronts Harry about the drum set and, without missing a beat, he accuses the Hawthornes of being poor. Is it hard to keep a straight face when you're sharing a scene with Alan?
Alan sets the bar for endurance — for great ideas for depth of character. He is a clown. He's a playful, diligent clown and he comes to the table with a million choices — all of which are great. He’s a fantastic scene partner, he's a great listener. The only problem is he annoys the s*** out of Kate. Part of how she deals with this world that she's in, is to maintain what order and control [she has]. And he does things, like the drum set, that just makes her eye twitch and then says things that just get under her skin and it tickles me. Everything Alan does, makes me, Meredith, want to bust out laughing. So it requires all of my focus and my attention and my belief in the circumstance to stay in the moment and stay committed when he comes up with one of his insane ideas. It's just his delivery. He has great timing, he always does the exact thing that is going to undo me, and most of the time after they call ‘Cut!’ I have to let out giant laughter. It's always been a joy to work with Alan and to watch all of the things that he's infused into Harry. But yeah, the guy almost breaks me every take. It’s a wonder we have any usable takes, frankly.
How do you think Kate and Ben would react if they learned of Harry’s true identity?
I think for Kate, being able to create order around her universe, that's the thing she has to work on. Learning how to trust other people, learning how to let other people in, and then learning how to deal with people who deal with the world differently — even her own husband. So I think that would be very challenging for Kate at first and terrifying because of his proximity to Max. I think that would raise some major alarm bells, but in the end, I think it'd be really good for her. She's the kind of person who is, at this point in her life, short on magic. She’s short on evidence of things beyond how she sees the world and she's starting to let those things in. Like seeing Patience in a whole new light and seeing people in a whole new light and coming to terms with some of the things that she does and carries and how those things affect other people. Learning that there was an alien in her midst would really challenge all of the ways that she organizes [the world]. I think she would have a pretty severe first reaction to that. Ben [on the other hand] might be a little different, but that's not for me to say.
And I know that you and Sara Tomko are like best buds in real life…
We are best friends. She was the maid of honor in my wedding!
That's awesome. Do you two get up to all sorts of hijinks on set?
You know what we do when the cameras aren't rolling? We go into one another's trailers and we snuggle. We snuggle and sometimes we cry. Lucky us, we have this whole new family of friends. Our cast is a family and we all love each other. I think we're pretty good about sharing the love and spreading it around because we know that we always have each other to come home to. Sara’s always the person who's there when it's been a hard day or a hard scene, she's the one waiting in the wings to buoy me up. I'm that way for her and always have been and always will be. So we laugh a lot, we cry a lot, we snuggle a lot, and we just pinch ourselves every single day that we're on set together. We're like, "I can't believe this! Can you believe this?! I can't believe this! This is really happening!" We will have more scenes together, but it's a slow burn for Kate and Asta. They're finding their way to a more intimate relationship with each other.
Episode 13 makes a point to focus on the books being read by Kate and Ben. Ben in particular is reading The Guttenberg Bible (Steve Guttenberg's Hollywood memoir). What was the significance of that?
Well, we love Steve Guttenberg. I don't know why you would put this in an article, but I'm telling you, I want you to help me get this done. I grew up on Three Men and a Little Lady and Three Men and a Baby. I watched those movies on VHS when I was a wee-wee-wee person and so, I love Steve Gutenberg, Tom Selleck, and Ted Danson. I love that little trio ... Levi, for my birthday a couple of years ago, got Steve Gutenberg to do a Cameo for me for my birthday. And I was like, ‘This is the best gift I've ever received,' and everybody knows that I'm gunning [to have] Steve Gutenberg on the show. I think he should maybe be my dad. We want him in the world of the show. And so, this book was a little shout-out to ‘The Gut,’ Steve Gutenberg.
Hopefully, this interview gets Steve cast as your dad.
Oh my God. Speaking of wholesome, [look at] his Instagram content. He's so sweet. He wants everyone to love each other. Fingers crossed…
You guys have already been renewed for Season 3. Where would you like to see Kate go after this season is over?
All of our characters have this beautiful evolution in front of them. I think Kate is evolving out of the phase where we met her, which is that she was in a box that she didn't put herself in. Well, she chose to be there, but she's not happy to be in that box. She was just someone's mom and someone's wife. A large part of her was unfulfilled and she was taking that out on Ben and not really emotionally investing in the community that she was in. I think where she's going is a place where she finds a way to be all of who she is and all of who she is might surprise her. We [see] that evolution happening in Season 2. When you're angry or disappointed, you can grow hard and I think Kate is softening in the ways that allow her to let other people in. She’s growing strength in the places that have lied dormant. I think she's on a path that she doesn't even know that she's on, and I have some very particular thoughts around that that I definitely can't say anything about. All I will say is it's all headed in the right direction.
Last question. Who is cuter: Baby Yoda or Harry's baby?
Oh, my God, don't do that. Don’t do that. I have to answer Harry's baby. The sounds [he makes] and the way Harry is with him. I gotta say it's Harry's baby. The eyes kind of do it, but baby Yoda has kind of got those eyes too. It's Harry's baby by a hair.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity