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'Resident Alien' star Sara Tomko on Asta's guilt, Jay's secret birthday cards, and more Season 2 details
SYFY WIRE caught up with Sara Tomko over Zoom this week to discuss her character's profound sense of remorse and how it has not only affected Asta, but everyone around her.
Season 2 of Resident Alien returned to our screens three weeks ago with the ringing of a gunshot and the image of a literal smoking gun.
Picking up exactly where we left off back in March, Episode 9 — cheekily entitled "Autopsy" — immediately ramps up the tension with Asta (Sara Tomko) killing a member of the Galvan/Powell Group, who came all the way to Patience so he could pop a cap in Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle (Alan Tudyk) and prevent him from spilling the beans on the conspiracy involving the real Harry and the late Sam Hodges. Not surprisingly, the act of taking another life comes sends shockwaves through Asta's system after she's spent a season-and-a-half trying to save the world from annihilation.
Wanting to alleviate the burden, Harry calls on his alien abilities to wipe her recollection of the incident, which only leads to more heartache. SYFY WIRE caught up with Tomko over Zoom this week to discuss the character's profound sense of remorse and how it has not only affected Asta, but everyone around her.
Generally speaking, how would you describe Asta's arc in the second half of the season?
Well, we start off pretty strong with her killing a man sooo…awkward. Someone who wants to save humanity ends up murdering a human and that's really, really hard for her to wrestle with. So you sort of see [in] the first two episodes her trying to come to terms with that fact. It’s permanent, it's not something she can remove from her soul. Even though she was doing it out of defense for Harry and he was a bad guy, no one deserves to die. And so, that's just a really hard layer of emotion that she has to come right into in the second half. And then at the same time, she's managing Harry, who's now having all these emotions about fear of death; he's learning what it is to be even more deeply human — going as far as having this fear, so it's a bit [of] a layered cake, this second half.
I’m going to go ahead and assume you’ve never actually killed anyone, so how did you tap into that profound sense of remorse?
I really tapped into grief in general. Depression is something that I have definitely struggled with in my lifetime as a person of anxiety. I also tapped into regret. I think we can all say that we probably have a story or two in our lives that we wish we could have done differently. I try my best not to live my life in regret, but there are definitely things I was able to pull from to sort of remind me of that feeling. But mostly, the writing is so good and I just believe in Asta so much, that I don't have to put too much on it in order to sink into her and know that she's really in grief. It's just something I know a little too well. So I just tap into that mainstream of emotion for myself. I think it's really beautiful how we handle it on such a comedic show, showcasing such incredible drama.
Asta forgetting Jay’s birthday was a major setback in their relationship just as the two were starting to find some equal footing, emotionally. Do you think that rift is capable of being repaired?
I don’t know. I've messed it up so many times. I believe in second chances. Does Jay? Because I feel like this is like maybe the third or fourth chance by now with Asta. If I were [Jay], I would not be quick to forgive. Not to say that I myself am not quick to forgive, but if I had been hurt that much by one person, I would definitely [keep] my guard up, I would have boundaries. If I was willing to have a relationship with that person, I'd say, ‘We have to work on the trust.' It would take a long time. In TV Land, we don't have as much time, so I'm hoping that maybe that'll speed the plow and help out Asta, but I don't know what Jay is gonna do.
I do know, though, that this was sort of a breaking point for Asta and it really violated her trust with Harry and so, I'm interested to see — especially after last night's episode — how their relationship is from here on out because I think they're gonna have to build their trust back up. At the end of last night's episode, you see that she says, ‘Look, I’m going to be with you on this. I got you,’ because that's who Asta is in nature. For someone who's really struggled [with] abandoning Jay in her lifetime, she’s not one to normally abandon. So, I'm interested to see how she's gonna handle that with Harry in the future, with him hopefully not lying to her ever again. But we'll see…
Will Jay ever get to see the box of birthday cards Asta’s been saving all these years?
My props master was like, ‘Do you want to write the cards?’ So I did, I wrote them all. But so did Asta. I hope we get to see her actually give her that box at some point. I love just knowing it's out there in the world. I love knowing that she's written to her every year. There's probably other letters elsewhere too — probably journal entries. It's just so beautiful to see how much she's loved her from afar, even if she feels that she's made mistakes. And even though I don't know if Jay will forgive me, I just feel like this truly was a turning point for Asta.
So you hand-wrote all 18 birthday cards?
I wrote some of the letters inside. Not all of them had letters inside [though]. That's a little trick of the trade. But I definitely wrote all of the titles on top. I really liked that they showed my favorite: ‘Eight is great!’
I love the moment near the end of the episode when Asta goes to confide in her dad and he just yells at everyone to leave the diner. What was it like filming such an emotional scene with Gary Farmer?
Gary is such a wonderful scene partner. I'm very honored that he gets to play my dad on this show. I thought it was really funny, that moment where he tells everyone to get out, which just goes to show ... Gary's that kind of person, too. So it was really beautiful to watch his work unfold. I didn't know how emotional he got because he's so still and quiet and such a powerful force, that you just get calm and quiet when you're near him. I honestly felt so relaxed. When I was leaning on his shoulder, I just felt like we were really in that together. And it really was beautiful. But I didn't realize how emotional he got until I saw it last night and then I got emotional all over again.
Asta also learns about D'Arcy's big plans for a skiing comeback. Where can we expect that plot thread to go?
I just think it's going to build a confidence in her that she hasn't had in a while … It was so fun to see Alice [Wetterlund] light up about it, because she was also really into this storyline. It’s just as fun to see D’Arcy light up about getting back into it. I don't know what's going to happen with that, necessarily. I just know that her giving it another shot can only be a good thing. It's like getting back in the ring and continuing to fight.
It looks like we're at a time, Sara. Anything to add before we go?
I'm just so grateful to be a part of such an incredible show. We have comedy; we have drama; we have crazy, awkward alien physical body stuff; we have weird food obsessions; we have love and S&M; and we have people who break vases over people's heads ... If you haven't checked the show out, please do yourself a favor and come and watch Resident Alien. We have [five] episodes left of the second season and then we have a whole third season to get into. It’s gonna be great.