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'Huge sci-fi nerd' Giorgio A. Tsoukalos reveals how he crossed over from Ancient Aliens to Resident Alien
In Resident Alien Episode 9, "Welcome Aliens," executive producer/showrunner Chris Sheridan unequivocally outs himself as the Ancient Aliens superfan that he is by casting that show's ufologist Giorgio A. Tsoukalos in an ingenious cameo. A familiar talking head and consulting producer on HISTORY's hit series, Tsoukalos appeared as himself attending an alien convention where he meets Alan Tudyk's undercover alien, Harry Vanderspeigle.
Needing to get the details about just how this amazing crossover came to be, SYFY WIRE got on the phone with Tsoukalos to find out how he was lured onto the series, what the show is getting right about ancient alien theory, and some recommendations for curious Resident Alien fans interested in the Ancient Aliens universe.
Giorgio, you've appeared on countless episodes of Ancient Aliens and in-person appearances lecturing at ufology conventions. But is it true that Resident Alien was your first offer to appear on a scripted TV series?
Yes! This will be the first time that I appear in a scripted show where I have speaking lines. It's all exciting and new territory for me. And the fact that this whole thing has been produced by the SYFY channel and Amblin and Chris Sheridan, it is just such a surreal experience for me that they reached out to me.
I have not yet seen the [episode]. But, from what we shot on that day, each time that I look back and think about those two days, I just have to laugh. The entire cast is so incredibly funny and talented. The entire production is above and beyond, so it was a terrific, terrific experience.
Is Chris Sheridan's love of Ancient Aliens why you got the offer?
The way that it happened was that Chris Sheridan is, to this day, a huge fan of Ancient Aliens. He reached out to promote this to [producer] Kim Sheerin, and asked, "Would Giorgio be interested?" We asked for the pilot, which — in any way, shape, or form — was nowhere near finished. But from what I saw, I liked the style. I liked the whole production of it, but especially the writing and the actors like Alan Tudyk and Sara Tomko, and Cory [Reynolds] and Elizabeth [Bowen]. I mean, what better duo can you imagine in both cases?
And above all, it seemed dark and funny. And I like this combination. I agreed to do it. And I'm very happy to be part of it because I am now watching the show with my wife every Wednesday night, and I look forward to it. It's wonderful.
Interestingly, the series itself includes plenty of topics that are commonly discussed on Ancient Aliens. Did that surprise you?
Yes! In Episodes 7 and 8, there were more references made toward the ancient astronaut theory. Now, sometimes people misunderstand the concept of the ancient astronaut theory, in which the basic concept is that, at some point, our ancestors had teachers. And that's it. Nothing more, nothing less. I have never said, nor has the show Ancient Aliens ever said, or even remotely proposed, that the ancient pyramids in ancient Egypt were built by aliens. Of course not! Of course it was human beings who built it with the knowledge that was imparted to the ancient Egyptians by the so-called gods.
And when I watched Episode 8, the segments in which Alan and Sara talk about the ancient astronaut theory, one of the things in the script was that Native American culture has a connection to the so-called Star People. I was blowing kisses in appreciation at the screen.
When did you shoot your segment — before or after the March 2020 production shut down for the pandemic?
I went up there to Vancouver with [producer] Kim Sheerin. I think we arrived there on a Tuesday, we had a tour of the set and the [costume] fitting on Wednesday. And then on Thursday, we were taping the two segments. And then on Friday, I think we flew back to L.A. If I'm not mistaken, the following week — so only four days later — they shut down production.
Your green room scene with Harry and his fruit bouquet snacking was hysterical. Was it scripted or ad-libbed? And were you nervous?
I mean, just the fact alone that I got to work with an icon like that. I'm a huge sci-fi nerd. When I first realized who I would get to work with, I'm like, "All right, yes. This sounds great." What project has Alan been in that is not good? Anything he touches turns into gold, so that number one was a huge appreciation factor for me, that I got to work with him. And the fact that when I met the crew, and Alan and Sara, that they were such approachable people definitely helped with the situation.
Because, yes, I played myself, but I can't remember lines for anything. [Laughs.] Yes, I improvised a little. But there was a certain line that was written in the script where, for example, they watched a couple of lectures of mine, and they would take lines from those, and maybe they would add a few of their things. And so we wrote it together, as in, "I'm willing to say this, but this is a bit too far out for me." They were very accommodating. It was just a really cool experience.
Did Tudyk down that fruit in just one take and did he make you break?
Oh, yeah. It was not just one take. It was multiple, so I don't know where he put all that [fruit] because he did not fake it. And looking back, I didn't know [when] the camera would be on me, or him, so sometimes I myself had to crack up. There was a lot of laughing. It was a very fun day. He's incredibly fast and sharp-witted. And then, he also acted with his facial expressions. Now watching the show on TV, and remembering a year ago how he acted with this awkward manner, I had no idea what it was all about. And now that I've watched it, it all makes such perfect sense. It was a surreal, surreal moment.
With the pick-up of Season 2, is there a chance you might be talking to Sheridan more?
It's funny you should ask because this morning, I actually thanked Chris in an email and that I was absolutely beside myself with how [Episode 8] turned out. I congratulated him for the next season. And so we are exploring this idea, and I'm very excited about that because I would love to consult. I'm absolutely open to that. And who knows... expanding my role? [Laughs.]
You've got new episodes of Ancient Aliens premiering on HISTORY soon, so are there topics in the new bunch that will appeal to Resident Alien audiences?
You know, about two years ago there were Zoologists — bona fide university professors, academics — who wrote an academic paper that was peer-reviewed and published in which they, in all seriousness, proposed that octopus here on Earth have an extraterrestrial origin.
So [the Episode 7] idea that extraterrestrials, whether they are in the form of octopuses, or in the forms of whatever, may or may not have extrasensory capabilities... is something that ancient astronaut theory has been exploring [and] thinking since the 1970s. And we'll actually talk about that and explore that on "The Human Experiment" episode.
Do you have suggestions for how Resident Alien fans can start exploring the rabbit-hole of ancient astronaut theory?
One, please go and visit the first season of Ancient Aliens, rewatch that or watch that. And then I would say anybody who really wants the new classical primer for ancient alien theory, go read this book from 1970, written by Erich von Däniken. The book is called Chariots of the Gods. Once you read that, or if you're interested in that, there are 30 more books that Erich wrote, and my colleague David Hatcher Childress has written many books about the ancient astronaut theory. So there's a plethora of material out there with which people can get familiar if Resident Alien is their inspiration to explore further.
The finale of Resident Alien Season 1 premieres on March 31 at 10 p.m. ET on SYFY.