When it comes to People of Earth, TBS's comedy about a group of alien abductees and their alien abductors, if you thought last season was a crazy, wild ride, things are about to get even crazier and wilder in Season 2, said Canadian actor Ken Hall in an exclusive interview with SYFY WIRE.
People of Earth follows a support group called StarCrossed for alien abductees, who actually were abducted by real aliens, including Hall's character, Jeff, a "grey" who works on the alien's Sub-Ship. But there's also the more human-looking "white" aliens, reptilians, androids, a floating alien cube named Eric, and even an FBI cabal. The series was created by David Jenkins and also stars Wyatt Cenac, Ana Gasteyer, Björn Gustafsson, Michael Cassidy, Alice Wetterlund, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, and Nasim Pedrad. The series airs on Mondays at 10:30 p.m.
Hall chatted with SYFY WIRE about People of Earth's second season, about playing the often cranky alien Jeff, and about those prosthetics.
What do we have to look forward to this season?
Jeff's having a hard time. He's got Eric, his new boss, who obviously doesn't really like him very much. And I think Jeff's having a hard time with that adjustment, because he feels he's the guy who should be in charge, but it seems that Eric just doesn't like him. That's what you're going to see, more of Jeff having to deal with more of these dynamics of a boss he doesn't get along with. It's the kind of thing a lot of people can relate to as well, working in an office and such, and those office dynamics and personalities.
It can be tough when your boss is a cube that's out to get you ... What about with some of the other characters?
We see that Gerry was up on the ship. I love that dynamic between Jeff and Gerry as well. Gerry always wanted to have that abduction experience, and so things appear that it's going well. And Eric is kind of the person, or I guess alien, for this season that is going to be the catalyst for a lot of things that are happening. Things are just as wild as they were last year, and I think they're going to get even more wild. There's a lot of surprises that happen, and a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns. I wish I could be more specific. I'd love to be more specific.
Well, we don't want you to give us too many spoilers. Can you tell us about some of the themes we'll see this season?
Everyone in the group is a representative of all of us. We're all just trying to find a connection and what's important for us. I just love that as much as the humans are trying to find that, at the same time working out their own experiences and what does that mean for them. I also really love that it's also the aliens that are very human-like at the same time and dealing with these very universal feelings and difficulties and challenges, like Don is dealing with. He's in love with one of the subjects, and that's really cool to see him go through that experience. And with Jeff coming from the end of Season 1, where during much of Season 1 he's dealing with the loss of someone he really cares about and just how hard it is for him and for all of us when we've lost someone we really cared about. It really feels like such a universal thing, even though it's a comedy/science fiction show, it's still very much speaking to all of us.
You've done a lot stuff and played many different roles. What is it about Jeff that's special for you?
Playing Jeff is such a thrill. And to play that kind of a character ... he just doesn't hide how he feels. I love the dynamic with him and Don, like he's putting Don down and he can never really do good. The way Jeff is written, he's really a layered character. He has his insecurities but he also has his purpose. He's a pretty cool complex character to play, and the writing is so strong on the show that it makes my job that much easier to deliver [the] comedic lines ... because the writing is so strong with the comedy and the timing of it, and the arcs of the story have fully fleshed-out characters. I am very lucky to get to work with all the directors and such, that they are also encouraging in a lot of improv. That's in my background too. In many ways I'm actually more comfortable with actually having no script. That's more of my background, making stuff up on the fly. But at the same time I'm so well equipped because the writing is so strong and they know Jeff and the context of everything. So it really makes my job that much easier.
One thing that's very unique about Jeff is that he looks like what we all think an alien looks like. The the prosthetics is something most of the other characters don't have to deal with. What's it like to bring Jeff to life for People of Earth?
I've done prosthetic work in the past for a couple other shows, Scare Tactics and another show called Freak Encounters. And so I've done a lot of prosthetic work where you're sitting in the chair for five or six hours. It's actually not that long [for People of Earth]. It's only about two hours. The head is a fit to wear kind of thing. It just sort of slides on and then we glue other parts on. It's not an extensive build, and it's so incredible, because it looks amazing. So we do the build and then we paint it, and then I'm good to go ... I think the Reptillians actually take longer to put together than Jeff.
The head goes over my ears. The nostrils are actually a little higher than where my nostrils are. So my breathing is affected a little bit, my hearing is certainly affected, my eyesight when they put the goggles in it can sometimes get a little bit foggy, because it gets kind of warm under there. But those very qualities help Jeff become more alive, because you do actually feel more alien-like. So it's really cool in the sense because it's like you become an alien just putting the prosthetic on.
It's really funny, too, because I have to watch out when I'm getting into cars [laughs] on set and when I'm walking around [because Jeff's head is bigger than mine].
What are your hopes for Jeff as a character, assuming he doesn't blow up or get hit by a car?
[Laughs] Well, let's hope he doesn't blow up.
You never know. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean it's the end on this show.
I see Jeff as being a survivor. I feel like he can adapt to whatever the climate is. I'd just love to see him continue to do his thing. And ... I don't know. Probably the sky's the limit. I could see him just being a jet-setting traveler and having all these crazy experiences and learning more. See, the funny thing is he's not a fan of humans, as we can see. But at the same time I feel like finding those moments with Gerry and within himself we can see that he has a lot of similarities with humans. And so who knows. Maybe he will evolve ... or maybe he will just get even more angrier. At the same time I just hope he finds himself. I agree with everyone that for him to be happy, I think that's what we're all searching for, being human or being alien, we're searching for that ... Like where do I fit in? Not just on planet Earth but in the entire galaxy. Am I my job? Is this my role in life, my identity? I think a big part of his journey is to discover that. Where does he fit in in the world, and will he actually find those things that do make him happy and do make him satisfied? Again, I think that's the journey that we're all pretty much on.
And what are your hopes for Ken, as a writer, actor, and director?
Ken? I don't know. Hey, the sky's the limit, right ... just like Jeff [laughs]. To find my way in the world. I'm just touched and thrilled that people love the show so much and certainly really love Jeff as well. Online a couple people have actually gotten Jeff tattoos. That's like the ultimate compliment.
That's a true fan.
I don't have Jeff tattooed on me yet, but maybe I should [laughs]. I'm just super thrilled that people really like Jeff.
But what are your hopes for your career?
I'm based on Toronto here, and I've spent many, many years here in the comedy world and doing some filming here in the comedy world and doing some film and TV. This is by far the biggest thing that I've done. Two weeks ago we were in San Diego for Comic-Con, and that was one of the best experiences I've ever had.
Did people know who you were?
Some people did, actually. Some people would come up and ask for my selfie and such. And I actually got recognized through my voice. I went to the convention center. My pass wasn't working, and they had to reboot it. And so one of the people I was talking to ... was like, "Wait a minute, you're Jeff. I only know that because I recognize your voice." So I love that recognition. For me, I love what I'm doing. I love performing live, but I also want to do more film and TV, but to also transition into bigger opportunities as well, like in features and such. But I really hope that the show continues to grow. I would love to have 10 seasons of People of Earth. I really feel this is a show that has so much opportunity and so much possibility. And I'm just so thrilled that I get to go along on the journey with Jeff, and just so grateful to have this kind of experience. I'm very lucky I get to do the thing that brings me so much joy in my life ... I just want to do more of that ... So the sky is the limit.
Why should someone tune in to People of Earth if they've never seen it?
For me, I think it's a show that hits upon all of the things that are important for me. The things that I really like to watch in a show. A show that speaks to me, a show that's funny, and a show that's got a lot of heart to it ... The show is incredibly well cast, it's incredibly well written, and it's something that's quirky and different. And even though it's a sci-fi comedy show, it's about real people, real feelings, and real aliens ... And the level and the quality of the comedic talent that is on that show, the people that are cast on the show are comedy heavyweights. So it's all of those things. Wow! Seeing a substantial story unfold with a lot of surprises, and a lot of heart, [and] a lot of compassion. I think it's a show that has so much appeal for anyone ... and it's funny!
Here's a clip of People Of Earth: