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Alphas – Stars David Strathairn, Malik Yoba and Azita Ghanizada on the fun of having superpowers

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Alphas, Season:1 - Ryan Cartwright, Laura Mennell, Malik Yoba, David Strathairn, Warren Christie and Azita Ghanizada
Bill Harken (Malik Yoba), Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada) and Dr Leigh Rosen (David Strathairn) © 2011 Syfy

The SyFy Channel’s new series Alphas, which premieres on July 11th, stars Oscar- nominated actor David Strathairn as Dr. Lee Rosen, a neurologist and psychiatrist, who is leading a team of five ordinary people who happen to have Alpha abilities. The group investigates cases that indicate others with Alpha abilities. Malik Yoba portrays FBI Agent Bill Harken, who works with the Alphas team, and Azita Ghanizada plays Rachel Pirzad, who is able to enhance one sense which renders her remaining senses temporarily unserviceable, putting her in great danger.

Strathairn, Yoba and Ghanizada spoke with us about their new series, the fun of having superpowers and the frustration of not being superhuman!

What appealed to you about this show?

Alphas, Season:1 - Ryan Cartwright, Laura Mennell, Malik Yoba, David Strathairn, Warren Christie and Azita Ghanizada
Dr Leigh Rosen (David Strathairn) © 2011 Syfy

David Strathairn: Well, having done a lot of theatre and a fair about of film, this landscape offers I think something in particular in the way a character can be explored.

All the creators are talking about it being not necessarily an episodic A plus B equals C, but more of an A plus G equals Y!

So the process of developing a character that has at this point infinite possibilities, yet grounded in a very complex starting point, I find pretty exciting.

It’s also about things which I think are really yet to be mined in our dramatic literature, which is people who have particular neurological anomalies which we are discovering every day there are more and more.

Those people in their day-to-day lives are being put into a heightened and extreme and potential life threatening [situations].

Alphas, Season:1 - Malik Yoba
Bill Harken (Malik Yoba) © 2011 Syfy

Malik Yoba: This is actually my 11th series that I’ve worked on. It’s hard when you leave your family particularly when you go to work in another country. But it was a good group of folks to work with, and it was a good opportunity, and it shoots in Toronto which isn’t so bad.

So there were those considerations for me beforehand but we’re having a good time, and I haven’t been super human yet in real life or on television, so I’m looking forward to more of exploring that.

For Malik and Azita, how do you feel about your powers in this?

Alphas, Season:1 - Azita Ghanizad
Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada) © 2011 Syfy

Azita Ghanizada: Rachel is somebody who is coming out of a really very conservative, religious upbringing, and for her it’s a very human journey to have a job and to find maybe a new family that allows her to be who she is.

You see she’s never really fit in, and her powers actually make her very vulnerable, and at the same time she’s kind of coming out of her family’s home and coming out of his very strict environment and coming into this group with these other alphas who have big personality differences, and she’s struggling to find her footing, and people are shooting at her.

So I think she’s a little confused and it’s a real challenge for her to be growing into this character, into this human being that she’s going to be and we’re going to watch her grow into.

Malik: I think it’s just cool to have super human powers and we’re just getting started so I haven’t see all the ways that it manifests, but I just thought it was cool.

Azita: It just adds such another layer like as an actor you get this other entire element to our character where it’s like, I’m going to go into this weird little thing and I’m going to be able to read a newspaper 100 yards away, and it just gives you something really super rad to play wth.

Malik: In my particular case I can summon up my fight or flight mechanism, so essentially I can fill my body with adrenaline, but I can’t do it for extended periods of time.

I think it gives us a good landscape to play with.

David, how do you feel about not having any powers in this?

Alphas, 1.01 - David Strathairn and Azita Ghanizada
Dr Leigh Rosen (David Strathairn) and Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada) © 2011 Syfy

David: In a word, I have big Alpha envy. I have Alphaities!

What is the dynamic between the Alphas?

David: You can imagine, you bring in five people who are in many ways inept in their relationships because they have been compromised by their particular skills and gifts.

Malik has maybe a little anger management problems, but he’s also a great FBI detective.

Malik: There are no problems.

Azita: There are big personality differences.

Malik: There are no flaws, no problems.

Azita: And I murder Malik in the second episode. I rip off my panty hose and strangle him!

David: This is what I have to deal with every day!

Azita: There’s such a strong emotional current in each character, even in their own personal lives that come into those rooms, and come into the group, as they try to get together and solve these cases that arrive on Dr Rosen’s desk.

You see this clash of personalities because they are all kind of pushed into these circumstances that they don’t necessarily want to be in it. They don’t necessarily know exactly what they are doing, and you watch that very human element of a family that’s kind of thrown together and they’re functioning and dysfuntioning!

David: You take these eccentric sort of special people and you put them in potentially life-threatening situations, you put them into a world where they are commanded to do things that they have no idea what they are doing, where ethical and moral decisions have to be made.

They have to think out of the box to diffuse some potential nuclear holocaust or they have to find somebody who is crashing computers around the world.

Azita: Just adding on to what David said about throwing us into these situations. My character just wanted to get out of my parents’ house.

They’re really strict, and I have these abilities so I took a job with this guy, and now people are shooting at me, and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ I don’t want to come to work sometimes. So that adds that very human element.

Malik: The cool thing is that this isn’t a group of folks who are actually trained professionals fighting crimes, and I think that’s an element we haven’t talked about.

My character is the only one that is an FBI guy, and so these are regular folks that are under the car of this doctor, but because of their unique set of abilities as a collective, they’re called on to help solve some crimes.