I had the pleasure of sitting in on a Q&A with Erin Way, who started her tenure as ‘Kat’ on Alphas this week. Here are some excerpts from that call.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your character on Alphas?
Erin Way: Yes, I play the character of Kat, and she meets Harken at – I guess Harken and Hicks both at an underground Alpha fight club. And her special ability is that she basically learn any skill instantly, so that includes knowledge and muscle memory. She can – it’s essentially kind of like she can just download it almost instantly.
And the only downside is that she has a bit of a memory problem. So after about a month or so she starts loosing memories of the past. So while she retains her memories she can’t remember how she learned them or who she knows or where she came from, which you know, is a little problematic.
Question: Sure, sure. But she retains he abilities? Or does she lose the abilities over time as well?
Erin Way: She retains the abilities, she doesn’t remember that she knows how to do them. But if put in the appropriate situation she can recall how to do them. So you know, for example you could put her in a helicopter and she could very well have the reaction of like, “Oh yes, I totally know how to fly this thing.” But she wouldn’t be able to tell you unless she was put in the situation.
Question: Okay, got you.
Erin Way: Yes.
Question: So what attracted you to the role?
Erin Way: Well, besides the seemingly unlimited new bits of info that come up with a character like this when she essentially has no past really that’s written, and you know, it’s all discovered in the moment, she’s a very, very strong female character, which I not only enjoy watching but I enjoy playing. You know, she can fight, she’s tough, and I think that’s a really cool – it’s a cool thing that Syfy tends to do for females in general, is that they tend to have really strong female characters.
So that intrigued, and then also just the fact that I would be learning a new skill on a weekly basis, was kind of cool. You know, and I basically would have a new ability each – on a very regular basis which I just found – I was like, “Well I’m never going to get bored with this girl because she’s constantly learning something new.” So that just was fascinating to me and real intriguing.
Question: How do you feel about the way Kat’s ability compliments the needs of the existing Alphas?
Erin Way: That’s a good question. You know, it sounds kind of simple, but the Alphas as a whole can tend to be – the team, Rosen’s team, can be a little on the serious side.
And Kat just comes in and is – because of her ability or the downside of her ability, the way she’s chosen to survive with it is just to be very live in the moment, not get too heady about stuff because you know, she doesn’t – or she’s not burdened by anything really in the past because she forgets everything.
So essentially, she just comes in and really kind of mixes it up, is very – doesn’t really care about the rules, the protocol, how you’re supposed to behave, kind of makes fun of them for being so serious. And in a sense, because of that, kind of just ruffles everybody’s feathers a little bit, which I think just makes for not only some comic relief, but also you know, maybe helps some of the characters find a different perspective on their situation.
So yes, I would say that in that sense she compliments each of the team members in a different way, but it’s all through that same kind of irreverence that she kind of approaches life with.
Question: Well how hard was it to really get to know a character who has memory issues and lives in the moment? Like where did you begin to understand her as a person?
Erin Way: Yes, it’s tricky, because I remember when I first met all of the writers I was like, “Okay so you know, how about we talk about this girl’s history. You know, where does she come from and so I can like start to get to know this girl?” And they were like, “Yes, we don’t have that, sorry, to give you, so basically blank slate.” And I was like, “Awesome guys.”
So it’s really hard, but in a way I’m glad that they didn’t give me that because Kat doesn’t have that so it’s not really fair for me to have any of that information. So basically it was just – I had to build it on extinct.
I had a very instant impression of who this girl was from how the writing – the tone of the writing was and it just forced me to be kind of like, “Okay well it’s based on the tone of the writing and the voice of the writing and based on the fact that she’s just taking things as they come and not worrying about the past or the future, what – how would that make a person behave?”
And then from there on it’s just – it’s really just about instincts and reacting in what’s going on in the moment. And you’ve got to keep it simple with her because none of that other stuff comes into play. So it’s where I kind of had to start, and then from then on it was a matter of like trusting myself that I knew who this girl was.
So but it’s an interesting challenge, I’ve never had to do that before so.
Question: So can you kind of give us an idea of some of the fun skills that you get to use on the show, maybe some of your favorites?
Erin Way: Gosh, okay I’m not going to give too much away but …I will say, I told that I – I was told that I could give stuff away about Alpha Dogs, so I’ll start with that.
I’m a very tiny person, and Harken is a very large person, and we have to fight each other in the episode. And so what I learn how to do is basically I learn a style and a form of kickboxing basically that, instead of relying upon size, it relies upon knowing where the pressure points and how to use one’s own weight to kind of counterbalance – or use it against the other person, so basically finding their weak spots and winning in that way.
So that was an interesting thing. While I didn’t get fully trained in that, I did have to learn a lot of kickboxing, which was – it’s brutal as far, I’ve never been so sore in my entire life, but it was really cool to learn, and to learn that you know, a tiny little thing like me can – could actually win against somebody twice their size, just using the power of her skill. So that was really cool.
And then in another episode I had to kind of learn how to reassemble a carburetor, which I’m not mechanical in a car kind of way at all, so that was cool to kind of learn how – you know, where the plugs go in and stuff like that.
So each week they bring me something new. I usually end up having to learn it within a few minutes of filming the scene, unless I know beforehand and then I can kind of do some research online. So it’s cool to just kind of have to be like, “And now you’re going to learn this knife trick,” and then I’m like, “Okay.” And then you just kind of have to learn it and try to do the best you can. So and that was another one, I had to kind of learn the knife trick.
So yes, I mean I think, probably the kickboxing was my Number 1 favorite because I did the most in-depth training of it. But there’s a few other cool ones that’ll come up, but I’m not going to give too much away.
Question: All right, sounds like a lot of fun. The other thing I wanted to ask you is obviously her memory loss and everything is going to cause a lot of tension, like you said. But can you talk specifically about Kat and Gary? Because from what I’m reading – been reading, he kind of doesn’t get along her real great at the beginning.
Erin Way: Yes. Yes, he doesn’t like me at all. In fact, I think I rub him the wrong way the most out of anybody. And that’s you know, to be expected; Gary is somebody that relies upon routine and protocol and the rules, you know, he duplicates the rules very specifically and doesn’t really – he’s not comfortable and doesn’t enjoy people kind of like breaking those rules and breaking his routine and stable – his stable pieces of information. And so Kat is not somebody that’s going to be like – because somebody tells her, “Hey you know, so Gary likes his routine so try not to interrupt him or he doesn’t like it when you touch him or” – she’s not literally will – if you tell her that, she’s most likely going to – it’s just going to make her want to do it more. And so she’s constantly touching Gary, trying to hug Gary, just basically doing everything that he will tell her not to do. So it’s very upsetting to him, he doesn’t like it at all.
And that’s at the beginning of the season. While I’m not going to give everything away, we do – it’s not a smooth road by the end, I still manage to upset him on many occasions. But there are a few occasions where because of my kind of irreverence for, you know, who he is and his condition, which I think I’m kind of like, “I don’t care, you know, what he has, I’m just going to treat him the same as everybody,” because of that attitude, she kind of trusts Gary with tasks that other people would not. And because of that I think he does grow to kind of like her a little bit because she lets him – she’s willing to let him do things that other people would not let him do just because she really doesn’t care about the rules.
So I think by the end we’re in a little bit of a better place, with the occasional argument. I see a good future for Kat and Gary, I think we’re going to be fine.
Question: Hi Erin, I was wondering if you’re a fan of sci-fi? And how does acting in a sci-fi show like Alphas differ from the more “Normal” shows, like Detroit 1-8-7 or Private Practice, that you’ve acted in?
Erin Way: Right, right. I’m a huge fan of sci-fi. Never been on a sci-fi show or movie before, so it was kind of a surreal experience. But I’m a huge – I mean you kind of name the sci-fi shows and I’m a huge sucker for them. So that was kind of awesome. That – I had to pinch myself on a couple of occasions that I was going to, you know, be a part of that genre finally. It was really cool.
While I love the other genres I’ve been a part of, Private Practice and Detroit 1-8-7 there, but I mean it’s a little bit – I wouldn’t say it’s like comparing apples and oranges because there is definitely the procedural element a little bit in there with Alphas, which makes Alphas a little different in that we are trying to solve, not necessarily crimes, but you know, in – we’re trying to figure out what’s behind incidents (unintelligible). So in that way it’s a little bit like a crime drama like Detroit 1-8-7, but the world of sci-fi is so much bigger, and the possibilities of what can happen and what people are capable of is – because it’s sci-fi, it doesn’t have to be based in “Reality.” So that to me is what’s so exciting is that you – you’re – the imagination and the scope of what can occur is huge. And because of that it really is an exciting genre to be in. And so you kind of look forward to getting that script and being like, “Okay, what else are they going to stumble upon this week? And you know, what is their ability going to be,” because you know it’s probably going to be something that you’ve never even thought of. And so that to me is what’s so exciting about this genre and makes my job really fun and never boring and interesting each week.
Question: Okay. And how’d it feel like being the new person in this cast? You know, they’re coming in the very beginning of Season 2; did they welcome you quite well? Was it easy to fit in?
Erin Way: They’re so mean – no, they were great. They were just – I mean it could be literally it could be like the freshman at high school that gets picked on. And they had no obligation necessarily to treat me nicely, and they were all – just bent over backwards to make me feel welcome. And by the end of that first episode, I just – I felt like I was part of a huge family.
I – you know, I never – I think they all have their own perspective on the exciting thing that Kat was going to bring to the team dynamic, and so you know, no. I’ve been very blessed on both shows that I’ve worked on for a period of time, Detroit 1-8-7 and this one, to be surrounded by a group of actors that get along really well and that are – that have a kind of collaborative team mentality towards doing the show.
So it’s a team. It’s a team of people that want to get along, want to make the show good. And so no, I felt nothing but good will and you know, just warmth when I came on board. It was a big release because there was a lot to take on my first episode, so had I been intimidated by the cast members it would have been an extra kind of fear to kind of deal with. But they just made me feel like super, super comfortable, which was nice.
Question: If you could have whatever you wanted happen to Kat, and you could write your own story, what would you like to see happen?
Erin Way: Gosh, I mean; one, I think it would be super-cool if at some point she could hone her ability to such an extent where like it could be kind of like The Matrix, where she just like touches a book and like downloads the – all the information inside. I think that would be really rad.
And I would really like to see her – my – what I’m most excited about seeing and I have a feeling, should Season 3 occur, we’ll probably start seeing some of this, but I’m really – I have my own theories, which I can’t talk about, but I am intrigued about where Kat comes from and who her father is. And where – you know, who she’s been aligned with in the past. And I am hoping and praying that it is all bad people.
That’s my hope, is that Kat discovers that she was affiliated with really bad – like the bad guys. Because I think that’s just so fascinating, because it opens up just a variety of questions with did they – are they using her to – I mean it’s just like think about that and then like your brain just like goes crazy. So that to me would be so exciting to play, is for those things to be revealed.
It’s like you know, she wants to remember her past, and then maybe she doesn’t want to remember her past. So that is really – that would be a really cool thing.
And then I think she needs to have a boyfriend. That’s – because I think it would just be hilarious because she’d forget who he was all the time. So I just think that would be really funny as well.
So probably those three things I would be the most excited to play with.
Question: Okay, now I have to ask you something silly because I suddenly thought of it when I was talking to you – when you were talking. But now what would happen if Kat comes into contact with somebody with a photographic memory, then maybe she can remember things.
Erin Way: That is very interesting. I’ve – here’s the only thing, but this might – you might have touched on something. Like you could have opened a door there. I have never been able to download a skill or learn a skill like via contact with another human being, it’s always been… through – yes, I’ll watch a video or I’ll read a book. I know, but that’s interesting though. And I think I would bet you money that the writers are probably – put that in the backburner at some point, is that you know, I can just touch a person and then basically take all of their skills. That could be… That would be cool. Can I add that to my list? I’m adding that to my list.
Question: So after you started working on Alphas, what’s the thing that surprised you the most that – of like what you had expected it to be?
Erin Way: Surprised me the most; you know I think maybe I – because my only exposure to the show before had just been I just watched the whole first season just as a viewer.
Erin Way: I think maybe I didn’t quite – I underestimated the amount of – it’s kind of – it’s a little bit of a challenge to keep track of all the details of the world that they live in, and the details of all the storylines, and really the arc and the seeds of the story from Season 1 carrying into Season 2. And as I started getting into doing table reads and really working on each script with the other cast members I was like, “Oh wow.”
Like these actors that had – that obviously they were involved all through Season 1 in doing this, but they remember things that I like totally don’t remember from being a viewer, of like, “But don’t you remember in the third episode of Season 1 somebody said this so we need to make sure that we bring that over – you know, have that be echoed again and hear it.”
So you know, the amount of energy and work and diligence that goes into making sure that each script is true to the arc of the story and the world of Alphas is – it’s hard work. And I think that’s maybe something that I didn’t quite realize going in is the amount of time and effort that’s put into making sure that happens each and every week.
So that’s definitely something that I wasn’t anticipating. That was surprising.
Ms. Way was charming and lovely, and I enjoyed her debut on Alphas. Watch Alphas on SyFy, Mondays at 10/9c.