Alphas’ Ryan Cartwright Talks Season 2, Playing Gary & More

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The second season of Alphas is coming back this month, and according to Ryan Cartwright, his character Gary Bell and the rest of the Alphas are in for an intense, rocky time. TV Equals was welcomed to a conference call with Cartwright, in which he discussed the perils Ryan has to face, playing a character who’s on the autistic spectrum, and Hollywood casting practices.

What happens to Gary in Season Two

When we last saw Gary and the Alphas, they were exposed by their leader, Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn) and Season Two picks up on the aftermath. The team has gone awry and some of the Alphas are disbanding and going back to their old, destructive habits. Cartwright said that Gary is sent to attempt to work with government agents, but after lashing out, Gary needs someone to rescue him.

“He’s in a worse place than prison,” said Cartwright. “He’s in building seven and he’s pretty much comatose because to control Alphas who are bad, there’s a lot more moral flexibility that people believe they can take with them, so they put these chips in their heads which make them completely comatose and devoid of personality and sense, so they’re pretty much like these neutered, braindead zombies that drool, which is my natural state, normally [laughs].”

On Gary’s personality in Season Two

Even though there’s a lot that’s changed about his teammates and surroundings, Gary still has the core of his personality intact.

“He’s still petulant, which I’m sure everyone will enjoy. He’s still outspoken—I don’t think that will ever change,” said Cartwright. “He’s kind of making some different life decisions that will affect the Alphas quite substantially…He decides to leave his mother’s nest and descend on the office 24/7 and tries to make it his new home. Also, his continuance of trying to keep Anna’s [Liane Balaban] voice alive, because…once she died, it made him question Dr. Rosen and the whole Alpha phenomenon and his place within it. He wants to keep her voice alive and her message because it seems to inspire him.”

There’s also more room for Gary to grow this season. “People would mother Gary more in the first season than this season,” said Cartwright. “They just don’t have enough time. So he’s kind of spinning ‘round out there. But I think it’s good for him the long run, to not have people look out for him…he’ll learn.”

How Gary reacts to Season Two character Kat

The new character this season is Kat (Erin Way), a loner whose power is having perfect muscle memory. According to Cartwright, Kat rubs Gary the wrong way, particularly when it comes to his partnership with Bill (Malik Yoba).
“He still respects Bill and he likes him as his partner, the main wedge is Kat,” he said. “[She] drives a wedge between himself and Bill, and he doesn’t like it. Kat is the new baby and Gary is put in the backseat, and we all know Gary would like to be in the front, driver’s seat.”

Cartwright said Gary is intrigued and intimidated by Kat and just wants the attention he used to receive, but he could come around. “Maybe he’ll end up liking her. We’ll just have to see,” he said.

The type of research involved in playing Gary

Because Cartwright’s character is along the autistic spectrum, Cartwright focused on real-world accounts of people with autism in order to understand how to approach playing Gary.

“I started with lots of documentaries, lots of movies, and lots of online blogs and stuff from autistic people talking about how they experience things, and also just reading the books [about autism],” he said. “The first hand accounts of autistic people and literature…really helped. It helped me understand the neurology behind it, which gave me the grace to come up with the mannerisms and stuff myself knowing the reason I’d be doing them as opposed to meeting someone and copying mannerisms.”

How fans feel about his portrayal of a person with autism

“I’ve had nothing but really nice comments from people in the autistic community,” said Cartwright. “And…you’re never going to be exactly like everyone who’s autistic because it’s a wide spectrum…But it seems that everyone’s liked it, I don’t think anyone’s taken offense.

The fact about Gary that Cartwright wants people to know is that the autistic spectrum is very broad. “[Gary] is his own individual person,” he said. “He should never represent autism. You’d never portray one disorder with one character. He’s just an individual.”

On whether actors with autism were approached to play Ryan before Cartwright and how he feels about acting opportunities for people with varying disabilities:

Civil rights activists are making a push to have actors and actresses with disabilities play roles that reflect themselves in entertainment instead of giving the roles to non-disabled actors and actresses. When asked if any actors with autism auditioned for the role of Gary, Cartwright said he believed so, and went on to explain his position on the casting issue.

“I think it depends on the role, you know. Just being cast in a role in the business—it’s never fair,” he said. “I believe everyone deserves the opportunity to audition…I don’t know, it’s a tricky one, I think. I think you can have a little bit of both; if you have a really good actor and they can do it, then why not, but at a certain point, it’s the business and the industry that would have to change.”

Cartwright hopes that his role as Gary will help change the way Hollywood treats disabled people. “I guess what I feel good about in a way with portraying Gary is that it will open the floodgates for more neuro-diverse people and disabled people to be considered,” he said. “[A] lot of the autistic roles I’d seen portrayed before were pretty much one note and there was a lot of cliché out there. You don’t have to write it like Rain Man every single damn time.”

His idea of a Gary-centric episode

Cartwright’s answer to what he’d like to see Gary do is simple. “It’d be his day off. Gary covers his head, Gary in bed, and I’d just be at home. Or just Gary playing X-box…Gary in his pajamas with a nice coffee and the Xbox on.”

The second season of Alphas premieres Monday, July 23 at 10/9c on SyFy.