411mania Interviews: Azita Ghanizada (Alphas)
Posted by Al Norton on 07.23.2012
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with Azita Ghanizada to discuss season two of Syfy's Alphas, premiering tonight.
Azita Ghanizada has a resume that includes episodes of PSYCH, Entourage, How I Met Your Mother, Castle, and NCIS: LA but she is best known for her starring role on the Syfy series Alphas, which begins its second season tonight at 10pm.
Al Norton: Is there a nationality you haven't played yet?
Azita Ghanizada: (Laughing) That's a good question. I have been Italian, Greek, Indian, Middle Eastern, Iranian, the non-descript American girl next door…I played Moroccan in a pilot called Tough Trade, with Sam Shepard and Cary Elwes. I was playing this gold-digging Moroccan girl living in Nashville. It was a lot of fun.
Al Norton: Is there a nationality or an accent on your acting bucket list?
Azita Ghanizada: On my bucket list? I was up for the lead role in The Kite Runner and didn't get it and I think ultimately what I will do in the industry is creating and producing projects that ring true for me, so I know at some point I'll play a girl from Afghanistan.
It's really cool I get to play a Middle Eastern girl on a show like Alphas, on a network like Syfy, which has been so supportive and open minded about it. When I cast, she was written as a Hasidic Jew. Rachel was an Orthodox Jew in the beginning, with a mute box, with no voice, so that's how she was envisioned by Zak Penn and Michael Karnow. Through the process of casting and revaluating, they somehow ended up with me. There were lots of conversations about what to make her ethnicity and Syfy was very open to exploring some backgrounds that aren't seen on TV very often.
So the 15 minute answer to your quick question is, playing a girl from Afghanistan is on my bucket list.
Al Norton: As you go into your second year, how has Rachel changed from who you thought she was when you started filming the pilot?
Azita Ghanizada: It's funny that you ask that because I was in LA recently talking to some filmmakers saying how interesting it has been to play a character for 23 episodes of television, especially when her abilities and her disabilities are factored in. As a functioning human she has some big issues and she also has to adjust as a girl with superhuman abilities.
The transition has been making Rachel more super. Taking her away from being afraid of her abilities and making her more hedonistic, more hungry to explore them and have power over them. That's been an interesting arc for me as we take her from this very shy, tentative girl into somebody who is very interested in solving these crimes and going on these hunts and taking on the challenges presented to her even though she is still somewhat scared deep down inside. That's where we've been going in this second year, pulling her out of being afraid. Something unique happens to her in the second season where she does get exposed to something that helps her learn how to become powerful.
Al Norton: Was this your first experience with this level of special effects?
Azita Ghanizada: It was, actually. It's been my first experience with a lot of things. I've done some fun green screen stuff on a couple of TV episodes. The superhuman abilities have been very interesting to portray. The thing that I get protective about is making it as human as possible. When you have special effects, you don't need to add anything to it. You want to trust that the audience knows what's going on and you can play it close to the bone.
This season in general has had a lot of firsts; I worked under water with a hydroflex camera, which is really cool. I've been running through fires. Rachel falls in love…there's been a lot of interesting things that have gone in the first half of the second season.
Al Norton: What's it like to get the call that your show is picked up and you're getting a second season?
Azita Ghanizada: I think I started to get a little nervous. The network waited until after the finale aired to pick us up and you always hear that you'll find out after the third episode airs. I've got a head-down mentality about being a working actress so to me, if a show doesn't get picked up, I'm an actress for hire and will move on to the next project. Once something wraps you pack your bags and go and you can't get attached mentally.
I learned a very hard less when I didn't get the role in The Kite Runner. That went on for a year and I don't think I've ever been so devastated in my life and I learned that you have to be ready to travel. This is gypsy business.
I found out Alphas got a second season when a friend of mine on Covert Affairs texted me. I didn't even know. Then the emails started coming in and we were all so excited. To get a second season in television these days is really tough so everybody was over the moon. It's a really exciting place to be as a young actress. I'm thrilled.
Al Norton: I think we're in a golden age of television, especially dramatic television, so getting a second season on any show is a huge deal.
Azita Ghanizada: I'm right there with you; I'm a huge TV and movies person. I could probably blog for 411mania.
Al Norton: That's so nice to hear because so many people in the industry I talk to say they don't watch TV.
Azita Ghanizada: Right? How can you not watch TV?!?! I grew up watching television, I learned English watching television. We're not curing cancer or changing the world but people need entertainment, they need these interesting stories told different ways. And it's a market that will never suffer in a bad economy because people always need them. Of course they are watching them on their phones or their computers but it's a beautiful business and I can't stand when people say they don't watch it. How can you not watch Game of Thrones?!?
Al Norton: To me it's like me saying, "I'm a writer but I don't read" or "I'm a baseball player but I don't watch SportsCenter."
Azita Ghanizada: Exactly. And I both read and watch a lot of SportsCenter (laughing).
Al Norton: What can you tell me about season two of Alphas both in terms of a preview and also ways it might be different than season one?
Azita Ghanizada: I think season two is definitely taking some different shapes. We had a new showrunner come in, we had new writers come in, and they were very excited about playing the Alphas phenomenon now that the world knows that Alphas exist. I think there is a lot of character driven storylines this year; what happened last year was a lot of team time but this season it's a little more broken up, with each Alpha getting a little more back story and current story.
I think there's a lot more action this season. I can't begin to tell you how many running, jumping, crazy fire things we've been doing. It's been pretty intense. There is a really cool onslaught of cool crazy Alphas with a lot of really cool science stuff.
The big premiere episode is just a small launching pad for the rest of the season and what happens in episodes two through six is really incredible. The first hour is really just showing where everyone is after last season's finale. We've got some really great guest stars, both new and returning. I think people will understand Nina more, I think they'll root for Rachel more, I think they'll laugh insanely at Gary more. I think more women are going to watch Hicks in his underwear more (laughing).
It's been an interesting year and the second half of the season will be going after Red Flag and getting back to the mythology roots of the show. Something really, really horrible happens during the season where somebody on the show dies and it's real turn in the season and changes everybody's motivation. It also shows how all the characters deal with loss in their own ways.
Don't miss the season premiere of Alphas, tonight at 10pm on Syfy