The minds behind Alphas tell us about Summer Glau's guest spot (and why this show is not The X-Files)

At the Comic-Con Alphas panel yesterday, the show's producers revealed that Summer Glau, Brent Spiner, Garret Dillahunt, and the Bionic Woman herself, Lindsay Wagner, would guest-star on SyFy's new superhuman crimesolving drama. After this reveal, we went behind the scenes with the show's team to learn about what's next for these unlikely heroes.

At the roundtables, I asked Alphas executive producer Ira Steven Behr (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) if any superpower was too outlandish for the show:

There were two big wipe boards in the writer's room, they were filled with abilities [...] There were tons of them that we hadn't used [...] To start out with, the idea was to keep the abilities contained, at least in some way related to neurochemistry. We came up with a lot of cool abilities and if they weren't connected at least in some way — no matter how tenuous to neurochemistry, you threw them out. You're not going to see people flying [or] levitating. Ultimately, I think that's good for the show.

One of the upcoming characters he noted was "someone who can live within the blind spots of people." Next up was Alphas co-creator and Avengers writer Zak Penn, who elaborated on Summer Glau's upcoming guest spot:

First of all, you'll see various bureaucratic types throughout the show, but one of the things that we really wanted to capture is that normally the government isn't run like Charlie's Angels [...] Rosen has had to navigate this bureaucracy and we're into the banal humorous side of bureaucracy, the fact that in a situation like this, things wouldn't run smoothly. You would have [...] screw ups. There's an episode coming up, there's one with Summer Glau guest-stars in an episode and there's a lot of departmental confusion about what's going on.

I then asked Penn if Alphas will be serialized or focus on a particular Alpha each week:

You will definitely see story arcs over several episodes unquestionably. SyFy was really cool [about serializing the characters]. We didn't want it to be "every week they do the same thing." I don't want to bag on a specific show, but I'm just saying there are certain shows we watch and it's like, "Wow, really? You're still skeptical?" By the way, I didn't watch all that much X-Files, I'm sure that they did get past that. But for me, a lot of shows are like that [...] The other thing is Ira has emphatically said, "Let's not do an Alpha of the week. Let's keep the audience guessing." Some weeks there will be no Alpha at all [...] It's never just going to be My Dinner With Andre with our characters.

Finally, we spoke with David Strathairn, who plays the Alphas' quirky leader Dr. Lee Rosen. We asked Strathairn who inspired his performance of Rosen — Strathairn described him as the amalgamation of "Richard Feynman, Oliver Sacks, and Werner Herzog." Hopefully we'll see some of Rosen's Herzogian invincibility sometime this season.