"Alphas" actress Azita Ghanizada sees Syfy's upcoming superhero series as a thrilling, action-packed journey that offers a fascinating exploration of the human condition.
Premiering July 11 at 10 p.m. ET, the "Alphas" pilot was shot in Toronto by "Lost" director Jack Bender, who worked from a script by Zack Penn ("The Incredible Hulk") and Michael Karnow. "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" veteran Ira Steven Behr serves as the show's producer.
The series centers on a secret team of superheroes operating under a U.S. Department of Defense mandate to hunt and neutralize others of their kind. Designated "Alphas," these superhumans are considered a serious threat to world security and are often recruited by a mysterious and sinister organization known as Red Flag.
Ghanizada ("General Hospital: Night Shift") plays lab technician Rachel Pirzad, an Alpha with the ability to enhance one sense at the expense of her others.
"She is like the coolest crime solver there is," Ghanizada said in an interview with Airlock Alpha. "She doesn't need a microscope. She is like the original bionic woman."
Rachel is guided during her missions by Dr. Leigh Rosen, who is played by Academy Award nominee David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck."). Rosen, an esteemed neurologist and psychiatrist, is the government's expert on the Alpha phenomena, and he spearheads the fight against Red Flag.
Along with Rachel, Rosen's team consists of Bill Harken (Malik Yoba), a former FBI agent with hyperadrena abilities; Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell), who can leave people vulnerable to suggestion; Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie), a former Army sniper with superior motor skills; and Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), who is literally a human antennae.
"What we are doing on a weekly basis is trying to create a multi-layered show that is going to inspire a lot of humanity," Ghanizada said. "It's peppered with a lot of texture, that's for sure. There is a lot of character stuff. There is a lot of socially awkward moments, very real human moments that make them quirky and interesting in this odd way."
As the series progresses, Rachel -- like her fellow teammates -- will struggle with the ramifications of possessing powers. Family life, personality differences and their unique backgrounds present the group with as many challenges as the rogue villains they combat. Rachel's journey will be particularly trying.
"She is super precious; there is something very pure about her," Ghanizada explained. "And I think in a lot of ways there is something very innocent about me and the way I see the world. I see the world like it’s a Woody Allen movie. And I think Rachel does that too.
"She can see, hear, taste, touch and smell everything. She literally feels and sees everything! And I think that is so epic to be able to play that hyper reality. … How would you physically respond? How would you emotionally respond?"
And Rachel's life shared another parallel that struck home for Ghanizada -- her upbringing.
“The thing about Rachel was that she grew up in kind of a very conservative home that was suffocating," she said. "And there was a lot of things about her like her insecurities and her being timid and all these things. And if we really kind of rearrange ourselves, we are capable of doing anything."
Ghanizada fled Afghanistan as a child refugee to the U.S., and she struggled to find herself.
"It made me feel very insecure when I was little, and it made me kind of unsure of who I was and where I belonged and what I should be doing and what was right," she explained. "So it was very easy for me to tap into Rachel right away.
"She has brought a lot of shame to her family because of her abilities. Because she is with Dr. Rosen and these other Alphas, she is learning that her abilities are a gift. And they really need her. She is actually needed. And she is applauded for what she is capable of doing."
With this mix of character drama and discovery, and a healthy dose of action and visual effects too, "Alphas" should leave audiences pleasantly surprised, according to Ghanizada.
"It's faced paced; there is a sense of urgency in every episode," she said. "There are a lot of lives at stake and a lot of things at stake every week.
"I think it'll be a really cool journey."
View a 9-minute preview of the series here.
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