From his early-2000s acting breakthrough right up ‘til today’s funny, fidgety turn as the displaced extraterrestrial at the center of SYFY’s Resident Alien, Alan Tudyk has built an insanely diverse acting career that’s taken him on a universe-spanning genre tour through TV, film, and even video games.
Lucasfilm fans know him as a droll, darkly hilarious droid in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, while die-hard Firefly followers will forever rate Tudyk’s role in the cult classic Firefly/Serenity story-verse as their favorite. But, compiling a list like this is tough enough, even when you count out Tudyk’s amazingly versatile acting past that stretches well beyond the confines of sci-fi: Heck, we could even spend a whole other roundup’s worth of praise on nothing but his awesome voice work in Disney and Pixar movies alone.
Still, with Resident Alien quickly wending toward the end of its second season, there’s no time like the present to take a look back at some of Tudyk’s standout moments from an out-of-this-world career breathing life into some of our favorite genre roles. Catch Tudyk doing his best to blend in with us mere humans when the Season 2 finale of Resident Alien touches down at SYFY on Wednesday, Sept. 28.
If any Firefly crew member in Joss Whedon’s beloved sci-fi western space jaunt had mojo, it was Tudyk as Hoban “Wash” Washburne, the Serenity’s super-chill, Hawaiian shirt-clad pilot (and husband to Zoe, the ship’s second-in-command, played by Gina Torres). Through both the short-lived series and its fan-favorite spinoff film, Tudyk characteristically kept his cool in the heat of the moment…even in those sticky space-pirate situations when Cpt. Mal Reynolds himself (Nathan Fillion) came close to popping a blood vessel.
2. Resident Alien
No one does awkward, off-kilter hilarity like Alan Tudyk, and through two seasons, SYFY’s Resident Alien has given our out-of-this-world antihero an expansive playground to make full use of one of his greatest comedic gifts. Tudyk plays advanced alien Harry (at least that’s what we humans call him), an E.T. who’s supposed to do a quick Earthly flyby on a mission to wipe out humanity. If you’re watching, though (and you totally should!), you know things don’t go according to plan, as Harry haltingly finds himself getting more and more invested in the fates of these supposedly pitiful creatures he was originally sent to destroy.
3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Tudyk steals his scenes with one of the best roles in one of the best of the Disney-era Star Wars movies — and he never even has to appear onscreen. Performing voice and motion capture for hacked Imperial droid K-2SO in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Tudyk infuses a subtle, endearing warmth into K-2’s rusty innards while striking the perfectly wry, metallic vocal note for what (we think) a Rebel-sympathizing hunk of wires and binary logic ought to sound like.
4. A Knight’s Tale
One of Tudyk’s first big roles remains one of his best-loved: that of sidekick squire Wat, sass-mouthed pal to the late Heath Ledger’s would-be medieval man-of-arms William Thatcher in 2001’s Chaucer-inspired comedy A Knight’s Tale. Screenplay-savvy writer and director Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) infused the film with tons of clever wordcraft, offering an early vehicle that made the most of Tudyk’s killer verbal timing and delivery — traits that would come to define a slew of Tudyk-portrayed characters in roles yet to come.
5. Doom Patrol
Tudyk’s meta-clever role as Eric Morden (a.k.a. Mr. Nobody) in Doom Patrol feels like an actor gleefully playing with house money: It’s pretty much a no-holds-barred taunt-fest as our way-too-candid DC villain breaks the fourth wall, weighs in on his own role in a TV show, and generally utters without reservation whatever wicked, wacky thought enters Nobody’s demented mind. Like his Con Man web series, it’s Tudyk having tons of fun by playing a character who’s in on the joke — only in Doom Patrol, it’s sorta no prank when his character totally wants, y’know, to waste the good guys.
6. Harley Quinn
Just as he does with Disney and Pixar, Tudyk wears many voice-acting hats in Harley Quinn, DC’s grown-up, trash-talking animated series at HBO Max. As both Clayface and Joker, he gets plenty of freedom to flesh out comic book crazies with meatier parts to play in Harley’s haywire world, but they’re by no means the only ones: Tudyk has also voiced Calendar Man, Doctor Trap, Condiment King, Ocean Master, and more oft-irreverent characters in the series.
7. Con Man
Based on his real-life celebrity as a sci-fi icon in the wake of Firefly’s post-cancelation takeoff, Con Man was Tudyk’s web comedy baby: He created, wrote, directed, and starred in the satire series about a pigeonholed actor who’s worshipped by the fan con faithful even as Hollywood (and the wider moviegoing world) ignores him. It’s far less dour than it sounds: Con Man packed in tons of genuine affection for the fans who make an actor’s world go ‘round, and even re-teamed Tudyk with Firefly costar Nathan Fillion — a guy who, in Tudyk’s meta alt-reality, played a (fictional) former costar who went on to achieve that sweet, oh-so-enviable A-list status.
8. I, Robot
For an acting career so filled with android turns, it’s amazing how distinctive and memorable each of Tudyk’s robo-roles has been. Director Alex Proyas’ 2004, Isaac Asimov-inspired I, Robot starred Tudyk as Sonny, an emotionally empowered humanoid droid who, opposite Will Smith’s ‘bot-suspicious hero, holds the key to the murder mystery at the heart of the film. Sonny’s a bit more logical and robotically even-keel than some of the later synths that Tudyk voiced…except, that is, for the few high-impact moments in I, Robot when he proved his claim on human-like emotion was more than just a boast.
9. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
There’s more to Tudyk’s horror hick in the hilarious Tucker & Dale vs. Evil than mere movie stereotype. As half the 2010 film’s titular backwoods duo, he and big-hearted buddy Dale (Tyler Labine) are mistaken by stranded college students for a pair of redneck slashers. Tudyk played the aptly-named Tucker McGee, a friendly fella whose hapless suffering at the hands of cluelessly frightened urbanites exceeds the kids’ own prejudiced, movie-fueled fantasies about hillbillies hungrily lying in wait for fresh human prey in the woods.