These days, it's clear he was fated for Hollywood — he's a Comic-con fan favorite who's toplining two Syfy series at once — but growing up in suburban Plano, Texas, Alan Tudyk strongly considered becoming a hotel manager.
It wasn't for want of encouragement. A fourth-grade teacher predicted this class clown would become a stand-up comedian. In sixth grade, a speech teacher referred him to the drama department, where he found a home. Tudyk kept performing into high school, but even so, the long odds against making it as an actor gave him doubts. So he was prudently considering the hospitality industry when yet another teacher reassured him, saying, "You'll make it."
She was right. Tudyk won an award while studying drama at Lon Morris College in Texas and then attended Juilliard. He worked in theater and soon transitioned to movies, where some of his earliest roles were in Patch Adams, 28 Days, Wonder Boys and A Knight's Tale. Tudyk scored his big break as Hoban "Wash" Washburne in Fox's short-lived but well-loved 2002 sci-fi western series, Firefly.
From there he built a career playing goofball sidekicks and scene-stealing supporting characters in films like Dodgeball and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, as well as shows like Suburgatory. Meanwhile, his childhood love of funny voices led Tudyk to a parallel career as a voice actor, starting with the first Ice Age movie and including animated Disney features, DC Comics TV shows, Family Guy, multiple videogames and a role as a droid (K-2S0) in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
By now Tudyk has graduated from sidekick to lead. In Syfy's animated Devil May Care, he voices a Satan who's intent on rebranding hell. In the network's live-action Resident Alien series, which has been renewed for a second season, he stars as an alien who's pretending to be a human doctor in a small Colorado town.
The chance to play an extraterrestrial — one who struggles to master moving, talking and behaving like a human — was immediately appealing. "There's so much possibility when you have a creature that doesn't know how humans are supposed to act," he says. "There's opportunities for humor all around." It's also a chance for Tudyk to flex the full range of physical, vocal and emotional abilities that he's cultivated all his life — and that's something he and his fans can all enjoy.
He may not be running the Four Seasons in Dallas, but Tudyk says, "I'm definitely having a lot of fun."
Catch-up viewing of Resident Alien and Devil May Care is available on demand and at Syfy.com; Resident Alien also streams on Peacock.
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 7, 2021