resident alien, sara tomko

Resident Alien's Sara Tomko

Philip Jarmain
October 09, 2023
In The Mix

How Resident Alien's Sara Tomko Used Fear to Help Her Acting Career

The star of Syfy’s hit series reveals what makes life in Hollywood easier.

Resident Alien's Sara Tomko knows what it's like to feel uncertainty and fear. 

While playing Tiger Lily on ABC's Once Upon a Time in 2017, Tomko struggled with the pressures of success and decided to start therapy. She says the therapist's support changed everything, including her marriage, which came to an end.

"She helped me to see that pain is an inevitable part of life — but suffering is optional," Tomko says. "I started doing research on mental health awareness and started to blossom."

On the Syfy mystery/comedy-drama mash-up Resident Alien, Tomko plays Asta Twelvetrees, a kind nurse who befriends and teaches Harry Vanderspeigle (an alien played by Alan Tudyk) what it really means to be human. Tomko, whose credits include guest roles on The Leftovers, S.W.A.T. and Sneaky Pete, says going through divorce and dealing with grief connected her to her character in ways she could never have foreseen.

"Asta is such an open wound and is relatable," Tomko says. "She's the great uniter, bringing people together. There's so much heart in the show and it's truthful to the human experience." Tomko, who is of Slovak, Polish and Native American heritage, says it's important to see characters like Asta on television — people who are messy and imperfect and trying to figure out what to do.

A self-described mental health advocate, Tomko says staying true to oneself is essential, especially in an industry where people often bend their personalities to please others. “There’d be a lot less anger in the world if we tapped into our inner selves and cared more about who we are inside than what the world thinks of us on the outside,” she says. Her daily spiritual practice began with lighting a single candle and pulling a single tarot card. It now includes tarot readings, meditation, leading moon ceremonies and more. Getting quiet and listening to her intuition, she says, has led to “getting wonderful messages from spirit guides.”

The message she hopes audiences get from Resident Alien is that despite our differences, we are all linked as human beings.

“There’s a lot of division in the country these days,” Tomko says. “Maybe we don’t see eye-to-eye on things, but Resident Alien can help us laugh and remind us that we’re all connected. Human beings are such a weird species. We’re all aliens.”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #10, 2023 under the title, “Being Human.”

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