Azita Ghanizada: Impassioned Intensity On “Alphas”

Azita Ghanizada at the 2012 Syfy Upfront.
(Photo © 2012 by Bryan Reesman.)

As Rachel Pirzad on Alphas, Azita Ghanizada plays a former CIA linguist with super enhanced senses who joins the Alphas team, which works within the Defense Criminal Investigation Service of the U.S. Department of Defense and investigates crimes that point to others with Alpha abilities. Rachel is a “synesthete”, which means she can enhance one sense at the temporary cost of her other senses. While this ability sounds awesome, it also creates challenges for her in terms of socialization, a problem further exacerbated by a sheltered childhood.

Ghanizada spoke to A.D.D. at the recent Syfy Upfront about working on the show, her passion for her work and what she would like to see happen with her character in season two, which arrives this summer.

You’ve had quite an adventure this past year.
Yeah, it’s been intense. Last season was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

And why?
Because of the cast, the crew and the writers. It’s such a collaborative effort. We are working 16 to 18 hour days in damp, dark, heat, dust, cold, mold, running in high heels. I’ve got to jump into a pool next week. I’ve got to really do some acting underwater. The funny thing is it doesn’t matter — you can keep me there for 18 hours, we all show up with a smile on our face. The cast loves each other, the crew loves each other. [She points to Warren Christie behind her on the purple carpet.] Is fancy pants over here making little faces at me? Look at him, princess. He’s such a princess this one. I call him and Malik [Yorba] my princesses because they get stunt people, and a lot of the time Laura [Mennell] and I run our own sequences in heels and then with the stunt guys, then we do it with the guys. And they get to sit it out — I’m like, “Wimps! Do this in high heels!”

“We are working 16 to 18 hour days in damp, dark, heat, dust, cold, mold, running in high heels. I’ve got to jump into a pool next week and really do some acting underwater.”

        And watching the scripts come to life, you could see when the episodes didn’t work. You could figure it out real fast when they did work. Overall, I think the show got its legs in episodes nine through the finale, when you saw Brent Spiner come in. J. Miller Tobin directed a great episode where we all became a family. You saw us work together and bond. You finally saw how we connected and connected as a family. Now with this time off — we’re just starting episode four in the second season — we’re even closer, if that makes any sense. There’s no attitude. It’s a real cast of character actors. I mean, I play a nerd. [laughs]

Rachel Pirzad (Anita Ghanizada) and Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie)
operating out in the field.
(Photo credit: Ken Woroner/Syfy.)

What would you like to see happen with your character’s powers in the second season?
I would like to see her be a little bit hedonistic with her powers. I would like to see her take some pleasure as opposed to being disgusted by everything she smells. She does smell all this stuff, and it’s gross. I would like to see her start taking pleasure in some of the sensory overload because that would be really fun to play. They have done this [thing] where Rachel is essentially a human lie detector, which I think is fascinating as a person because as actors we read micro expressions all the time to see whether or not people are telling us the truth. It’s really hard to date actors. We’re pains in the butt.

So I can’t make things up here?
No, you can’t make things up. We’re like, “You’re lying!” They get her to use those abilities as a lie detector, and I think we’re going to see her hopefully blossom and make some big changes. Some really exciting and fun things happen and then some really dark things happen for her this season, and really for the whole cast. I think we got our legs and know what we’re doing.

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