For five seasons, Alias chronicled the secret agent adventures of Sydney Bristow and her trustworthy team of allies, ranging from her father Jack Bristow to her eventual husband Michael Vaughn.
As one of the earliest series to kick start the recent trend toward shows driven by espionage and thrills, Alias nevertheless made sure to maintain an equal balance of humor and heart with its action and suspense.
Alias also offered a first glimpse at the next level workings of J.J. Abrams’ mind, in terms of universe creation and mystery weaving. As we know now, Abrams’ ability to create unique and engaging (and often maddening) narratives is practically unparalleled within Hollywood.
The series also launched and solidified the careers of household names of film and television like Jennifer Garner, Greg Grunberg, and Victor Garber. However, behind all that talent lingered some secrets that may surprise even the most devoted of fans.
Here are the 15 Behind The Scenes Secrets You Never Knew About Alias.
15. Jennifer Garner and Michael Vartan dated briefly during the series’ run
With chemistry in spades from the first time their characters interacted, it was clear that Sydney and Vaughn had the potential to become something truly special. It also should’ve been clear, then, that their actors may have fit the same bill.
In season 2 of the series, Sydney and Vaughn finally give in to their mutual affection for one another and become a full-fledged couple. However, their portrayers, apparently, had a little more restraint in that regard, especially considering Garner was married to Scott Foley until 2003.
Over the course of seasons 3 and 4, Jennifer Garner and Michael Vartan were romantically involved, to the delight of passionate ‘shippers of Syd and Vaughn everywhere.
However, unfortunately for these excited fans, their relationship wasn’t meant to last.
14. Bradley Cooper had a miserable experience on the show
Actors can get pretty candid about how they felt about certain jobs once they’re no longer apart of them. Whether their feelings were overwhelmingly positive or negative, the ability to speak freely about a work experience is something that’s becoming increasingly common in Hollywood.
For Bradley Cooper, it turns out that working on Alias was apparently an utterly miserable experience. In an interview with GQ, he once complained openly about the inconsistent schedule he worked while appearing on the series as Will Tippin, a character who often seemed out of place in the serialized drama.
Perhaps worst of all, Cooper noted that working this sort of schedule on the series led him to feel like he wanted to “f**king kill [him]self”– and so, he requested that he be written off the series as soon as possible.
13. J.J. Abrams has disavowed the third season’s existence
Sometimes, showrunners and co. confess down the line that they regret certain decisions they made during the production of their shows. Whether it has to do with a casting choice, a certain plotline they wished they had handled better, or even a small scene that should’ve been left on the cutting room floor, it’s always interesting to hear what the powers at be think about their own works.
In the case of Alias, however, it seems as though these regrets were considerably larger for J.J. Abrams.
In a 2005 interview leading up to the premiere of season 4, Abrams essentially confessed that the plot season 3 had followed was a mistake, and a disservice to the characters.
At the time, he stated, “We weren’t as true to the characters. They became pawns in a plot-driven story.” As any good writer knows, sacrificing characters to plot is perhaps the worst thing you can do– so it’s no wonder that Alias veered drastically away from season 3.
12. The cast and crew still don’t really understand the Rambaldi plot
J.J. Abrams’s mind is a wonderful thing. However, as we’ve already explained, it can also be a pretty infuriating one from time to time. Look no further than the mess that plagued much of Alias‘s run– the Rambaldi plot– for a prime example of what can happen when his creative enthusiasm gets the better of him.
The centuries-spanning conspiracy theory-slash-mystery-slash-historical figure plot is one that has left fans scratching their heads and straining to keep up with the latest reveals ever since the show first aired.
As it turns out, fans aren’t the only ones. To this day, much of the cast and crew behind the scenes maintain that they’re still not entirely sure how the Rambaldi plot worked, or what it ever really meant.
11. Jennifer Garner performed many of her own stunts
Stunt work is certainly no easy feat; and when the main character of a series or movie is expected to engage in heavy action sequences, it’s hardly a surprise when a stunt double is used in the key actor’s place. For insurance and safety reasons, it’s usually the wisest idea for the production company.
However, in the case of Alias, it turns out that Jennifer Garner actually performed much of her own stunt work, especially in the series’ earlier seasons.
Every episode virtually found Sydney kicking butt and taking names in entirely new and physical ways.
10. Garner’s pregnancy caused the series to take an extended hiatus
Real life actress pregnancies are never easy to handle on a series. Sometimes, shows decide to incorporate them into the plot. Other times, they try to awkwardly conceal their existence behind over-sized furniture, bags, and baggy clothing– such as with Kerry Washington’s comically concealed pregnancy in Scandal.
Sometimes, the pregnancies lead to series taking extended hiatuses in order to accommodate a leading actress’s health and schedule. This is exactly what happened with Alias, as Jennifer Garner was pregnant during the show’s fifth and ultimately final season.
For four months, between December 2005 and April 2006, the series didn’t air a single new episode, but would then go on to wrap its entire run in May 2006 with the series finale of its abridged final season.
9. Carl Lumbly hated when Dixon had to go undercover for comic relief
Undercover operations made up a considerable part of Alias‘s episodic plots. The often ridiculous aliases used by Sydney and Vaughn in particular allowed the series to inject tense moments with humor and wit, all while moving the plot forward and allowing the characters to kick some butt along the way.
Sometimes, however, things could get especially silly, particularly when Carl Lumbly’s often stoic Agent Marcus Dixon was brought in for some extra support.
The season 2 episode “A Higher Echelon” may present one of the clearest examples of just how ridiculous things could get, as poor Dixon found himself in costume as a dreadlocks-wearing hype man DJ.
Lumbly, for his part, has tried to forget these experiences: “There were some that I scrubbed from my memory almost as soon as they happened. I had no idea what I was wearing, and I never will.”
8. Sydney’s signature wigs had some shocking price tags
Few people stop and think about all the work and money that has to go into creating a character’s wardrobe and overall look. It’s only natural that these numbers, already high enough for a standard series, are further inflated for a show like Alias that involves frequent costume and identity changes.
According to the five-time Emmy nominated hair stylist, Michael Reitz, the budget for Sydney’s hair alone was staggering. Each wig reportedly cost around $20,000 apiece– and so, to maximize the return on their investment, the show tried to use each wig in three different looks.
7. A reboot has been considered at ABC on multiple occasions
Reboots and revivals are all the rage nowadays, for better or worse.
Some shows have been successful in recapturing the magic of their original series.
However, more often than not, these reboots have fallen flat on their face and tarnished the memory of the series that came before.
That’s exactly the fear that the minds behind Alias have regarding a potential revival– but that doesn’t mean the conversation isn’t ongoing.
According to the co-executive producer of the series, Josh Applebaum, conversations have taken place with J.J. Abrams regarding a return to the series: “It would be amazing to do it. We’ve even talked with J.J. [Abrams]. The right idea would have to come. We wouldn’t want to do it unless it was absolutely perfect.”
6. Abrams wrote Sydney with Garner in mind
It’s not uncommon for writers to create characters with a specific actor in mind for the role. It is, however, far less common for that role to be brought to life with exactly the right person in it.
According to J.J Abrams, from the moment he worked with Jennifer Garner in a guest starring spot on Felicity, he knew that she would be the one to bring his character of Sydney Bristow to life– even if Garner herself was unsure of her ability to do her justice.
Abrams, however, needed no convincing, and it was all due to what he could sense in Garner’s potential for future performances based on their limited time working together: “There was something about her that I just thought was really special.”
“I always thought she had something in her personality that was funnier and s*xier and smarter and more mischievous than anything I’d seen her do. And when I wrote Sydney, I wanted to show that,” he said.
5. Melissa George unsuccessfully auditioned for Sydney
Casting can truly make or break a project’s success. Finding the right person for the right roles– especially for lead roles that have the potential to become iconic, in the way that Sydney Bristow has– is no easy task.
It’s always interesting to find out what casting missteps were avoided in the process of creating a series.
As it turns out, Alias avoided quite a large casting mistake: Melissa George, who would go on to play the series’ most polarizing and irredeemable character Lauren Reed, had originally auditioned for the role of Sydney.
It’s all but impossible to imagine a version of Alias that didn’t rely on the strength of Garner’s talent, and it’s just as impossible to imagine anyone else eventually filling Lauren’s villainous shoes.
4. Katherine Heigl auditioned for the role of Lauren Reed
However, Melissa George wasn’t necessarily a shoe-in for the part of Lauren Reed, either. Apparently, early contenders for the role included one particularly recognizable name: the widely polarizing Katherine Heigl of Grey’s Anatomy fame (or infamy, depending on who you ask).
We can only wonder how that role would have felt with the future Dr. Izzie Stevens in the role instead of George herself. Even more, we can only imagine how Heigl’s career would have panned out had she landed on Alias instead of in residency in Seattle.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and the rest is history. George landed the role, and became a subject of polarizing fan opinion all on her own… before inevitably winding up on Grey’s herself a few years later.
3. Despite intense fan criticism, Abrams insists that Lauren was meant to be written out all along
From the character’s introduction, it was clear that Lauren would be a real problem for fans. She was the human plot device that had been wedged between the series’ main couple of Sydney and Vaughn, an inconvenient source of drama that would inevitably be dealt with in one way or another.
Then, suddenly, she was revealed to be an evil mastermind, which just amplified the fan outrage expressed toward her. (All of this before the age of social media, at that.)
J.J. Abrams has maintained all along that Lauren was always meant to be an evil character who would be abruptly written out of the series.
2. Greg Grunberg, who portrayed Eric Weiss, has been best friends with Abrams since childhood
Best friends working together in Hollywood is a fairly common occurrence, especially when the pairs are friends who can share screentime together on projects. What’s less common, however, is when one friend is behind the scenes and snags the other friend a prime role on screen.
In the case of lifelong best friends J.J. Abrams and Greg Grunberg, however, that’s exactly what happened. Having been friends since childhood, Abrams often fits Grunberg– known to Alias fans as Sydney and Vaughn’s coworker, Eric Weiss, and to Heroes fans as mindreader Matt Parkman– into his projects wherever he can.
1. Garner and Victor Garber’s adorable off-screen relationship
The father-daughter relationship between Jack and Sydney Bristow wasn’t always one that allowed the characters to be on the best of terms. However, over time, their bond clearly became the beating heart of the series, which makes Jack’s sacrifice at the end of the series– and Sydney’s naming of her child after her father– so much more poignant.
As it turns out, the close bond between father and daughter is one that extended beyond the screen.
Jennifer Garner and Victor Garber are still incredibly close to this very day. Garber is, in fact, godfather to one of Garner’s daughters with ex-husband Ben Affleck.
Even sweeter than that, Garber and his husband were the only two guests at Garner and Affleck’s wedding– and Garber himself officiated the marriage. Talk about adorable.
What other secrets behind the making of Alias do you know about? Let us know in the comments!
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