17 Things You Never Knew About the Hit J.J. Abrams Series 'Alias'
After 15 years, Sydney Bristow is still one of the best female heroes ever.
Thank J.J. Abrams before he was, you know J.J. Abrams. And as cool as his work on the big-screen is (see "Star Wars" and "Star Trek"), the only thing cooler was what he did with a TV show about a grad student-turned-double agent for the CIA.
"Alias" made Jennifer Garner a star, put Bradley Cooper on the map, and put Abrams on track to one day blow up Ethan Hunt, give us a new Captain Kirk, and kill Han Solo. As its pilot -- an all-timer -- turns 15 on Sept. 30, check out these 17 things you need to know -- straight from SD-6. (And, no, not one of them is an explanation about the whole Rambaldi thing. But cool floating red ball of doom, though, bro.)
1. Garner auditioned five times for the role of Sydney Bristow.
2. She found out she got the part while at the movies watching "Traffic." "I was in the middle of the movie, and my phone started to ring and I dodged outside," Garner told TVLine in a recent oral history of the show. "It was finally, finally mine and I just remember watching the rest of 'Traffic' like it was a romantic comedy. [Laughs]"
3. Lucky for Garner, series creator Abrams wrote the pilot with her in mind after having worked with the actor on "Felicity." "When I was writing the pilot, she was in my mind as a very strong contender for the role," Abrams revealed to TVLine. "My wife, Katie, said: 'You have to write something for Jen.' And so Jen kept coming up in my mind as a potential candidate for this. But I was trying not to think of Jen because I wanted Sydney to be her own thing that then Jen could bring to life, or whomever. But there was no one else I really considered but her."
4. Not everyone was on Team Garner. Abrams revealed that some TV honchos were apprehensive about Garner in the lead role. One exec was particularly concerned with her being "hot enough."
5. "The Office" star Jenna Fischer also auditioned for Sydney, but was never called back. Why? According to Fischer: "They said they liked my acting but I wasn't hot enough."
6. Garner's opening narration, which was used throughout Season 1, was literally phoned in. While on location, the actor read it through the phone to Abrams, who was on the other end recording it.
7. Michael Vartan, who played Sydney's handler and future lover, Vaughn, was not sure he would get the job. "We do the first read -- and I was sweating profusely," Vartan said. "I mean, it was embarrassing. I said, 'J.J., I can't do this.' He was like, 'Yes, you can.'"
8. Kevin Weisman is quoted as saying he "kind of based" his portrayal of twitchy spy-tech guru Marshall on J.J. Abrams — a fact who would reveal to the show's creator years later.
9. At one point, the writers considered that Sydney would hook up with fan-favorite villain Julian Sark (David Anders). Why was it abandoned, other than being gross? According to writer Josh Applebaum: "We were like, 'Sydney would never sleep with that a**hole. She's too smart and cool to fall for that guy's s**t.'"
10. In a Season 1 episode, Will Tippin (Bradley Cooper) snoops around the San Pedro docks and finds a freighter named "Alba Varden." Audiences have seen this ship before -- it's featured in the final showdown from "Lethal Weapon 2." (We'd watch the sh** out of that crossover.)
11. J.J. Abrams was not a fan of how the Season 4 premiere, "APO," originally turned out. So he re-shot the entire episode in five days.
12. The only two stars to appear in every episode of the series are Garner and Victor Garber, who played Syd's dad, Jack. The evil Sloane (Ron Rifkin) only missed two episodes out of the series' 105.
13. Where did the idea come from to give Syd a sister, Nadia (Mía Maestro)? "It was probably, J.J," Applebaum said. "Somebody said: 'What if Sydney had a sister?' Suddenly, everyone's like 'f**k yeah!' Then J.J. was going through a script, and in his rewrite of it, as this guy is dying, [Abrams] added this line in. The person dying said, 'Find the passenger.'" After initial shock at the line, the writers eventually found a way to tie the passenger and Nadia together.
14. In Season 5, Rachel Nichols' character, Rachel Gibson, was created because Garner was pregnant and the show needed a new character to handle the show's demanding action scenes during that time. Also, knowing it was the final season, the writers wanted to callback to Sydney's original arc about an agent who discovers that she is working for the very bad guys she thought she was fighting.
15. Throughout production, Garner instituted a "Crew Member of the Week" award. According to writer/showrunner Jeff Pinkner, "[Garner] even created a little crown, which went from crew member to crew member each week, and there was a ceremony."
16. Each of Jennifer Garner's wigs cost around $5,000. The series (usually) required a new wig for each episode, although some wigs were re-used and re-styled throughout the show's run.
17. Abrams' childhood friend, Greg Grunberg -- who played the always-likable Weiss -- treated himself to a wrap gift when the series ended. He bought the Ford Bronco Will drove in the series. He still owns it.