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Scorpion’s Ari Stidham Talks the Evolution of Sylvester Dodd [Exclusive]

WARNING: Scorpion Spoilers

One of the surprises of this current television season is CBS’ Scorpion. It airs Monday nights and is already a ratings winner. There are action and procedural elements to this first season series. But the team aspect of the show is one of its strongest assets.

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TV Goodness recently chatted with Ari Stidham, who plays statistics guru Sylvester Dodd. He also has a (no longer) hidden past as a video game master that goes by the name, El Guapo. Stidham talks to us exclusively about the success of the show as well as tackling those awesome action scenes. Plus, he helps analyze his character’s evolution and teases what’s ahead for his character and the show.

TV GOODNESS: Congrats on season two! It has to feel good to know this early that you’re going to be back another year.

Ari Stidham: Yes, it does feel good to know that I’m okay for the coming time. Financially I’m not going to be worrying about a job which is the first time that’s going to be true in a good amount of years.

TV GOODNESS: Why do you think Scorpion is a show that connected with the audience so quickly?

Ari: Honestly, I think it’s got a little bit of everything. We have drama, we have comedy, we have heart, we have…each of our characters could kind of carry their own show. Like Happy (Jadyn Wong)…we’ve seen a show that has a Happy character in MacGyver. Toby, I think, resembles Shawn Spencer a little bit — from Psych. My guy sort of resembles Monk. We have these facets of television sort of ingrained in the type of people that we’re playing. So there’s a lot of familiarity already with characters like this. I think it just hit at the right time, honestly. I also think that the serial nature of television has sort of had a return to form in the way of (shows) like…The A-Team. And I believe that our show is that — going back to adventure shows. Because we really don’t have shows like that anymore. We have a body of the week type of show — we have a few of those…But we don’t have too many adventures of the week or movies of the week, and I think that Scorpion fills that void.

TV GOODNESS: We’re more than halfway through the season and I already feel like your character has evolved — can you talk about the evolution of Sylvester so far?

Ari: More to what your saying is his overcoming his crazy phobias in order to save people’s lives, right? For a while I feel like the audience looked at Sylvester and were like — aw, he’s hopeless sort of in a cute way. And so (episode) 12 (“Dominoes”) happens and you realize, no, this guy can do it and he knows it’s his duty to do it and nobody else has the abilities that he has. And even though he hates germs he’s got to get his hands dirty every episode. That affects a man with OCD so differently than it affects somebody like Toby or Happy who doesn’t mind that type of work or at least wouldn’t mind it as much as Sylvester would.

TV GOODNESS: But Sylvester has had a couple of badass moments. What’s your favorite Sylvester badass moment?

Ari: Jumping off the boat in this last episode (“Love Boat”). I jump off this — I didn’t do it. My stunt double Tom Massmann who is an amazing man did. I didn’t do it. My character did it. I was too scared. (laughs) So Sylvester jumps off the boat and lands on a life raft sending the villains of the episode into the propellers of the boat and chopping them to smithereens. I feel like that was a pretty badass moment. I watched it on screen and I went like, ‘Yeah! I’m taking credit for Tom right now!’

Clip from “Love Boat”

TV GOODNESS: I love Sylvester in that episode ’cause he had to do things that he didn’t want to do. He stepped up.

Ari: He had to step out of his comfort zone a little bit. As a rule I’m a fan of characters getting tested in anything that I watch. So to play a character getting tested…that’s the most fun stuff as an actor when it’s both story and character. I love that episode. I’d say that episode as a whole has been my favorite episode to shoot. 

TV GOODNESS: So do you think that that episode is the defining moment for Sylvester?

Ari: I do because he also gets some courage at the end of it and starts to go after the girl he wants to go after. Chaz Bonesteel has a lot to do with Sylvester Dodd becoming the man that he is at the end of that episode. That’s for sure.

TV GOODNESS: Can you talk about the connection that Sylvester has with Walter’s sister (Megan, played by Camille Guaty)?

Ari: Sure! I think intentions were made clear in this last episode that there’s going to be a romantic connection. So I’d just say watch on (Feb.) 23 because even more answers are revealed in the next episode. I don’t want to spoil it before you see it.

TV GOODNESS: Can you give a little bit more of a hint for the Feb. 23 episode? 

Ari: Well, the main reason that I was afraid to give Megan the Valentine in this last episode was because of what Walter thought. So I guess that is what I’ll say you have to remember. Walter has to find out eventually, doesn’t he?

TV GOODNESS: Talk about Walter (Elyes Gabel) and Sylvester. They were friends before the series started. But do you feel that their relationship has evolved already?

Ari: I think as any work relationship evolves through new projects their friendship gets deeper there as well. The idea is you come in to Scorpion season one they’ve been working together for a while now. They know each other’s ins and outs so the development as a character…I think they need each other — Walter and Sylvester. I think they get this brotherly companionship that both of them desperately needed but neither of them ever had. That relationship is always going to be there. It will get tested but I think it’s a very strong relationship on the show. Definitely the strongest relationship that my character has.

TV GOODNESS: You touched on this earlier but Team Scorpion gets involved in some pretty dangerous things and requires them to be involved in dangerous stunts. Do you like playing that action element?

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Ari: I do. I think it’s because I know that it’s very against my type to play that stuff. But that’s when the fun happens. I’ve always wanted to play a burglar or a Paul Blart type of character because there are so many opportunities for comedy when you have to do a specific thing — like physical comedy — which I love. I’m glad that whenever I do something sort of action hero-y, there’s always a joke there because I feel like that makes it worth it for me because…I’m not really putting my life on the line as an actor. And even the stunt people — everything’s really safe. But the action hero stuff is super fun to play. I think it’s cool when I get to see it. Because I know what I look like. I know that I don’t look like a Tom Cruise hardcore type of guy. So the scene they do trying to jump up through a crate and jumping on top of a table to get into an air vent — all that stuff is funny. I mean, it’s funny because I’m not built for that. And my character’s not built for that either. It’s totally out of both of our comfort zones. So I think it just looks funny. I embrace that.

TV GOODNESS: On the other side of things — you guys have to say a lot of tech speak and exposition. And you guys really have it down. You are able to get all the information across in a very entertaining way. Is there an art to that? Did you guys have to practice to get the rhythm down? How difficult was that? 

Ari: I’m not going to say that people come in here and nail it first take with all that stuff. It takes some time. Probably Eddie (Kaye Thomas, Toby Curtis) is the only one of us who can spout it off. With any job it gets to the point where you figure out how to do it the way you’re gonna do it. For me, it’s just repetition. I write them out a lot and if I don’t understand it, I research the hell out of it until I figure out how to comprehend the lines. Because once I can break it down and comprehend it then I’ll remember it. If I’m just trying to just remember the words, it’s difficult. It’s like remembering a different language. Comprehension is the key.

TV GOODNESS: And, finally, we’re in sort of the home stretch of the season — can you tease anything that’s coming up in a big picture way? Can you tease what people can look forward to as the season winds down?

Ari: You can look forward to a cliffhanger. All I’m gonna tease is that there’s a massive cliffhanger coming up. And fans are gonna love it.

Scorpion airs Mondays at 9/8c on CBS.

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