There is a special enjoyment that comes from watching actors who truly understand their character, the purpose they have, and how to execute it. If it is only for an episode or for an entire series, watching a character unfold by an actor who knows and gets them inside and out breathes a new level of life to that character.
Alyssa Jirrels is already proving that she has what it takes to bring this knowledge to her acting.
Signed on as series regular for the second season of Disney XD’s captivating series “MECH-X4”, Alyssa’s character Veracity makes only one appearance in the first season yet it is memorable all the same.
Though she described herself as very meek prior to taking on the role, the actress is able to hold a commanding presence whenever she is on screen as Veracity. “Thank you!” she tells Teenplicity when we say as much. “I’m really happy that it comes off that way,” she adds with a laugh.
“I’m so lucky to be able to play a character that’s hard to describe, especially at this age,” Alyssa says of Veracity. “I think it’s so amazing how complex she is. She doesn’t apologize for who she is, she’s incredibly brave in her own, very unique way, and she will always stand up for what she believes in.” Her character even stands up to bullies as well, not letting them try to knock her down. “I think she’s one of those people who you can just tell from who she is that she is working really hard to get where she is and she’s working really hard to get to the point of pride where she’s at because she is very proud of herself and she’s very proud of everything she’s accomplished.”
This is even shown throughout her first season episode, titled “Let’s Go Clubbing”, during which her banter with Harris [Kamran Lucas] often described her achievements. Alyssa adds that from what she knows of the character, she believes Veracity had quite a journey to get to her point of pride.
Stepping into the shoes of someone so proud and assertive had been quite a learning experience, according to the teen. “Her strength is not quiet whatsoever,” Alyssa says, a twinge of pride in her voice over the character she portrays. “She has a very ‘I’m here. Handle it. Deal with it.’ kind of strength and it really trickled over into my own life. I learned how to stare someone straight in the eye and not be intimidated by that.” A slight joking tone seeping into her voice, the pride never leaves as she states, “I learned how to do that.” She also took the boldness that encompasses her character into her own life and who she is.
While getting into character may have been a learning experience, fitting Veracity’s strong presence into the show was easy.
“The boys and the chemistry we all had – they definitely had [Veracity’s] own little slot from the beginning and I think that her personality really meshes with the rest of them, especially Harris because they do have that intellectual banter,” she says of her character joining the show. “They’re such a great group of guys that it was pretty easy to fit in this really wonderfully bold girl in there.” She says with a laugh, “They were like, ‘Alright, absolutely! Bring it on!’”
Alyssa had been ready to bring it too. From her very first introduction, fans are able to sense that there’s more to Veracity, as well as her relationship with Harris, and the actress teased that there’s more to unravel.
“I think as the show has progressed, I’ve really seen her complexity sort of grow and I love that,” Alyssa says of her character. “Especially in the second season, you get to see the downside and the flipside of being so intelligent and having a piece of the puzzle that everybody else doesn’t have.” This exploration of her character has made this one of her favorite aspects of Veracity. “I think my favorite thing about her that I’ve gotten to see so far, which you’ll definitely get to see next season,” she teases, “is her vulnerability – when she’s not being bold and when she doesn’t have that tough exterior and the different side of Veracity that comes out with that and how that in itself can be so strong.”
After getting accustomed with the determined and commanding façade of her character, bringing her vulnerability to the surface – while her favorite aspect of Veracity – had been the most difficult part.
“It’s always been so interesting to me how we perceive emotion and crying,” begins Alyssa, connecting that these are usually called a weakness. “We do really perceive that as lesser than just having that tough exterior and really it is substantially harder to be able to crumble than it is to stand up tall because it puts you in touch with a different part of yourself.”
In terms of her character, Alyssa related to the struggle since she had formed a habit to be the tough person when she portrayed Veracity. “That was my go-to,” she confesses, “but when there were really those moments where she had to let that go a little bit and she had to show what was underneath that – that was really difficult.” The smile that travels with her voice just makes her next statement even more warming when thinking of the layers of her character. “It was really gratifying too.”
Such complex characters is a difficult thing to find for shows geared towards a younger audience. It is refreshing to get a glimpse of that and to know more is on the way when the show returns for its second season later this year.
“Everyone, like on Instagram, they’ve been so sweet,” Alyssa says of the fan response. “The thing I’ve seen the most in how great that is, is it’s a show of all boys and some of the comments I’ve got are [about] how wonderful it is, not just for young girls to see a strong character but really for young boys to see a strong female character.” Her joy and enthusiasm for taking on a role like Veracity shines through as she continues speaking.
“There is something to be said for having this really cool, awesome character that comes on this show and yes, she just happens to be a girl, and people can just look at her like this really amazing person in the same group as all the boys and see her as a peer. What a wonderful thing for young boys to learn at such a young age.”
With more Veracity promised in season two, Alyssa teases, “How much can I say?” She laughs, excitement finding its way into her voice as she discusses what is to come, like where her bond with Harris might take her. “That is going to be a big role in sort of their intellectual connection and what that means for the rest of the boys, and what that means for the rest of the team and what that means for everyone.”
Alyssa continues to tease the idea that Veracity will show more sides of herself in the new season. Jokingly, she says, “I think that’s all I can say right now. Or else I’m going to get hurt by someone, I know.” A laugh breaks her statement before she continues. “Look forward to seeing another side of Veracity and really seeing who she is in a lot of ways – what that means for everyone else.”
In fact, she even let slip that although her scenes last May when she appeared on season one were all with Kamran, she’s slowly been getting to be in scenes with the other boys in season two. “It was just amazing to see how they’re all so incredibly talented but also so incredibly different; and how their personalities mesh with Veracity’s – it was just,” she pauses, gushing over memories, “it was such a cool little adventure to go on.”
Thinking back to earlier in her ‘adventure’ to getting the news that Veracity would be a main character in the next season, she was excited. “It was one of those things where I really clicked with her from the beginning and it really was something that I saw even in the first episode, being like, ‘Wow, there’s so much you can do with a character that’s so intelligent and there’s so much that you can see from the other side of that.’” The news immediately got her thinking to what kind of journey she wanted her character to go on in the new season. “I was really anxious for her vulnerability to come out and I thought that would be a really wonderful thing to play with.”
The creator and writers of “MECH-X4” were on the same page. “I don’t even think I said it but it just naturally went in a very similar direction that I wanted,” comments Alyssa.
“Our creator Steve [Marmel] was very clear,” she recalls, of the adamancy that Veracity was not coming into the show as a “girly love interest”. “She’s coming in as a peer and she’s coming in as someone the boys really respect and she really respects them,” Alyssa says, remembering his words. “That relationship is so fantastic to explore throughout the season and even just through the first episode you get a little teaser of that.”
Of course with Veracity getting bumped to a series regular, her high intellect, and her relationship with Harris, Teenplicity can’t help but throw out the theory of the possibility of Veracity teaming up with the MECH-X4 team and their projects.
“Ooooooh!” she’s quick to say. “No comment!” she adds with a laugh. “I can’t say anything, but yes keep those fingers crossed! Who knows!”
If that does happen, what position does she think her character could take on? “The cool thing about [Veracity] is that she has really worked her whole life to master every element of the technical sphere and every element of science and math. I think if anything, she could just be like a swing. She could master every different station and every position and she would have something to add to everything. Except for technopath!” Alyssa rushes to add, though not a second of thought passes before she continues with a laugh, “But I’m sure she can work out the algorithm of how to do that and learn how to be a technopath just by math and science.”
Alyssa finds herself to be a little harder to place in a position. “I think I want to say a technopath would be pretty cool but then the thing is, Nate is in that harness in filming for literally all day so I’m going to leave that to him,” she laughs.
While her character may or may not command a position next season, Alyssa’s excitement for what is to come is beyond compare.
“I can honestly say that season two, just in terms of everything,” she begins, citing production value, acting, and everything overall, “you really get to see that kind of escalate to a whole other level.”
Just the idea of the storylines that are to come has her in awe. “The storylines get more intricate so I’m really excited for people to see [that].” Alyssa mentions that her excitement also stems from fans being able to see the boys and how they’ve “graduated” into a whole other level of their characters. “They’re so comfortable and filming with each other for two years, there’s a real wonderful banter between all of them and their chemistry is so great to watch. For the fans to be able to see how that all works and to see the relationships progress is just so interesting. They’re really on fire the second season so I think that will get a great response.”
The banter and the comfortable atmosphere from the bond the guys have created on set made Alyssa settling into her role that much easier.
“They are some of my favorite people in the world,” she says with a smile and fondness lacing every word. Thinking of life on set, Alyssa can’t help but express good-naturedly, “They tease each other constantly! Their personalities are so incredibly different from each other but they just mesh brilliantly in some way so they have this really awesome banter with each other.” The talented young actress admits, “It took me a while to actually keep up with it and I haven’t even graduated to their level yet.” She hopeful that it could happen, maybe, if they get another season. “But they’re just the craziest people I’ve ever met and they’re like my brothers now. I’ve learned so much from just who they are and literally just getting to have lunch with them is a master class in comedic acting, honestly,” she laughs, as if remembering a hilarious set encounter.
Until season two premieres on Disney XD in the fall, Alyssa can’t help but be grateful for her fans and the ones she’s gained from the show.
“I’ve been seeing all the ‘MECH-X4’ fans, and I think I told everyone I was going to be on the show last July, and I love seeing how these show fandoms have these little communities that support the people who come into it. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of that. I couldn’t be happier to give them a story that hopefully they’ll really love and a character that they’ll really cherish.”
Directly to her fans, she gushes, “I just want to thank [you] for that and all the support.”
Catch “MECH-X4” on Disney XD and lookout for the second season, premiering later this year.
***ABOVE PHOTO CREDIT TO ADAM HENDERSHOTT