He's a Gua-getter

By Janice Arenofsky / May / June 2002
July 1st, 2007
First Wave costarring Rob LaBelle '85; created by Chris Brancato '84; cowritten by Paul Eckstein '86 (Sci-Fi Channel, Tuesday-Friday at 6 p.m. e.s.t.).

Rob Labelle has played a lot of parts since he graduated from Brown in 1985, but his signature role may be the paranoid, misanthropic alien-hunter Crazy Eddie Nambulous on the sci-fi hit First Wave. The show premiered in Canada in the fall of 1998 and in the United States the following January; it's now in reruns in both countries. And LaBelle finds himself in comic books and on trading cards. It's "a total kick," he says. "I'm not even a sci-fi buff."

In First Wave Eddie drives an airstream trailer cross-country (Æ la Kerouac), allies himself with convicted wife-murderer Cade Foster (Sebastian Spence), and sets off to hunt aliens (Gua) who are impersonating (and experimenting on) humans. In their search-and-destroy missions, cyberdetective Eddie remains at RV headquarters, computer-analyzing the Nostradamus prophecies for clues his pal Cade uses to locate and annihilate the evil human impostors.

Initially, writers Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein envisioned Eddie as a quirky foil for Cade - a sidekick, not a buddy. Which is why, LaBelle says, he spent the first two seasons in the "friggin' trailer." Fortunately fan mail liberated him. By the show's final season Eddie's no longer agoraphobic; he's cynical. In the episode "Blind Witness," Eddie tells Cade, "I have faith in you, but not in the human race." Eddie has serious emotional issues, LaBelle says. "Essentially, he's a man striving to do what's right, but preferring to do it from a distance."

Before LaBelle started alien-spotting, he earned an M.F.A. at New York University and appeared in plays, films, and TV dramas ranging from Macbeth to The Karen Carpenter Story. Acting, he says, "fulfills my desire to re-experience events. By subsuming myself in different characters, I can transform myself." His latest transformation amounts to a role reversal after three years of foiling alien body-snatchers. In the just-released film The Burial Society, LaBelle plays Sheldon Kasner, who goes undercover into the Chevrah Kadisha (the Jewish burial society) in order to steal a body and fake his own death.

Janice Arenofsky is a freelance writer in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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May / June 2002