Interview: A Chat With Actors From the New TV Series The ExpanseSeptember 15, 2015
The Expanse is a new science fiction drama set to debut this December on the SyFy channel, based on the popular book series. We had a chance to talk to actors Steven Strait, Cas Anvar and Florence Faivre about the show while they were promoting it at Toronto’s Fan Expo.
Can you tell me a bit about the characters you play on the show?
Steven Strait: I play Jim Holden and when you meet him he’s the second officer on an ice hauler in the middle of nowhere, kind of the modern day equivalent of an oil tanker. There’s nothing fancy about it, it’s kind of a hard life out there. He’s run from authority and any real responsibility his whole life, doesn’t like answering to anybody, and he comes across a distress call and because of that one simple act he becomes embroiled and wrapped up in a kind of social/political tension that’s been brewing around the solar system for a long time. He becomes this kind of inadvertent revolutionary and face of that tension and all of them come across this enigma that has the capacity to change humanity forever, which is kind of why someone wants to start this conflict for their own ends. So I guess you could call him a reluctant leader in the end.
Florence Faivre: I play Julie Mao who is a class girl, she is a bad ass. She comes from a background of wealth from the most powerful family in the universe and she ends up leaving her life of comfort to go fight and join the OPA, which is the Outer Planets Alliance, and she just wants to protect and fight for the rights of the people. She ends up on a ship and discovers something on the ship that ends up setting the tone for the rest of the story.
Cas Anvar: I play the character of Alex Kamal, who is a Mars born Navy pilot who drives freighters and has a Texas accent. The reason being, the Martians who have colonized Mars are all the people who in our world, the writers thought, would be the pioneers of our universe which they decided would be the Pakistanis, Indians, Asians and Texans, all of whom have shown great propensity to go out and start new worlds wherever they go. My character is sort of fusion of all of those cultures several generations down the line, he works on the same ship that Jim Holden does and like everyone on that ship we all have a lot of baggage, secrets in our past that we don’t want anyone to know about and we’ve all ended up on this broken down, rust bucket of a ship. My guy has always wanted to be a fighter pilot but ended up being a freighter pilot on these big garbage cans and finally, at the beginning of this series, we are thrust into a conflict, a situation, which forces all of us to basically face our potential and realize just who we were meant to be and we’re all challenged to kind of step up to the plate. Alex, like everybody else, tries to step up and become that spaceship fighter pilot that he was always meant to be and he ends up actually being one of the best pilots in the solar system.
As actors, how excited were you when you read the script for The Expanse?
Steven Strait: So excited. You know, the books unto themselves are such incredible pieces of literature and to have Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby adapt it, they wrote Children of Men, Iron Man and many other beautiful pieces, it’s just an incredibly subtle, character driven show that has this crazy scope to it. We have wonderful actors and our director who set the tone for the show Terry McDonough, whose done Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, we have these two companies Alcon and SyFy who have supported us every step of the way and everyone kind of gave everything they had and I think it was pretty clear even before we started that all the pieces were there to make something pretty great and I think we all wanted it to reach its potential so it was an infectious energy of wanting to hit that creative potential every day. It’s a rare environment to find yourself in, where everybody is on the same page that way.
Cas Anvar: We really go to work in this show, it’s unlike any other show I’ve ever worked on, everyone comes to work ready to play, everyone comes with their A game and when we’re there, there’s a lot of pressure on this show to reach it’s potential, but when we go to work everyone’s there and we’re all investing and creating and playing. It’s an environment that you don’t usually get on a show like this with so much at stake and I think as a result of that chemistry that we all had, I think the viewers are going to see the core group of us, the bond is something that has gone beyond even what was written and I think that is really going to bring the story off the page and make it a really exciting adventure for people to come along with us.
Sci fi fans can be a fickle bunch. What is it in the show that you think will bring the fans back week after week?
Cas Anvar: Bring it! That’s what I say, bring it. I challenge you to not like this show.
Steven Strait: We knew we had these books that were beloved and we had the authors in our writer’s room, involved in every episode, they’re on set every day so we wanted to make sure we honored these books as much as we could, sticking to the word of the story. I think there’s something to be said for the fact that this is a space opera, I mean it is a character driven sci fi piece as opposed to hard science fiction, technology is not at the forefront of this. It’s really about the people and has three very distinct tones within it. We’re out in the middle of space trying to survive but Thomas Jane’s role and world is very noir, kind of Humphrey Bogart, in a very realistic kind of way, almost Blade Runnerish. Then you have another world that is a political drama and all of these tones hang in a very balanced and harmonious way and I think it brings just about everything somebody could want, depending on what their tastes are, to a narrative that has this incredible scope but is also very intimate. Hopefully we’ve covered some of the bases that this fickle bunch wants. (Laughs)
Cas Anvar: I mean, sci fi fans are hugely fickle but we have in our group of actors people who are film aficionados, TV aficionados, we have people who don’t know sci fi and don’t like sci fi necessarily as a genre that they follow. I’m a huge geek and sci fi fan myself and everyone working on the project loves what they are doing, are in love with the characters, in love with the material and story and because of that universal appeal to those involved in the project, I think that’s going to reflect a little bit of how the fans are going to respond to it as well. Like Steven said, I believe there is something for everyone here, great stories, great characters, great sci fi and I think it hits on all of those levels.