Syfy has an ambitious slate of new shows based on popular books which get back to Syfy’s original focus on science fiction. The next big series is The Expanse, based on the books by James S.A. Corey. Producers/writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby joined series stars Thomas Jane (The Punisher, Hung), Steven Strait (The Covenent, Magic City) and Florence Faivre at New York Comic Con to talk about building this mash up of genres.
Writer/producer Mark Fergus (Iron Man, Children of Men) is eager to talk about this project since “The Expanse really tells the story of where’s humanity going from here and tells it through a really small, intimate, canvas. It is the show we always wanted to see that wasn’t out there. It’s about humanity and the first couple of centuries that lead us off this planet and into the solar system. Most sci-fi seems to just jump right to the cool stuff: the hyper-drive, the high-tech aliens. We’ve already met all the aliens. Everything is always very far along. We’ve always felt like the great story is how we got there.”
Steven Strait details more about the story’s focus “around three characters who come across a mystery that has the potential to change how we define humanity and also has the potential to start an incredibly large war.” Steven plays James Holden, one of those three key characters. He describes James as “a classic reluctant hero.” At the start of the show, he’s “the second officer on an ice hauler when we meet him. He’s spent his whole life running from authority. Through this one very simple, altruistic act of answering a distress call, he gets pulled into this much larger conspiracy. He inadvertently becomes the face of sociopolitical attention in the solar system.”
Another major character is Miller, played by Thomas Jane. Miller is an orphan who grew up in a mining colony on a large asteroid. Thomas believes Miller is “crafty and streetwise. He became a cop because he knew that the little guy always gets stepped on. Any kind of power that you can have for yourself is a good thing. Very morally ambiguous guy. Amoral. He’ll take a bribe. A colony like that is kind of like a wild western town and it has its own kind of justice. It’s not always the good kind.”
When a member of one of the most influential families in the galaxy goes missing, Millers is assigned to find her. Julie Mao, played by Florence Faivre is not exactly a pampered princess. Florence says that “she takes a turn and ends up leaving that life of comforts to fight for something that she ends up passionately believes in: the treatment of the people on Mars and the outer planets. She ends up joining the O.P.A, which is the Outer Planets Alliance. These activists to fight for better treatment of the people. Then she eventually discovers that there’s some type of mystery. She ends up discovering that (what’s on that ship) could potentially affect the fate of humanity forever.”
Are you dying to find out what this big mystery is yet? Such a tease…
The writers strive to balance these characters and the different tones of their stories as Steven lays out “there are three very distinct tones. You have James’ world which is very much edge-of-your-seat; these people are trying to survive in the middle of nowhere. These couple of people who set out to the solar system at large and stay alive. You’ve got Miller’s world which is very much a noir kind of element. You have a political/conspiracy narrative. They all hang together in a really harmonious way to tell a very specific story of trying to find out what’s going on with this conspiracy that we’ve all come across.”
The writers are also balancing the “juxtaposition of these very tight spaces where you live versus the giant possible expanse that exists outside. It’s full of those little things,” says Hawk.
That means the characters occasionally have to float in space, something that Florence quite enjoyed: “The most fun stuff for me was probably shooting Zero-G. Not quite what I expected it to be, but a ton of fun. You’re basically just hanging off of harnesses and doing a lot of working with the guys on the rigs. The adrenaline junkie that I am just “weee!!” full on. The writers and the producers behind the screen were like “she’s going to hurt herself! Are you sure she’s ok?!” (I was) hitting everything, my head, everything,” she says, with a grin.
Like the best use of genre, The Expanse uses the setting to explore humanity. Mark states: “People don’t change, the setting does. We have more real estate or better tech, and humanity doesn’t really evolve. That’s the question of the series, is it possible for us to break out of the things that have shackled for our entirety? Can we move past that or are we just doomed to repeat the cycle? Otherwise what’s the point of colonizing another planet if you’re just going to screw that up too?”
The cast also includes Shohreh Aghdashloo (X-Men: The Last Stand), Cas Anvar, Chad L. Coleman (The Walking Dead), Kevin Hanchard (Orphan Black) and Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad). The Expanse begins its first season on December 14th and continues in its regular time slot on December 15th.
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