The Expanse is arguably the best science fiction show on television right now. And, it will certainly be considered one of the best science fiction shows to ever grace the small screen for decades to come.
After three seasons of nail-biting action, stunning visuals, and solid world and character building, the critically acclaimed series got the ax from Syfy. Fans were absolutely crushed. But they rallied and got loud. Enter Jeff Bezos and Amazon Prime to save the day. They not only picked up The Expanse for a fourth season, they renewed it for a fifth ahead of the fourth season premiere.
The Expanse’s fourth season will be released on December 13th. The lead-up the release has been exciting to say the least. Intense and gorgeous trailers, beautiful posters and lots of press and convention appearances. Recently, I was able to chat with actors Cas Anvar and Dominique Tipper, who play Alex Kamal and Naomi Nagata respectively, about the upcoming season.
In season four, humanity can now travel through the Ring Gates to thousands of new planets and a blood-soaked gold rush begins, igniting new conflicts between Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Meanwhile, on Ilus, the Rocinante crew gets caught in a violent clash between an Earth mining corporation and desperate Belter settlers as deadly new threats from the protomolecule emerge.
Audrey Kearns: How are you guys?
Dominique Tipper: Good. How are you?
Audrey: I’m doing pretty good. The weather is pretty good here in Los Angeles right now.
Dominique: Okay, show off (laughs) I’m currently wrapped in a duvet.
Cas Anvar: She went out and ripped the duvet off the bed and wrapped it up.
Audrey: I already started the interview making you guys hate me. I’m sorry.
Dominique: It’s okay.
Audrey: So how excited are you guys to be doing press day for season four? We thought we lost you last year.
Cas: Thank God, we’re so excited.
Dominique: First of all, it’s nice to be doing press full stop. (laughs) Yeah, it’s really exciting and weird because we’re shooting season five. But at the same time, just so excited for the show to launch, for everyone to see it.
Cas: I can’t wait for it to be officially on Amazon. It’s like we’ve been living with this for almost two years now of post-Syfy. And we know what’s going on, and we’ve been living it, and we’ve been just rubbing our hands together in anticipation for the world to see the show that we’ve been crafting for almost six years now.
Audrey: Yeah, it’s fantastic because at the end of the last season before the cancellation, it was such a dramatic finale. We got the ring gates and that’s a great jump off point for the rest of the series, but it’s gets canceled. And then in comes Amazon! For a fan, those emotions were kind of crazy. I can’t imagine what it was like for you folks to be going through all those feelings.
Cas: Yeah, it was a dramatic rollercoaster.
Dominique: It was a big old rollercoaster. There were a lot of ups and a lot of downs, and we all responded to everything differently. It was weird how it played out, but in the end it was pretty awesome because here we are.
Cas: It feels like we’ve been cooking the show with love and care for five years and it’s finally going to be put on the open market. Which that to me like, I still don’t think I’ve wrapped my head around exactly what it means yet. So it’s still exciting, it still feels fresh. It’s like a big premiere.
Audrey: How has it been working for Amazon in this season of The Expanse? I would think working for a streaming service like that gave the production a lot more freedom.
Dominique: It did. I mean honestly it’s been pretty much the same for us because we’ve always felt a certain way about the show and making it, which has mostly been excitement and joy. But obviously there’s things that are different in terms of the posters, and promoting the show, and the weight behind the show in terms of promotion. That is hugely different. And the fact that we’re shooting and doing press at the same time, that’s never happened. So yeah, it feels larger and grander on a scale of how it’s about to be put out into the world. But in terms of the work and shooting, we can swear a bit more, and it’s a little sexier.
Cas: It’s a little darker and edgier.
Dominique: But we still operate with the same ethos and the foundation that we always have.
Audrey: Well, my husband and I are preparing ourselves and we just got done binging the series again. And it made us realize that The Expanse is really a great show for binging and we’re really excited about that aspect of it come December 13th. Have you guys thought about that, the binging aspect?
Dominique: Oh, yeah. I binged it. We’ve all seen season four and I watched it in two days. I know that sounds a bit weird, but objectively, I’m not the only person in the show so I was able to binge it. And I think it’s great for that.
Audrey: Yeah. I’m really, really excited.
Cas: I will say, we’ve been asked a million times, like on social media, “Are they dropping it all at once? Are they going to do a weekly release, whatever.” And I’m pretty confident it’s being dropped off as one season. And so now the fandom is trying to figure out if there’s a way to find a live tweeting version with a full season release. And they’re all now planning to watch certain episodes on certain days and then talk about it. Because the show is so complex, the show is so rich, and layered, and textured that it’s fun. I enjoyed it just as a live tweeter. But that fandom enjoyed talking about each episode as it’s unfolding, and talking about the nuances and the implications, and then moving on to the next episode, and then talking about that one and so on. So that’s an interesting dynamic that the fandom is already trying to figure out.
Dominique: I’m sad that I don’t have to get up at 3:00 AM every week to live tweet with everyone which I’ve done since season one. (laughter)
Cas: Yeah, you’re a trooper. I’m the trooper, I remember that. We’d be here at like eight in the evening, and she’d be there like three in the morning, and she’d be like miserable going, “Oh my God.”
Audrey Kearns: That trailer, that dropped yesterday was so amazing. I screamed.
Dominique: What’s funny is I was thinking to myself, “What are we going to put in a trailer?” Because we’ve done the teaser trailer, that was all excellent. It was like, “A trailer’s dropping.” And I saw it, I shed a little tear and then I was like, “Oh my God, it’s such a good trailer.” I want to watch it again now. That was really impressive.
Cas: It had a really rare thing for trailers where it really hammered home a story. The narrative of the season was so beautifully captured. They really, really hammered the story, and the mission, and the question, all the activities, what was driving us going to Ilus. It wasn’t just action.
Audrey: I definitely got that. There was definitely an arc to the trailer. I’m a fan of The Expanse books and I know there are some differences between the television series and the books. But one difference I’m curious about, will Alex and Naomi be on the planet for a lot of the season? Or are they going to be going back and forth between The Roci and Ilus?
Dominique: We do go onto the planet.
Audrey: I saw that in the trailer but I was just wondering how much time you guys spent on the planet?
Dominique: A little bit of time there.
Audrey: How was that for you as an actor, Dominique, to be able to take Naomi and put her in this atmosphere where there’s breathable air and there’s full gravity and have her go through that?
Dominique: I think, initially, it was really quite magical and awe-inspiring for her. I kind of tried to work out what it might feel like to step on earth and see it for the first time. But she has quite a struggle with her body adjusting to the gravity. And so there’s quite a fight for her there between her and her body, which is weird. But she has a really hard time with, and is very stubborn about it, and doesn’t want to not be on Ilus. So there’s quite a journey for her that she’s never really experienced before with her body kind of betraying her in a way. So yeah, it was good. That very first scene is quite dreamy of her stepping on the planet for the first time, but it doesn’t stay that way for very long.
Audrey: I wanted to talk to you about diversity on The Expanse. I’ve seen so many people at conventions dressed up as Naomi or as Alex, and what that means to you as actors, for little kids to look up to you and see people that look like them on a show?
Dominique: For me, it’s everything. I think it’s really hard to understand the weight of representation if you’re always represented. And I think sometimes it seems like it’s like this overblown thing. But I, even for myself, seeing Black Panther for instance, I’d never seen Africa portrayed in a way that wasn’t from a white gaze, and I had such an emotional response to it. And even seeing someone like Storm on TV when I was a kid, Halle Berry portraying Storm, there weren’t that many mixed-race superheroes or black superheroes. So it really, really has an emotional response and registers you in a way. Even if you think you’re past it, it really affects you.
And I just loved the fact that our show may be giving that to a bunch of people that look like us who maybe not even be expecting it, and then they see themselves. And not just not just people of color, but queer people, and people that are still represented that aren’t regularly represented. They get to see that on our show and also feel like there are characters that are not tokenism, that are not tokens of themselves. They’re fully-layered, gray, flawed individuals, which is representative of the world at large. So I feel really lucky and proud that I’m on a show that does that and does it well and I think it’s a really big deal.
Audrey: That’s a wonderful thing. For you, Cas?
Cas: Yeah, I have to agree. I think my upbringing is different than than Dominique’s. I don’t think I had to deal with a lot of the cultural types of challenges that she did. But one thing I do remember really emphatically happening … I mean I dealt with racism and bullying when I was a child, but in my adult life I was very assimilated.
However, when the TV show Lost came on, and I saw the character of Said that was played by Naveen Andrews, I realized at that time, because he was portrayed as this sexy, powerful, dynamic, nuanced, edgy, kind of bad guy but good guy, I realized I had never seen a brown guy represented on TV in any three-dimensional form whatsoever until that point in recent history. And so when that character came on, and I’m an adult at this point, and I’m like, “Holy crap, I haven’t been represented,” because now there’s a guy. And I’m like, “Wow, I wish I had,” I was an actor at that point, “Damn, why didn’t I get to audition for that?” Because it had never been done before. And I was so fascinated with watching this guy who looks like me play this really cool character, and it wasn’t a terrorist.
Dominique: It also had nothing to do with his race. Like it wasn’t race-specific.
Cas: It wasn’t really specific, but he was an Iraqi soldier, and he had action but he was just cool, and you had never seen a cool brown guy on TV before.
Audrey: And now you two are doing that for other people, so that’s absolutely awesome.
Cas: And then we’re doing it for other people, and that makes me feel really, really good because we’re doing it for all different races. We have Frankie, and with myself and with Shohreh, and Dominique..
Dominique: and Cara…
Cas: Cara, oh my goodness, and Nadine…
Cas: Florence. The list goes on and on and on, all the different representations. We’re just listing the women because those stick out in my mind, but the list goes on.
Audrey: It’s one of the great things about the show. And I know you guys are on a time limit, so thank you so much for talking with me. And I wish you luck. I’m looking forward seeing The Expanse on December 13th.
Dominique: Thank you.
Cas: Thank you so much. We’re really psyched.
Season four of The Expanse airs on Amazon Prime Video December 13th.
This was originally published December 4, 2019.
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