The season finale of The Expanse (season 3) left off hinting towards the opening of The Ring in season 4 and now unfolding new dimensions with conflict and some character changes.
We had the chance to sit down with the actors who play Avasarala, Naomi, Alex, and Draper respectively, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Dominique Tipper, Cas Anvar, and Frankie Adams, and talked about the series’ big switch to Amazon and understanding the important message that season 4 has to offer.
The new season is set to release on Amazon Prime on December 13, 2019.
How do you feel Naomi’s the most different?
Dominique Tipper: “She would never hide behind her hair. This one that I’ve created. Obviously I had a mohawk so that wasn’t an option anyway. But I just found that weird detail for a woman who is around men all the time in engineering in this kind of more masculine skewed world that she would have the luxury of being dainty and like hiding behind her hair and being a bit bashful in that way, I didn’t feel like that was a real thing. So that was a big thing I was like no.”
Did you find any sort contention when you brought that up or did you bring that up all?
Dominique Tipper: “No. When I had my audition process, I did a chemistry read with Steven and during that chemistry read there was a hairdresser there who had a big Afro wig to put on me, which he did and I was like, oh ok, we’re going this route, I’m gonna be in makeup for a million hours every morning putting this wig on. And then when we dialed into Terry who was the first block, first season director, he was like, why does she have a wig on? Take it off. So I take it off and shake the mohawk out and he’s like yes okay. So then from then on, that and scrapping the American accent, because I do all my auditions in an American accent. And then that was it, that’s the hair she’s having. But yeah aside from read the books I was like oh no no no, no hiding behind hat kind of bashful side of her I didn’t get.”
What is it like to play characters that have arcs that play out over dozens of hours, multiple seasons?
Cas Anvar: “I think it’s different for each character or each actor because Wes’ character Amos has a massive backstory that’s been created. Naomi has a massive backstory, and obviously Holden is like the full prim of everything. Alex, I’m kind of learning about him as we go along because his backstory in the books is pretty sparse. You know he’s married. I think it’s not in the books that I read yet but there’s a child in the picture. But we don’t really know much about it and his journey in the books is all about present in the now. His history doesn’t inform too much of what goes on in the books other than he came from being a bus driver and became a fighter pilot. But even then it’s not about how they treated him at the academy or anything like that it’s just there. Whereas Amos and Naomi have a massively interesting backstory.”
Dominique Tipper: “I think for me it’s quite delicious because a lot of my really early choices with Naomi was all rooted in this past that I couldn’t talk about to anyone or chose not to. So there was a lot of this secret actor work I felt like I was doing where I had reasons for the way she reacted in situations and the way she reacted to certain outward things that happened like why is Naomi running after that child? We knew what that was but if you’re watching as an audience member and you don’t know the books…Because I got her backstory from Ty and Daniel obviously before I started. So yea, that’s quite nice for now. I feel like if you went back and watched season one, you’d be like oh that’s why she reacts this way.”
On touring the United Nations…
Shohreh Aghdashloo: “I haven’t had a chance but to be honest with you from the very first season we have thought about Avasarala or me going to the United Nations, but we never had the chance to do this. This is a dream for almost four years now. I hope finally we can do it because I have a lot to talk about, not just about the show but about the world and what is going on in today’s world. And how relatable this show is with allowing me to talk about the atrocities around the globe including Iran, my birth country, which is right now in turmoil. So I would love, love to be able to do that. And one thing that happened yesterday made me even more determined to do it…This gives me the opportunity to not only talk about the show. I keep saying why science fiction? Why fiction? There’s nothing fiction about this. Everything that is on my page is in the news. One of my biggest challenges last year was to keep up with the news. When I go home it’s CNN, Fox, MSNBC and I get my news in between. But last year, every time I turned the TV on, I listen a little bit then just put it on mute and then I go through my lines, try to understand it, try to figure it out, and break the code. What do these Martians stand for? What do Belters stand for? And every time last year I put it on mute, I was like I should listen to that because this is exactly what’s going on right now in the news. And I kept saying I wish this was a daily show so we could work in the morning, show it to the people in the afternoon and they would see how timely and relative this show is to what is going on especially now. And what amazes me is the fact that these visionary men, the novelist, TY and Daniel, they wrote these novels they started almost two decades ago. How did they envision that this is going to happen again? I understand the Shakespearean ingredients of this. From day one it was obvious. But how did they know it was gonna go this way? It’s just mind blowing.”
It’s a such a bold show but moving to Amazon does it feel a lot bolder? What changes do you see?
Shohreh Aghdashloo: “I have never seen the impact of fans on a show like this before in my life and I’ve worked 40 years. It was interesting, we all knew the show was canceled. Then I received a text message, a picture of a balloon carrying a message: Save The Expanse. They said fans got together, put pennies and dollars together and sent the balloon up. And I could not believe it. And a minute later I hear that it’s been picked up by Amazon. So it was incredible to be honest with you. I’ve never ever seen anything like it in my life. It tells me that the fans of this show are for real and they really mean it. It’s not like today they like the show then tomorrow they like another show. They’re really with us and they really know what is going on. That’s why they want this story to be told until the end. When we moved to Amazon, I called my brother and I said hey, ‘you and I are gonna watch it at the same time, I don’t have to tape it and send it to you anymore.’ And he couldn’t believe it. He said ‘how come?’ ‘I said it’s on Amazon. They’re gonna stream it, season five. And the two of us will watch it together.’ I will be in LA, he will be in London but distance doesn’t really make a difference anymore. With my mother in Iran, we’re all going to watch it together. And that makes me feel universal. For the first time in my life I feel universal. I’m so happy that we’re all over the world now. To be honest with you, this show we keep talking about diversity on this show. We keep talking about how relative it is to the rest of the world. If this show is about the people of the world, it should be shown to the people of the world and Amazon is doing that for us.”
Frankie Adams: I think it feels different in the sense that like you really feel that everyone loves and supports and is enthusiastic about the show. But in general it’s the same old frats, making out, making a show, really.”
Dominique Tipper: “I just feel like it’s our fit, and I feel like we’ve moved into an era where the show is getting the respect and attention it deserves, almost from it’s parent as it were. And it’s being nurtured and put out in the world that way. And I think The Expanse has always been the show it is. It’s not been supported in the way that it is now, and so I feel like finally our faces are on a poster. Yay we can show how representative this show is of everyone and finally everything looks the way it should and we’re talking about the things we should be talking about. So I just love that and combined with the fact that it’s on this huge platform where also everyone that’s in it can see it. It just makes the most sense, feels correct, just feels right.”
Cas Anvar: “Amazon is the perfect place for the show. It always should have been on a streaming network. The nature of the show is not a commercial break show. And it’s complicated and it’s layered and it’s like Game of Thronesy in terms of all these stories going on all over the place and then they merge. One of the things I love about this show is it took two or three seasons until the Roci crew got to meet Bobby and Avasarala and Miller and the whole time you’re waiting and you’re waiting and the suspense is building. Who takes two or three seasons for their leads to come together? It’s like reading a novel. I’m always amazed that we got to make this show the way we did on a cable network at an incredible quality to the point where very important people were in love with the show like. We were able to make it at a certain level and then it migrated because of that quality, it got snatched up and now we’re where we should be and it’s getting the attention it deserves in terms of the PR and the promotion and the format that serves the show best.”
Does that change your approach as actors stepping onto set?
Cas Anvar: “I think one of the biggest differences from switching platforms, I think our writers and our producers get to see a lot more of the differences than the actors would because they’re more free in terms of what they get to write. It’s a little more darker, a little more sexier, they don’t have to worry about the broadcast code stuff that exists on cable networks. They can write what they want to write. They write the amount of pages that serve the story, it varies between 45 and 55 pages. And then when they’re editing they don’t have to cut out scenes in order to make the 47 minute block. And our showrunners have said I had to cut out this and things I loved just to make it fit because that’s the nature of that cable beast. The only thing that makes it to set is Avasarala gets to curse a lot more. In the old days we had to ask how many shits have been said this episode because there was a quota. But I think the big thing is the PR and promotion. The Amazon team is amazing. They’re so behind it, they’re so enthusiastic, they’re so inspiring and it makes us feel amazing. And we’re really getting out there like I’ve never done this much outreach to the press in one season let alone three like we’ve been doing just the past six months. It feels rewarding, it feels like we have something important and we want people to hear about it.”