NEW YORK — Fans of Syfy's space thriller series "The Expanse" can look forward to deeper characters, moral dilemmas and changing dynamics in the upcoming season, cast and crew said at a screening and Q&A last night (Jan. 30) at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn.
The Season 2 preview also played at Alamo Drafthouses around the country.
The Q&A started off with Mark Fergus, one of the series' showrunners, describing his first meeting with Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the two authors who write the "Expanse" book series under the penname James S.A. Corey. [Authors of 'The Expanse' Preview Syfy's Season 2]
"When we met Daniel and Ty, James S.A. Corey, in a diner in Albuquerque, they said 'Don't screw up our book,'" Fergus said. "So when they're happy, I kind of tune out all the other expectations."
"I really like the part where it pleases the authors," Abraham joked. Abraham and Franck have been deeply involved in developing the TV series as well as continuing the books at a pace of about one per year.
"We're having fewer conversations this year about the different ways that gravity and inertia work, and more conversations about what characters are thinking and feeling, and I think that's a real pleasure, too," he said.
Over the course of the two episodes (really, one big double episode) shown yesterday, the Rocinante's crew grapples with the horrors they saw on Eros at the end of the previous season and implement a plan to get more information about the strange protomolecule that seems to be behind it. In the meantime, diplomat Chrisjen Avasarala on Earth tries to untangle a conspiracy behind the events at Eros and stop unnecessary war from breaking out between Earth, Mars and the Asteroid Belt.
"The first season is like we built the world, we built the machine, we built the creative culture that allows this to happen," said Steven Strait, who plays James Holden (captain of the Rocinante). "This year is the exciting part of digging into the characters and finding their motivations and exploring their psychology. With Holden this year, I think he finds someone who is driven in a very myopic, kind of obsessed way."
Naomi Nagata, Rocinante's engineer, grapples with her identity as a Belter and what it means in the current political context — and for her relationships with the rest of the crew, particularly Holden.
"Naomi surprised me this season, I've got to say," said Dominique Tipper, who plays Naomi. "The first season I pretty much agreed with her … I'd do all that as well. But this season [she takes some actions where] I'm not so sure about those moments, and I think that's what's going to be exciting about watching her."
Cas Anvar, who plays the ship's pilot Alex Kamal, and Wes Chatham, who plays the mechanic Amos Burton, both discussed their characters' arcs as well. Each has the main goal of protecting the Rocinante crew, but deal very differently with the fallout of the events on Eros and Holden's drive to correct things. With Amos, Chatham said, viewers will also get a glimpse of what the character is like without Naomi's guiding influence.
With the events on Eros, "the bomb gets dropped at the end of Season 1," Anvar said. "The really interesting part of Season 2 is that this inciting event, this drop in the pond that sends out these ripples — how it affects each and every one of us in a different way."
While each crewmember has separate goals and struggles, "I think all of us together form an entire soul," he added. ["The Expanse" Authors Talk Space's Epic Size and Crazy Sci-Fi Tech]
Newcomer Frankie Adams, who plays the Martian marine Bobbie Draper, also brings a new, distinct presence to the show. "Initially, I had a crush on her because I thought she was super- cool," Adams said. Draper is not just physically strong, but also mentally and emotionally, she added, which is rarely shown with such physical characters. "I'm excited for you guys to see her journey — she has an incredible arc," she added.
When asked whether they read the books in advance, all of the actors answered with varying shades of "no." (Some read chapter-by-chapter as the series proceeds, but they do not want to see your tweets about the awesomeness of book 5, they said.) But like the book series, the show will delve into morally gray dilemmas and complicated situations.
"I think the good thing about the show is that there's someone for everyone who's watching," Tipper said. She described that for every disagreement, different people will agree with different characters in the dispute. "It's real, and that's what life's like. It's a representation of society [and your understanding] depends on where you stand morally yourself as a viewer."
"And your interpretation, of course," said Shohreh Aghdashloo, who plays Avasarala.
Everyone's truthful and lying, confident and struggling, Fergus added — "Everybody's just fumbling through, even the so-called villains. They think they're doing something noble in their own perspectives," he said. "Nothing more boring than a character who's easily boiled down to a trait. We're not allowed to do that on this show."
"The Expanse" returns for its second season Wednesday (Feb. 1) at 10 p.m. EST on Syfy (9 p.m. CDT).