The Expanse focuses around the case of a missing young woman. The SyFy series is set hundreds of years into the future, with an unlikely cast of characters: a rogue ship captain and a detective set on a course of events that may ultimately expose the greatest conspiracy this side of the solar system.
The book series commonly known as “The Expanse” is by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (otherwise known as James S.A. Corey) gives us a world full of potential. The human race has expanded into space, and people are being born on an Asteroid Belt (known as Belters) while still some live on Earth (Earthers) and are unused to the lack of true gravity like the Belters.
We got the chance to sit in on a round table for the new SyFy show and talk with Dominique Tipper, who will play Naomi Nagata, a Belter and self-taught mechanic, about the making of The Expanse and her character’s role.
Characters always differ from page to screen. How does Dominique’s Naomi separate herself from the book heroine while still staying true to form?
“I think we’ve stayed quite true to the book in most ways. We have definitely expanded—excuse the pun—on the characters, but she’s still the awesome, well rounded, strong, intelligent female that she is in the book, and she still holds everyone together and keeps holding from going off the rails. There are still those qualities with her, so hopefully just bringing her to life will be another exciting aspect of it.”
Let’s face it: fans tune in for the romance. Sure, we love the action sequences and the tension between the besties, but if you get down to it, we love watching our favorite characters fall in love with each other. Now, I haven’t read the book (yet) but apparently it takes a while for anything romantic to happen with Naomi. Will the show speed things up a bit? Will she meet another Belter, or will she fall for an Earther? Do they even tell you anything about that?
“I don’t know! You’ll have to ask the writers.”
"Well no, not regarding that. I couldn’t tell you, to be honest. [The space sex scene] is not me. Sorry to disappoint you. It’s not me—I’m too busy fixing the ship.”
We know Naomi is an awesome mechanic—self-taught and everything! She takes badass female to the next level, learning the intricate workings of every ship she’s ever worked on inside and out. Does she have an official title? What is most enjoyable about playing Naomi?
“She is the head engineer of the spaceship [the Canteberry]. I enjoy her intelligence, for a start. It’s nice to play a smart character, and it’s nice to play a woman that is strong and assertive, but she isn’t violent. Naomi always wants to keep the peace. You never see her with a gun in her hand, and that was a nice contrast, to be honest. It’s rare. I’ve played a lot of characters that are hardcore, and then they kill someone or something, so I like that side effect. To me, she’s a very…she’s like a well-rounded female. She’s like my mum: she’s strong, she’s vulnerable, she’s mothering, intelligent—she’s all those things that make a real woman , and that is what I love about her most.”
Having two different classes of people, one living in space and the other back on Earth, there have to be differences. Do they account for any of these differences in the show, or is it all part of the character mentality?
“We certainly tried. I am 5’6 ½”, Steven does tower over me, but I do have heel lifts in my shoe, so I’m taller. But yeah, it’s difficult. We have definitely gone to lengths to try and do it as much as we can. And we’re all aware of it, as well. I try to carry myself taller, in my head, to try and show her [Naomi’s] body language that way: that she is a Belter.”
With Naomi being a self-taught and very skilled mechanic, was there anything Tipper did to prepare for her role? A special trainer or course, perhaps?
“No, not really. We had someone for the Zero-G stuff, because it was really difficult to remember that your arm is supposed to have a floating quality to it, or you’re supposed to be delivering lines about the ship and what’s going on. We also had a coach for our Belter patua, which I speak in now and then. But the mechanical stuff I would just get, and if I didn’t, which was pretty much all the time, I’d research it—I’d look it up—or I would ask Ty or Daniel. We had them on hand. The writers were great for that.”
Not everyone reads the source material for a show, because it can be confusing if there are major differences between the page and the script. Were the actors required to read the original books? Why or why not?
“So I started reading them when I first got the job, and then when I started reading the scripts I thought, “I can’t do all this information!” So I had a little bit of a backstory on Naomi, so I stopped reading the book and concentrated on the script. Because I wanted to be present, as well—I didn’t want to get too far ahead. What I’ve done is [I] finished reading the first book afterwards. I’ve read up to the first one, but I don’t want to get too ahead, so I’m stopping there until we maybe go into the next season.”
Were there any setbacks to playing Naomi?
“I think, because she’s such a strong character, not playing her too harsh. I didn’t want her to be too harsh, I wanted her to be in a situation where…this is where stuff is, I’m not angry about it. I didn’t want her to be an angry character. So getting that balance of being assertive and knowing what she’s talking about, but not being too harsh was probably the hardest balance to refine.”
Can fans expect Naomi and crew to come back for a second season? When would filming begin?
“Well this year, ideally. But we don’t know anything yet. We’re always the last people to know, anyway, so if it is happening I still don’t know about it. But yes, they have started the writer’s room, so that’s promising. Hopefully we’ll get the go-ahead soon!”
Are you guys excited for The Expanse? It sounds really cool, and I’m itching to get a copy of the book! In the meantime, check out The Expanse website for more info on the actors, more videos, and anything else about the show!