Defiance makes for a uniquely immersive property, in that it is both a MMO video game and also an epic sci-fi drama series. Jaime Murray and Tony Curran were at the MCM Birmingham Comic Con to talk about the upcoming TV series that they both star in.
The show follows on from the aftermath of a great war between various races of aliens and humans. With the Earth unstable and a distinct lack of any government, both aliens and humans realise that they’ll have to cooperate if they wish to survive. The frontier town of Defiance is of the few with a sense of order, co-founded by Datak Tarr (Tony Curran), a Castithan who is happy to work alongside other races and wishes for a better future for his family. However, his wife Stahma Tarr (Jaime Murray) wishes to break from the traditional roles expected of her by her caste and at times goads her husband into gaining more control.
“They couldn’t agree how we should look,” said Jaime on her and Tony’s appearance in the show. “They wanted us to look human enough, be the closest to human so you can relate to us, but still alien.”
“Eventually once we got it, it takes about two hours to apply the wigs,” said Tony. “There are other characters there that have more prosthetics, more alien like as it were. We’re alien enough, we do have our own language.”
“I learnt loads of alien,” said Jaime of the new language she had to learn for her character, created by David Peterson who is also responsible for the Dothraki language in Game of Thrones. “Our language is spoken very, very fast. I listened to these tapes and I thought, ‘Oh my God!’ I mean I mess up the English language; I don’t need another language to mess up! I really learnt it, and I just said it for weeks.”
Tony also praised the show’s costume supervisor, Colleen Atwood. “She’s done mainly all of Tim Burton’s movies. She’s incredibly talented. [The costumes had] a nice look to it; it didn’t try too hard to have this alien exterior.”
“The costumes, they ended up being quite period, quite vintage,” said Jaime. “I wear a lot of corsets, I’m often laced into stuff. I need someone else to dress me in the mornings! Sometimes I have to have them come to the loo with me!”
Jaime was asked about working with co-star Julie Benz on the show, who plays co-founder and mayor of Defiance, Amanda Rosewater. “I didn’t have enough with Julie actually,” she said. “I had this scene with Julie in the middle of this town of Defiance, in the middle of the night. I’m quite tall anyway and I was wearing these massive heels because our race is quite tall, so I’m towering over her and I just stood a little bit too close! She kept on backing away. She was like, ‘You’re really freaky you are, you’re weird.’ I was like, ‘That’s the right response to have to an alien in your space.’”
A question from the audience had them being asked what it is that draws them to the roles they play. “I’m quite happy being me,” said Tony. “At the same time it’s nice to go down different avenues. I think for any character, it’s finding a character that sort of inspires something in you, even if it’s bad. In many ways with Datak, any attack is a cry for help. I think that’s true of the alien race and it’s true of humanity sometimes, if someone is attacking someone in any way, physical or oral. There’s a reason for that and it comes from a place of pain and a place of hurt. So a lot of that was related to playing Datak, because he’s a bad egg.”
Jaime revealed how after going to drama school she kept getting for the same kind of roles. “When I first left I was very young and they wanted me to play the girlfriend, or the pretty chick, or the girl that kind of ruins your relationship and begins an affair with your boyfriend. I had no interest in those roles. I feel as though I am more of a character actress. Before I went to drama school I studied philosophy and psychology. I actually thought I might want to be a child psychologist, then I realised I was far too narcissistic for that and I wanted to be an actress! But I am very interested in what happens to people to make them make the choices that they make, particularly some of the questionable choices, the difficult choices, the challenging choices. I find rich characters most fulfilling for answering those questions. I’ve been really lucky, I feel as though a lot of the roles I’ve played have been very complex women.”
Another question from the audience noted how there are already a lot of great shows on TV, and so where would Defiance would fit in terms of the audience? “Defiance does not discriminate,” said Tony. “It’s for everybody; young, old, black, white, red, yellow, green… anyone at all. I think what’s going to be interesting about Defiance is it is related to a game audience, but it’s going to stand on its own as a show and as a game. It does have an element of a mass exodus from this other planet in the system to planet Earth. There’s a lot of very cultural, spiritual, religious aspects of it which is interesting to a broad spectrum of older people as well as younger ones.”
“I think there’s a lot of crossover,” said Jaime. “I think that if you like Game of Thrones you’re going to like this. I think that if you like action you’re going to like this. I think if you enjoy Desperate Housewives you’re going to enjoy this, because there’s family drama. If you like Downtown Abbey you’re going to like this, because there’s a caste system and there’s immigrant drama. So I think it’s got a broad spectrum of people it’s going to attract.”
“It’s very Shakespearian in its flavour as well,” added Tony. “I think the sky’s the limit with this show. It can go back in time to before our planet was destroyed, how Stahma and Datak behaved back then. I think the writers of Defiance have got a wonderful template to investigate and I hope that people who like sci-fi, or even just good drama, will watch it.”
Of her character Stahma, Jaime described her as, “one of the most submissive roles I had to play, because she comes from a very repressive culture. But on the other hand she’s an incredibly strong-willed, intelligent woman and she’s now in a new world and beginning to question the constraints she was born into and this man who is repressing her. We’ll see as the seasons progress whether at some point she says, ‘Stick it up your bum Datak.’”
“Well hopefully she won’t do that,” responded Tony with laughs from the audience. “There’s an idea of Sense and Sensibility about these characters. There’s a sort of aristocracy where Stahma Tarr came from. Back in planet Casti Datak was from the ghetto and they would never ever have been able to be together back in their home planet.”
“Maybe you would have been able to serve me or something,” said Jaime.
“Maybe I would be a cleaner or something like that,” said Tony. “But since I flushed her husband-” Suddenly Jaime threw her hand towards Tony’s mouth and told him to shush, and even argued with him in alien!
“Put a sock in it Tony,” cried Jaime.
“No, there’s no spoiler,” said Tony. “We’ve sort of reinvented ourselves since we’ve come to planet Earth. Stahma, she does lose her temper in the relationship; the serpent does come out and Datak’s not used to that. It’ll be interesting to see where the relationship progresses because they’re both quite temperamental.”
Asked about what makes them different from specifically other alien shows, Jamie said, “It’s not an invasion show. This is a really interesting and new way to look at how we have to work together, find a common humanity and stop judging each other and conditioning each other and putting other people in a box, labelling people. For me it was a really fresh way of doing that.”
Tony added how with Defiance there are many different layers. “There’s a whole group of new aliens that have been brought to this show that we’ve never met before, and human characters that we’ve never met before. They’re trying to integrate together into this new society. There’s special effects, there’s battles, there’s action, but there’s also backstabbing. It’s very political, cultural; it’s very human in that sense as well. There is that wonderful, fantastical science fiction backdrop, but at the same time there’s very intricate human elements about it as well. A lot of the characters are very well fleshed out. The backstory we have with the alien theology is very interesting with our culture, and also where we’re going to go with that culture. Whereas the Castithans, we’re trying to integrate into society, at the same time we’re very powerful and upwardly mobile people. There’s an aggressive physical aspect of Datak and a more cunning delicate touch of Stahma, and the two of them together are quite powerful.”
Defiance will be broadcast on SyFy from 16 April.