SYFY’s space-faring drama The Expanse is enjoying a tense third season at the moment, and one of the things that makes the series so tense is the environment in which it’s set. Taking place primarily in outer space, the show puts its characters in plenty of harrowing situations, like floating in zero gravity outside the safety of a ship, or, even worse, seeing character sucked out into the vacuum of space.
That’s part of the thrill, according to actor Cas Anvar, who plays Rocinante pilot Alex Kamal. The series has a terrific cast of characters across the entire solar system, but one character who often goes overlooked is space itself. As Anvar puts it: “Space in our show is trying to kill you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It is a character in our show that is constantly trying to do away with you. We are always at odds with the fact that we are in space.”
Creating a series set in that sort of environment is no easy task, and it’s one that Anvar thinks allows the actors an opportunity to add an additional layer of believability. In a recent interview with Screen Rant, the actor described the lengths the cast and the VFX team go in order to deliver an experience that’s unlike anything else on TV.
“We're actually really fortunate in the sense that producers go to all ends to make sure that we have everything we need to work. There's a lot of really amazing VFX created by Bob Monroe and his spectacularly talented VFX team. Regardless of that, we still get to play on a soundstage, 80,000 square feet, approximately, of actual constructed sets. The Rocinante, is literally four stories of constructed interiors. It’s all attached and it's all built and it's all realized in amazing detail. There’s all these cool piece of technology, we get to play with. It's like being a little sci-fi monkey gym.”
One of the more challenging aspects of creating a believable outer space setting is getting zero gravity just right. For this, Anvar says the cast goes through training on how to appear as though they’re weightless, which results in what the cast refers to as “floaty arms.”
“We all have to go through this and we all have to work with it. It's an added layer to our believable moments, working in zero gravity, working in the challenges of space. We've had zero gravity workshops, we've had astronauts come in and teach us about zero gravity and what it's like to work in that environment and how to move and things like that. We've had to incorporate this into scenes, so you're working with a very dramatic and emotional scene where you might even have some action in there, and then you have to layer on [the fact that] you're weightless, your floating, or you have to put your mag boots on in order to stay grounded, and it's kind of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. You've got to develop that extra skill set. We kind of make fun of it, we call it 'floaty arms' when we're in zero gravity and we have to act.”
As it turns out, “floaty arms” aren’t everyone’s favorite. According to Anvar, Steven Strait, who plays James Holden, isn’t a fan and so he often resorts to doing anything else.
“Steven hates doing floaty arms, so whenever we have a zero gravity scene to do he will cross his arms and just plant himself like a pillar because that's something that you do when you're in zero gravity, that's what the astronauts told us: it gets kind of annoying having your arms float around you end up crossing them, just kind of like looking stern. Just to keep yourself together. Or you grab onto stuff. You grab onto a pole or a strap, something that anchors you. That's Steven's weapon of choice whenever we have to do that. He always finds something to grab so we kind of make fun of him for that.”
The Expanse continues next Wednesday with ‘Reload’ @10pm on SYFY.