'The Expanse' Stars Say 'Juice,' Practical Sets Make Syfy Series Something Special

Under the pen name James S.A. Corey, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck have created a beloved sci-fi novel series set hundreds of years from now in which the solar system has been colonized. But with control, comes rising tension, and the disappearance of a young woman could bring a world on the brink of war into all-out conflict. In Syfy's adaptation of the novels, Detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) and rogue ship captain Jim Holden (Steven Strait) must work together while traveling the solar system to expose a conspiracy whose secrets might destroy human existence as we know it.

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At New York Comic Con, Strait joined fellow actors Cas Anvar and Florence Faivre in the world famous CBR Tiki Room to discuss working on the Syfy series that debuts with a two-night premiere starting December 14. They talk about how reading the source material helped them get a better handle on their characters, the show's impressive -- and massive -- practical sets from both a visual and an acting perspective, as well as which of them has the most sci-fi geek cred.

On whether they read any of the novels prior to working on the series:

Steven Strait: I read the first two. They're fantastic. I read them before I got involved with it. It's a great series of books.

Cas Anvar: I was privileged to be able to read it because there's so much insight in the books that we were able to chew on and digest before going into the process when we're performing as these characters. When you're doing a TV show you don't get all that backstory typically, but when you read a novel before doing a TV show you get to see the entire journey of the character and where he comes from and all that. And they're really amazing books to read, just as sci-fi fanatics.

On whether they were told to ignore certain elements from the books that were being changed or ignored on the show:

Strait I think it's important to know that the authors [Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck] were in our writers' room. They were actively writing on the show and on set almost every day. We wanted to stay true to the books; they're beloved books for a reason and we wanted to honor them as much as we could.

Anvar: I'll be honest, I actually went and said, "Hey, you know that thing in the book? You didn't put that in the script." And they're like, "Really? We left that out?" And I was like, "Yeah," and then I got it actually added back in. There's a thing in the books called juice, which is this cocktail they inject, which for me is so cool.

Florence Faivre: It wasn't in the scripts?

Anvar: It wasn't in the script. They didn't have any juice.

Faivre: You're the reason for the juice?

Anvar: I put juice in the script. [Laughter]

On how working on a show with such imaginative sets affects the actors:

Faivre: We've been so blessed to be able to have those sets because instead of having to imagine what the character is going through in those environments and those conditions, you're able to actually see what you can feed off of and it ends up being more genuine and you're really feeding off of it and I feel like it does help.

Strait: For sure. The production design on this job was absolutely astounding. We had the three largest, I believe, sound stages in North America full of these sets, and constantly rebuilding and blowing them up every two weeks. And it does -- it does affect the way you behave in your scene. If we were just there behind a green screen, you really have to jump so much further to imagine something as an actor that you really don't know is gonna be there later on. To have practical sets, you really feel like you're there, especially for us in the environments out in space. The claustrophobia of being out in space is a huge piece of how the environment affects someone's mind.

Early on in the first episode you see Jonathan Banks, his character, go insane because he just can't take it anymore. It's kind of the equivalent of living on a submarine or something. But, I mean, incredibly intricate sets. Some of them were two-three stories high, floating through them with stuff. It's amazing. What they did was amazing.

Anvar: Our ship, the Rocinante, is a multi-layered, three-story structure. There's very little that we have to imagine on that ship. And the beauty of it as an actor is you get to fall in love with little elements of your ship. Alex, being the pilot of this, he treats these like his babies, like his girls. So to be able to have all these controls in front of you have all these elements really there, your'e not imagining it on a green screen, you get to kind of create a relationship with your set, with your props.

On Anvar's expansive comic collection:

Anvar: I'm a little bit of a geek. I've been collecting comics since I was a kid. But [Strait] read the books before I did. He surprised me. [Laughter] I didn't see him as a sci-fi nerd. This is news to me about Thomas [Jane] now. ... I didn't know this. I have like 10,000 comic books locked in my dad's attic somewhere and he's trying to get me to sell them. I'm like, "Next week, bud. I'll be there next week." [Laughter]

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