Steven Strait and Dominique Tipper (interview) on why The Expanse is so special

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 20: Dominique Tipper and Steven Strait speak onstage at the #IMDboat at San Diego Comic-Con 2019: Day Three at the IMDb Yacht on July 20, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for IMDb)
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 20: Dominique Tipper and Steven Strait speak onstage at the #IMDboat at San Diego Comic-Con 2019: Day Three at the IMDb Yacht on July 20, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for IMDb) /

The Expanse is one of the seminal science fiction shows of our time and considered one of the top series of the last decade. One reason The Expanse is so highly acclaimed is how realistically space technology is depicted throughout, from the integration of physics in engineering and space travel, the flood of drugs needed to withstand g-force, to the brutality of space warfare where people die from shrapnel spray as easily as precision fire.

The other standout reason centers around the human stories that are richly interwoven throughout the sci-fi landscape, from the complex political machinations of Earth and the U.N. to the work ethic of the Martians, and the blight of the Belters. The Expanse makes all their stories matter, tethered in reality, and dramatized in a vivid world whose emotions are poignantly relatable. It’s why fans—myself included—consider the show the paragon of space exploration drama. When you watch The Expanse, it seems like you are looking at exactly what the future of space exploration will look like.

In a press day for the final season of The Expanse, co-stars Steven Strait (James Holden) and Dominique Tipper (Naomi Nagata) talked about the prescient nature of the series.

"“Every time we release the season, it’s always so timely,” said Tipper. “And I go to Ty [Franck] and Daniel [Abraham, showrunners] and I’m like, ‘How do you know? How do you predict the future?’ And they always say, ‘You know, humans do the same s**t over and over again,’ we have the same kind of cyclic nature of how we deal with things and how messy it is."

“But I also think that The Expanse has portrayed that without judgment, and it just shows you this very beautiful depiction of how flawed and kind of messy we are. And everybody’s trying to just do the right thing… And that’s my favorite thing about the show, for sure: is this beautiful depiction of human beings. And I just think it’s been done wonderfully, written beautifully.

“And it’s been an honor to play Naomi in the midst of all that, 100 percent.”

Praise has been heaped on the show’s ability to tell these human vignettes amid intergalactic war. Because at the end of the day, it’s really why we tune in to a series such as The Expanse. Stories such as Prax, who was searching for his protomolecule-experimented daughter Mei, while Ganymede was under attack in S2, is exactly the kind of storytelling that makes the sci-fi series so exceptional. Same with Amos Burton’s (Wes Chatham) journey back to his childhood-scarring hometown of Baltimore.

Steven Strait talked about how the series celebrates the human spirit.

"“I think for the show, as a whole, we’ve always been so privileged with the kind of writing that we’ve had, to talk about these overarching important issues allegorically. And through the intimacy of these characters, whether it’s politics or race or identity or even personal journeys of trauma.“It’s been a wonderful privilege to be able to explore those with the kind of respect and sensitivity that writing and these people that have committed to this journey have afforded us to be able to do. And I think that’s the reason why people connect to it, frankly.“It’s a reason why there’s so many different kinds of fans of The Expanse, is that there’s something in there that everyone can see themselves in somehow, and it’s disarming. It’s a very disarming story. And it cuts through a lot of barriers, and I think the work has always felt important that way, which is really all you can ever ask for as an artist, I think.”"

Strait and Tipper have been with The Expanse from the very beginning—first on the SYFY channel and then upgraded to Amazon Prime Video for the last three seasons—as a heroic couple of the series. Both of their characters have gone through hell and back to try to keep factions across the universe from imploding on each other with warlike intentions. Despite the strenuous challenges, their characters Holden and Nagata have managed to remain a devoted unit.

This, considering that the couple—a human and a Belter—perhaps faced their toughest challenge last season, after Naomi’s reveal about her son with terrorist Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander). Their relationship was further strained when Naomi was held captive on Inaros’s ship. Her harrowing escape towards the end of Season 5 proved one of the most gripping moments of the entire series arc.

Thankfully, the resilient couple emerged from the wreckage of that ordeal in a stronger place, but at the cost of Naomi’s relationship with her son, Filip (Jasai Chase Owens), who she had to let go. As Season 6 is underway, Naomi is still grappling with that decision, which triggers one of the most emotional moments this season between her and Holden.

Tipper talked about the evolution of hers and Holden’s relationship at this point in the series:

“I mean, I think this season is my favorite of Naomi and Holden’s. I think, getting to this point in their relationship… they’re very mature in how they’ve grown together. Respect and love are now outweighing the kind of differences, and I think that’s important. And so I think they’re able to address these very harsh, difficult decisions… But I don’t think that makes it any less difficult or kind of morally ambiguous in the true nature of The Expanse. Which is what I always love about it, is that we’re always faced with these very messy choices that people have to make, that you can’t ever decide the right or the wrong ones. And I think that’s also always their kind of challenge as characters.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this season is how Naomi’s leaving Filip continues to affect decisions throughout S6, including a pivotal moment between her and Holden, where she is called upon to defend that decision. (can’t say more about it without giving spoilers.)

“And especially for Naomi,” Tipper continued. “I’ve always respected the courage that she has, withstanding by her choices and the way she articulates how she wants to be treated and respected for making them. And I think that’s a real moment of that in that conversation with Holden. Yeah, I also think it is really important to the arc of the series and their relationship.”

The conversation about Naomi’s choice between both characters proves a prophetic test of their relationship this season. To me, it is one of the most important emotional moments of S6.

“Yeah, and, you know, I think for Holden, for better or for worse, Holden has always acted from his ethical core, the intuition that he’s had, that he’s trusted, and I think there’s no circumstance in The Expanse that applies to more than his relationship with Naomi,” explained Strait. “And he loves her, and he respects her.

“And not going into the details of that decision, he makes the only decision he could make and it’s just the way it is. And however one may judge his responsibilities to the greater universe, is just the truth.

“And you know, it was a moment that we worked on a lot on and really kind of mined that moment a lot, and I was looking forward to playing it this year. It’s a very kind-of-unique and unusual, poignant moment that one doesn’t typically find in a hero journey. But it’s a really lovely, honest, vulnerable beat.

“I think it really speaks to who Holden is, is that he’s a man who tries to lead through his humility and his empathy, which is lovely to play. It’s a very unique kind of hero.”

You can see the full interview here:

It’s been a beautiful journey for the series. The final episodes of the sixth season of The Expanse stream on Fridays on Amazon Prime Video. (and please keep your fingers crossed that the final three books will get picked up in the future as well!)

Trending. The Expanse’s Wes Chatham has cherished showing Amos’s backstory in season 5. light