Several friends recommended that I watch the hit SyFy show The Expanse but I kept procrastinating because I seriously struggled through the first episode! When the opportunity arose to interview Cas Anwar, who plays the character Alex Kamal, I had to buckle down and watch it. After finally getting through the first few episodes I became a fan! Come on, I have to root for Alex because he managed to survive having to breathe through his space helmet after puking! From the little that was revealed about Alex, I’m hoping to learn more about him and about the planet Mars in Season 2! I still have a few more episodes to go but I didn’t mind spoiling myself for the interview. It just gave me something to look forward to! Learning that the Expanse is based on the series by James S.A. Corey makes me even more invested. There goes another series I need to add to my long list of books to read! Since the show got renewed for a Season 2 what is in store for Alex and the rest of the gang? Anwar gives us a few glimpses into the next season. I’ll also sprinkle some photos from the panel that took place at Comic-Con International San Diego (SDCC)!
TNE: So what are you most looking forward to about San Diego (SDCC) this year, especially now that you’ve completed season one?
Cas Anwar: That’s part of the excitement because last year we went and nobody knew what the heck was going on! No one had seen the show. The only people who knew about us were fans of the books and now we’ve got our first season under our belt. We had rave reviews from all the press and the fans loved it, and our diehard, hardcore fans of the books loved it! The season ended with such a bang, everyone just loved how it went. And now we get to go back and really hear what people really thought and how they felt.
We get to go in there with a little bit of footage from season two, which we are all absolutely thrilled about! Season two is absolutely phenomenal. It’s so much more intense than season one. Whereas season one was all about world building and setting up the universe between the Earthers and the Martians and the Belters and introducing all the characters, season two dives right into some absolutely spectacular character driven shows.
We all have these amazing journeys that they’ve written for us, so dramatic, so intense. I think the fans are going to be kind of blown away. It’s hard to top season one because it was quite an exciting ending but I think we start where we left off and it just escalates from there.
TNE: For season two, are we literally going to pick right where we left off, or is there going to be more like a fast forward kind of situation? Or can you talk about that?
Cas Anwar: You haven’t read the books then, right?
TNE: No, although I am interested now!
Cas Anwar: The reason I’m asking is because in the books, there is a time lapse between book one and book two. And in the TV show, we’ve done a lot of changes to the TV show that we feel actually enhance some of the books. The actual novelists are writers on our staff. They’re executive producer show runners and they write with us. So we’re getting the benefit and the privilege of having the original creators writing episodes; if they had had a second chance to go at it, what would they have done, type of thing.
So there’s a lot of modifications and changes that have been made to the TV show that everyone feels like we’re actually making it better than it was in the books. One of the things that’s going to happen is we don’t have the same time lapses that they do in the books. Because in the books, it’s okay to take a year off and come back a year later because it’s a book, and you can kind of just talk about it in the narrative. Whereas in TV, it’s got to be active, it’s got to be dynamic, it’s got to be happening right there; you’ve got to take the audience with you. And so there isn’t going to be a huge time lapse.
We’re really going to pick up where we left off, and where we left off was pretty insane! Like we left off in the middle of an absolute chaos with what was going on on the asteroid Eros and just the absolute kind of havoc and destruction that was being done to the humanity that was on there. And then we didn’t know what was going to happen. We have to pick up basically where we left off and just go from there and figure out who did all of this and how we’re going to handle all of that. I think the first two hours of the opening season are going to pretty much blow people’s minds! It come across as quite an action packed thriller.
And we introduced a huge new character to the team who’s one of the fan favorites from the books. We introduce Bobby Draper, the big, butt kicking Martian marine from Caliban’s War. And she’s introduced right in the beginning of season two.
TNE: How many episodes have you filmed so far?
Cas Anwar: Currently we are just wrapping up on 207 and 208, so seven and eight out of thirteen.
TNE: I can’t wait to watch it now, and my friend is going to be like, I told you. So on episode four, can you describe the scene with Shep’s head cut off? Because that was pretty brutal.
Cas Anwar: It is a pretty brutal scene. Honestly, it was one of the most complex scenes that we shot for the season. It was one of the most difficult scenes for all of us to shoot. Clearly it was an incredibly intense and emotional scene. But just logistically, there was everything going on in that scene. We had to do a scene that was emotionally intensive, we had to do a scene that had zero gravity acting, going into gravity acting, going into wirework, going into CGI work, going into oxygen deprivation, dealing with one of our teammates that gets killed, dealing with I’m suffocating.
Basically everything they could throw at us happened in that one scene. It was almost a full day; I think we worked almost a full day on that one scene. So we had two of our people on the wires. I was strapped in the chair. We had to have people telling us when was the gravity kicking in, when was the gravity kicking out because the Martian ship that we were on was being attacked. Every time the engines were knocked out, gravity ceases and we start floating. So part of the floating is done by wires taking us and lifting us off and part of the floating is done by acting.
There’s other elements of the floating and the zero G that’s taken care of by special effects where they have stuff floating in the air around us. But a good portion of it is acting the zero G, which is challenging when you’re trying to walk around in zero G and deal with the emotional intensity of the scene. You have to handle your implements as if they weigh nothing.
And sometimes even we have to kick off on wires and start going through space as if we have no mask and fight for our lives. And on top of all of that, we’re dying of hypoxia because the oxygen is being sucked out of the room.
TNE: Right. Wow!
Cas Anwar: So that’s quite a scene. And I think it came across that way when the final product was done. I think they shot the heck out of it and it looked really good.
TNE: Did you guys actually have any kind of actual space training for the show? Because you mentioned you did a lot of acting for – like you’re acting in zero gravity but it was wires and stuff. So was it any kind of training for that?
Cas Anwar: We shot the whole thing in space for most of it. Just kidding! We did our research. We watched a lot of international space station footage to get an idea of what bodies look like when they’re moving in zero G inside a ship. We watched a lot of stuff on YouTube; there was a lot of zero G footage out there and it’s different than what you would expect. It’s not all slow motion and moving through molasses stuff; you can actually move in zero G; you still have mass, you just don’t have weight. So it’s a different kind of scientific thing. We had to learn how you propel yourself around the room and all of that so it’s interesting.
TNE: With the conflict between the Martians, Earth and the Belters, you’re a Martian on the show but personally if you were going to take a side regarding this conflict, who would you pick?
Cas Anwar: You’re asking the Martian which side he would pick.
TNE: Yes! Because you’re a Martian and all of that but you can sympathize with the Belters.
Cas Anwar: The Belters definitely have an amazing story that they’re going through. It’s a pretty brutal story but they’re kind of the oppressed. They’re kind of the people who have been exploited and used and there’s a lot of anger, a lot of rage. They’re ready to explode. I’m not sure if that’s where I would personally put my investment in; it’s just not how I view the world. The Martians are pretty cool. They’re a unified force. They’re an entire population on a planet that are unified to a common goal to transform Mars; turn it into a beautiful, living, breathing planet with a horizon and oceans and an atmosphere.
They’re all driven to one common goal. They’re all unified. They all have a vision. They’ve evolved themselves. They’ve developed their technology and education and their mindset to – they’re a little bit – they have a little bit of an attitude; they have a little bit of a superior kind of complex to them but it’s because they’ve had to. There’s only about 15 or 20 million people on Mars as opposed to 30 billion on Earth and they’ve had to in order to survive. With just that small quantity of people, they’ve created a military force that it’s scary to Earth. Earth kind of feels threatened by them, even though they’re outnumbered ten to one.
Mars is outnumbered ten to one but they’re so advanced, technologically and culturally that they actually pose a threat. I find that pretty interesting to have something that has so much bang for its buck. Their metal that has been tempered by fire, they’re small in numbers but great in spirit. They’re extremely proud, they’re focused, they’re resilient and they’re survivors. So I like that.
Earth is kind of like – I won’t say a fat cat but it’s kind of like the British aristocracy of old; it’s like the empire. It’s been around for a long time. It’s huge, it’s powerful and it’s kind of become heavy in its own weight. It lost sight of a lot of the things that Mars and the Belt know intimately, which is how to live, how to survive, how to move forward. Earth has stopped moving forward. It’s become a little bit stagnant.
And it’s trying now to get out of that stagnancy but it’s hard when you’ve got thousands of years of history and precedent. So I like where Mars is at. I like their attitude, I like their vision, I like their passion and I like the fact that they’re unified and they’re moving towards something as a whole.
TNE: I’m hoping that we actually get to explore Mars. We’ve seen hints of it in characters from Mars but not necessarily the planet itself.
Cas Anwar: You get to see a lot more Mars in season two. The Bobby Draper storyline takes place with a team of Martians. So you’ll get to see a lot more about the Martian culture and way of life and all of that.
TNE: Did you read the book just casually before the show or did you just read the book as part of your research for the role?
Cas Anwar: I read the books when I got the role and I read them along with the scripts as we were shooting them. I haven’t read past Caliban’s War because I don’t want to go too far ahead. I like to read it as we go. Because I don’t want to forget the details while we’re shooting because I find the information in the books is very helpful to me because there’s a lot information in the books that doesn’t make it into the script. And it’s good for me to know. And sometimes I even bring it up, and I’ll say: hey, didn’t you guys do this in the book? And they’re like: oh yeah, let’s put that back in. So it’s kind of fun.
TNE: For the characters, are we going to get any flashbacks for your character, maybe, like when you were married with the kid? Or even like Holden and his family situation, just any flashbacks coming our way? Because we kind of got a flashback when we got introduced to the Butcher.
Cas Anwar: I think there are going to be some interesting historical moments in the show, yeah. I know of one, at least, and I haven’t read all the scripts because they haven’t given the final few scripts to us. But in at least one if not more, really interesting kind of thing that the viewers are going to love.
TNE: You’ve acted in live theater. As far as TV and live theater, do you sometimes miss live theater and if you could go back to it, what play would you do?
Cas Anwar: I’m dying to do Hamlet.
TNE: Oh, that would be awesome!
You’ve also voiced in video games. Is there a particular video game that you haven’t voiced yet but you would like to voice a character from?
Cas Anwar: I would love to do Skryim. I’d love to do a fantasy MMO or one of these big fantasy games. I’d love that. I’ve done Halo, I’ve done Assassin’s Creed, I’ve done Call of Duty but I haven’t done a big fantasy game, which I would love to do; Skyrim or Elder Scrolls.
TNE: Do you get a chance to play any video games?
Cas Anwar: Yeah, I’m a big gamer. I play Skyrim, I play Diablo, I play Fallout 4, I play Rambo 6. I’m a big Assassin’s Creed fan.
TNE: So it was cool that you got to voice a character on a game that you play.
Cas Anwar: Exactly, yeah. It was great!
TNE: Now, there has been lately on SyFy several shows that take place in space. So if there was ever a crossover that could happen, which show between Dark Matter, Killjoys and Expanse, what kind of mashup would you want to see?
Cas Anwar: Battle Star meets Expanse; that would be great. Put the Battle Star team into the Expanse world; that would be amazing! I’m a very good friend of the creator of Dark Matter, too so I probably would enjoy getting the Dark Matter crew into the Expanse show, that would be fun as well. That would be a great little mashup.
TNE: I’m already hoping for a Killjoys/Dark Matter mashup. Alright, Cas. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
Cas Anwar: My pleasure, and I look forward to seeing this.
It was such a pleasure to interview Mr. Cas Anwar. Hopefully I will get to talk with him and other cast members as we get closer to the new season. Fingers crossed! For those of us that didn’t get to go to SDCC, here is the full official version of the panel, courtesy of Syfy: