SyFy’s new series Defiance debuts on television next April, but it’s starting to feel much closer after I had a chance to do a set visit earlier this week, which revealed a lot about the show and how executive producer Kevin Murphy and his team are making this alien world come alive on Earth.
The series, which is set in the not-too-distant future, follows life in the town of Defiance, formerly known as St. Louis, a number of years after a war with aliens races, collectively known as Votans, has left our planet partially terraformed into something not quite Earth-like, and not hospitable to the aliens either.
Forced to come here after their own solar system was destroyed, the aliens have no other option but to find a way to live with the humans now, and humanity finds itself on a planet that barely looks like home, with new troubles facing them in all directions.
Now, normally, when you’re invited onto any set, the word of the day is “discretion”. Media can’t tweet spoilers, we can’t post photos or videos ahead of the show’s release, and we’re told that we can’t just shoot everything we see on set.
Thanks to the great people of SyFy though, the plan for the press tour was to open the doors of Defiance and show off what’s coming from this killer-looking series, which is also being prepared simultaneously as a massive multiplayer game.
On set, the press cohort was treated to breakfast before we were broken into groups to tour the space. My group was lucky enough to be led by Murphy himself, who explained the sets and spaces, and answered just about every question we could think to ask.
Walking around the huge studio space, we took in the NeedWant Lounge, we walked the streets of the town, and also saw the character Rafe McCawley’s retro-styled home (McCawley is played by legendary Canadian First Nations actor Graham Greene), which was built to the standards of the old days thanks to the man’s extensive wealth from the local mine.
When asked what the central theme of the series would be, Murphy said, “Inclusion. I think it’s about assimilation, inclusion, about coming together.”
“I like the idea that this is–a lot of shows that take place after an Earth-changing, post-apocalyptic sort of event, are about surviving–this is a show about living, not about surviving,” Murphy said. “This is not a show where there’s the next essential threat every week–where Cylons are trying to completely obliterate us. This is a show about how do we live together in an immigrant community.”
As Murphy explained, the show is science fiction, but the stories are what you would expect in a boom town where lots of different people and cultures come together. As some people on set commented, it’s the equivalent of the wild west set in a strange future. The show is also inclusive because Murphy says it will draw in a variety of fans, whether they like science fiction or not, and that inclusion also reaches out into storylines that will complement the gaming experience as well.
Speaking of the game, the title will launch two weeks before the series debuts, and as the show has been developed, the producers have been working with Trion, the game developer, to tie in characters, plot points, and some of the cast, who have provided motion capture performances for the game. As the cast discussed, the game also allows Defiance to fill in the gaps between seasons, when there is normally nothing happening with the show.
After the tour, we went back to the NeedWant Lounge, and all of the press were assembled for a presentation about the show’s visual effects, languages (linguist David J. Peterson, known for his work on Game of Thrones, created the distinct languages for the alien races), and costumes, in addition to an extended interview with the cast.
The cast on set for our visit included Grant Bowler (playing Jeb Nolan), Tony Curran (Datak Tarr), Graham Greene (Rafe McCawley), Julie Benz (Amanda Rosewater), Mia Kirshner (Kenya), Jaime Murray (Stahma Tarr), and Stephanie Leonidas (Irisa), who all discussed what it was like filming this unique series and the challenges adapting to the languages, and preparing for the roles.
Defiance Set Tour Gallery: