Science fiction fans — and fans of quality television in general — were dealt a crushing blow when Syfy announced last month that the cable network would not be renewing The Expanse for a fourth season. In a matter of minutes, a campaign driven by viewers had already sprung up to find a new home for the show, with Amazon being named as one of the potential landing spots for the space drama.
Two weeks later, that possibility became a reality when Amazon officially picked up the show, and it happened in the wildest manner possible. Instead of receiving a phone call from a producer, studio executive, or Amazon underling informing them of the news, the cast and Expanse showrunner Naren Shankar were actually informed in person by Amazon founder, chairman, and chief executive officer Jeff Bezos from the stage during an interview taking place at a space awards banquet.
It was a wild scene and a wild ride in general from cancellation to resurrection. Expanse star Steven Strait stopped by EW Morning Live (Entertainment Weekly Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105) on Wednesday morning to share the entire story with Kristen Baldwin and yours truly. Here are some highlights from our chat.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So much has happened since you were last here a few moths ago, and I’m not talking about on-screen. We spoke to you right before season 3 was going to start on Syfy, and then we learn over the past few weeks that Syfy’s not going to pick it up for season 4. Before we get to the Amazon stuff, how did you find out that you guys weren’t going to be picked up from Syfy? How did that news come down?
STEVEN STRAIT: Well, we got a call from Syfy, and they told us, and because of the nature of the way the deal was, and the shifting times, and all these different metrics and stuff, they just couldn’t make the metrics work. We were all devastated. This is such a project of passion, and we have this incredible group of people up there that are so close, and work together so well, the prospect of not being able to finish the story was devastating.
As that happened, the fans kind of took it upon themselves to launch this absolutely wild campaign that was massive, and creative, and they started this petition that went to 150,000 signatures. They rented a plane that they flew a “Save The Expanse” banner around the Amazon headquarters.
They couldn’t afford the spaceship so they had to go for the plane.
Well, funnily enough, they actually put a model of the Rocinante into space. They paid for it to go into space, took a picture of it, and started sending it out. It was just so moving, having the fan base just react with such visceral passion.
So what are you thinking at that point? Are you thinking, “This is really nice that they’re doing this, but I’ve seen other fan campaigns and it usually doesn’t work out so well,” or are you thinking, “Maybe there is a chance we’re going to get picked up by someone else”?
I was hopeful. I was confident that our show could exist, and continue on, and do really well on a different platform. A couple of days after, we started to get word that Amazon was interested. They were just trying to make the deal work. We had a couple of high profile fans actually call Jeff Bezos — George R.R. Martin and a couple of other people.
Yeah, but the show is in line with what [Jeff Bezos] is passionate about. He has his own rocket company, and in many ways, it kind of visualizes what he and a lot of these space entrepreneurs are attempting to do themselves. So, yeah, it was crazy. It was a crazy couple of weeks. We all want this thing to continue on as many years as we can, and to not have word about it either way was a trippy headspace to be in for a little bit.
As soon as the news comes out that Syfy’s not going to pick up the show, people are throwing out, “Oh, maybe it can go here. Maybe it can go there.” What were you thoughts in terms of when you were hearing the different outlets that maybe would pick it up, and who you thought was likely to step up?
I was pretty sure that if we were going to find another home domestically, it would be Amazon, because we’ve been on their platform for the last couple years, on Prime. We’ve had a history there, and they’ve been really supportive to us. It was our best shot, for sure.
So you’re going through all this, and you’re trying to figure it out, and you just said it’s a stressful time. How do you finally hear about Amazon getting in the game and picking up the show?
It was a nutty story. We were at this space conference for private space entrepreneurs. [National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference] These are the people who were essentially making what The Expanse is a reality — people who have asteroid mining companies, and rover companies, and habitat companies, and stuff. We were there doing a panel on the science of The Expanse, because in the science community, they really love the fact that we show physics and gravity appropriately.
We were there, essentially, just talking about the technicalities of shooting a space show with realistic science, and it just so happened that Jeff Bezos was there. We had planned this trip months ago. It was a total coincidence. We finished the panel, and we’re in this room amongst true geniuses — Freeman Dyson, and Buzz Aldrin is at the next table — and we’re just a bunch of humble actors being like, “Okay. I don’t know why we’re talking about science to you guys, but …”
We’re there, and Jeff Bezos wanted to talk to us, and we spoke right before this dinner. He was getting an award for his space company. He was like, “You know, I really love the show. I’m a huge fan of the books. We’re trying to make this work, but we’re not sure yet, but we’re optimistic.” So we kind of went into that dinner being like, “Okay, well, we’re probably not going to hear for a little bit,” but feeling good, feeling confident.
About 15 minutes later, I guess he had talked to the folks that work with him, and he announced it right then and there on stage. Just completely took us by surprise. Just crazy excitement. It was a roar from the back of this room. We were just all so tremendously relieved that this insane campaign had worked. [See footage of announcement and the cast’s reaction below.]
How does the show change, if at all? I noticed in last week’s episode there’s a line where someone seems to mouth, “F— you,” but it comes out, “Forget you” in the Syfy version. I’m guessing that won’t be an issue on Amazon.
Yeah, it’s funny, because we shoot it uncensored, so if you watch it on Prime, or you watch it on iTunes, you won’t hear, “Forget you.” It definitely loosens up the restrictions that we have. I think, when you’re on broadcast, you have a certain amount of curse words you can say, certain amount of nudity, a certain amount of violence. It definitely frees us up that way. We can kind of take the gloves off with those things. There are a few other technicalities that are different, but in many ways, I think we’re going to stay kind of true to what we’ve been doing. We haven’t really made any compromises thus far anyway.
So, full frontal?
[Laughs] That’s right. I expect so. Just every episode.
Just walking around naked.
Sure. Yeah. I think it’ll really service the story.