The Expanse cast spills on season 5
Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, and Wes Chatham chat about the emotional, action-packed new season.
Season 5 of The Expanse has finally landed on Amazon Prime Video — the first three episodes, at least. Based on the fifth entry (Nemesis Games) in the Expanse book series, the new season sees the Roci crew all split up on different missions. Amos (Wes Chatham) is heading back to Baltimore to visit the ghosts of his mysterious past, Naomi (Dominique Tipper) is searching for the son she left behind, Alex (Cas Anvar) will team up with Bobbie (Frankie Adams) to track down some Martian arms dealers, while James Holden (Steven Strait) will be back on the Roci staring longingly at his coffee and wondering where the hell everyone went.
The result is the most action-packed and emotional season of the series yet, as all the characters — no matter where they are — will deal with the fallout of Marco Inaros’ (Keon Alexander) impending attack on Earth. Chatham, Tipper, and Strait called into EW Live (SiriusXM, channel 109) on the eve of the release of the first three episodes to talk about filming the new season, and how while the characters may have been separated by millions of miles, the cast has never been tighter.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is a very interesting season of the show because you all barely, if at all, even see each other on screen. Everyone’s off doing their own thing with their own group. Dominique, did that feel weird with you all not sharing scenes together?
DOMINIQUE TIPPER: I mean, we did have a little bit of that in season 3 when Naomi goes off to be Cara Gee's character of Drummer. So, we did have a bit of that, but I think because of the nature of why Naomi leaves on this occasion, it was especially heavy. But it wasn't too weird. I mean, I'm used to seeing these guys, it's fine. We spent six, seven years together, I don't need to see them all the time.
Steven, what was it like offscreen? Did you guys see each other at all? I'm sure you were all on different shooting schedules so did you guys even see each other on set when you weren't filming together?
STEVEN STRAIT: We would see each other all the time. Despite the fact that we were all in different separate storylines this year, we still took every weekend to rehearse together. We all love each other, we're a big family, so we see each other all weekend anyway. But the prep was the same as we've done since season 1. We took every weekend to open up the set sometimes in blocks, rehearse things, get everything together before we shot. So, it was a little strange not being on set with the fam this year, but we were still all very much hanging out and helping each other as well.
Amos on Earth is one of my favorite stories in all of the Expanse books. Wes, I don't know if you knew this was coming or if you'd read Nemesis Games or what, but what was your reaction when you found out about this arc for Amos?
WES CHATHAM: Well, I think early on, I used The Churn and where we got to in book 5 as terms of backstory going in the beginning. So my whole goal, my whole dream in this is to be able to get to season 5 to really explore this. And what was really surreal to me is going through and preparing for each season and creating all this stuff in my imagination with Baltimore and Erich and seeing all this stuff, and then actually six years later showing up and what was in your imagination is now real and you're in Baltimore and you're talking to Erich and it was a surreal experience but it was enormously creatively satisfying to get to this point.
I have an Amos joke for you, you want to hear it?
All right, here we go. What's Amos’ favorite fruit?
CHATHAM: What's interesting about peaches is that I'm actually in Georgia right now, the peach state.
STRAIT: Tying it all together.
Dominique, a big chunk of this season is Naomi trying to reconnect with the son she left behind in Filip. You have some really heavy emotional stuff this season. What were those scenes like having to get to that deep and sometimes kind of dark, place?
TIPPER: I think I feel similar to Wes, as season 5 and I think book 5 is a real payoff of Naomi's arc. And I think, again, imagine in all this stuff, imagining my son, imagining what that interaction would be like if we ever met again and also with all the seeds we've planted from season 1 and to set up this season, it was so rewarding doing it, but at the same time, it really costs, it was really tough. I mean, Keon and Jasai who play Marco and Filip respectively work incredible. And although I was away from these guys who are normally my cushion on the show, they were excellent to work with.
And so, going the places that we went to as a group was very, very difficult and it required a lot of vulnerability and just being open and trust in each other. But I think it's safe to say that we got there and again, I felt very safe with them. So, I'm really pleased with it, but it was hard though. It was really, really hard. And it's the hardest thing I've done emotionally on the show for sure.
CHATHAM: I tell stories of coming to work and seeing Dom and because we were doing double days, I was doing a completely different episode and Dom coming out of the studio and just her eyes are red and swollen and exhausted. And I just thought she was hitting the bottle, but I didn't know. And then, I go and I see the show and I'm like, "Jesus, that must have been really challenging," and it was so beautiful. I mean, she does such an amazing job. I'm so excited for people to get to see her performance this season.
TIPPER: Thanks Wes.
Well, I mean, without spoiling anything, there's one episode where I know you really are put through the wringer and it's an episode where you're pretty much by yourself and you have to do that without even working off anyone else, and I know how hard that can be. And it's an intense, physical, emotional episode that I cannot wait for people to see. Steven, how does Holden feel about everyone ditching him? I mean, Amos is on Earth, Alex is on Mars, and them Naomi's like “PEACE OUT!” It's like coffee for one now!
STRAIT: That's it, coffee for one. It's a lonely year for Holden for the most part. Yeah, it's interesting. I have to say, we've always been so blessed with the writing that we've had. I think the extent of confidence and not just the source material but the adaptation that the writers broke apart the structure that we've been using for years and years on end. And it's so rare especially with a show that's successful to shake things up and try new things and I just so appreciate that.
And for Holden as well as everyone else this year, it's a different journey. And he's more comfortable with the responsibilities that he has on his shoulders. So, I think he's really alive as the leader that the story needs and that he's been developing to all of these years. But, on the other hand, the family that has been everything to him just gets pulled away like a rug under his feet. So on one hand, he's still chasing after what he knows is the existential danger that comes with the Protomolecule Ring gates and the entities within them and all that stuff. But he's also trying to get back to his family.
And I think the biggest fear for him is that he won't find them again this year. So, it's a different tone. I mean, the Roci does not feel like the Roci. It's not familial, it's not democratic, it's much more like a traditional warship and he's more of a regular commander, and yeah, it's an interesting irony that he's finally where he's comfortable with handling all this stuff and the family that he loves so much is away from him which is really difficult.
Congratulations by the way as you guys, have another season, it'll be the final season, season 6. Of course, you're not going to tell me — and nor do I want you to — but I'm curious, do you all know how the show is ending? Have you talked to the Naren and the producers about how the story is going to wrap up?
TIPPER: We all die at the end of season 6. [Laughs]
CHATHAM: Wait, hold on. How do you know we all make it out of season 5?
STRAIT: Really shake it up.
TIPPER: We don't know. But look, this is the end of the TV show on Amazon. So, we'll just have to see what happens.
STRAIT: I will say that, back to the writing it's been meticulously plotted from the very beginning. I mean, the authors, James S.A. Corey, they knew the end of the book series before they started writing the first book. So, every step of the way while we've been shooting has been specifically chosen to arrive at a very specific point. So, I will say that we're not winging it. We know they've always had a plan for how we get it to the specific spot that we're going to. So, it'll be a satisfying conclusion the way that they always have them in their writing is spectacular.
CHATHAM: And the one thing I will guarantee knowing what the trajectory is, is that the fans are going to be happy. It is definitely going to be a satisfying ending for them and this has been planned out from the beginning. And this show has done a lot of interesting out of the box things, so who knows what happens in the future?
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