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Cast says 'Expanse' pushes boundaries, reflects humanity

By Karen Butler
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Cast says 'Expanse' pushes boundaries, reflects humanity
Actress Shohreh Aghdashloo returns for Season 4 of "The Expanse" on Friday. File Photo by Howard Shen/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The stars and showrunner of The Expanse said a diverse cast and the freedom of the sci-fi genre helped them reflect humanity and predict what it might look like centuries from now.

Based on James S.A. Corey's novels, the critically acclaimed show kicks off its fourth season Friday. It follows the captain and crew of the spaceship Rocinante as they travel through a colonized solar system in which there is tension among the people of Earth, Mars and the asteroid belt.

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"Science fiction has always been something that's pushed boundaries, especially in representation," cast member Dominique Tipper recently said at New York Comic Con.

"Our show is at the forefront of it and allows us to approach humanity in a different way because it is set in the future. I think it is one of the best dramas out there in terms of having a cast that looks like this," Tipper said, gesturing to the multicultural ensemble.

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"You can use [sci-fi] allegorically in a very poignant way," added co-star Steven Strait. "You can talk about very prescient things that can be very divisive in a way that is digestible for a larger audience and I think, especially today, that is a very important thing to do -- to start those conversations."

Many of the stories also echo events from the past.

"We tend to pull a lot from the sad and bloody history of humanity," showrunner Naren Shankar said. "There are a lot of historical reference points in the show, whether it is military or economic or expansionist or colonization. It's all over the place. World War I was a good reference for the first season. Now, we are talking about the European invasion of North America."

Actress Cara Gee celebrated the cast's diversity as a "huge asset."

"We all bring our various perspectives and unique points of view to this story, politically," Gee said. "I'm an indigenous woman and, so, for me, I am going to look at the Belter issues from that perspective."

Shankar said he'd love to hear people say 20 years from now they became a pilot, astronaut or politician because of what they saw on The Expanse when they were younger.

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"I was inspired when I was a kid by Star Trek, and that was part of what made me want to be an engineer, initially," he said. "If this show has that kind of effect on people in any field -- politics, whatever they want to go into -- that's why you make something and, if it is around and people are talking about it in 20 years, that's amazing."

The series originally aired on Syfy, with reruns available later on Amazon. When the cable network canceled the show after three seasons, its diehard fans rallied around it and the streaming service renewed it for two more seasons.

"The way that it all played out is it was the best thing that ever happened to the show," cast member Wes Chatham told UPI in a separate interview. "The fact the fans came together, found a community and a voice among themselves. But, also, the actual attention around it all. So many people saw it.

"A lot of people will come up and say, hey, we love your new show. And it's like, 'New show? We've been doing this for five years,'" he said with a laugh.

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Co-star Cas Anvar also thinks the show now is where it should be.

"I think we got three really good, quality seasons out of Syfy, but I don't personally believe that this show in particular would thrive in a cable format," Anvar said. "I think the kind of epic, bingeable streaming format is what this show was designed to be shown on. Without a streaming platform to be distributed on, I don't think it would ever reach its maximum potential."

Gee and Chatham said the platform switch results in more creative flexibility.

"Time-structure limits are out the window," Gee said of episode lengths and absence of commercial breaks. "We can swear."

"I like the freedom that comes with not having a ratings system in terms of what you can and can't show, what you can and can't say. You just tell the truth and be as honest as you can about the world," Chatham said.

Cast member Shohreh Aghdashloo thinks it is appropriate that a series that spans space should reach as many viewers as possible, not just be shown on one network in one country at one specific time.

"Ever since it's been on Amazon, my brothers and I get to watch it simultaneously. I don't have to tape it and send it to them. We can watch Season 4 together. Going global is fantastic, especially with a show like this that is so diverse," the actress said.

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