Richard Fleeshman's and Christie Burke's new space adventure, "The Ark," premieres Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Syfy
NEW YORK, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The stars and writers of the new futuristic space adventure, The Ark, say now seems to be a good time to tell a hopeful story about unlikely heroes rising to the occasion to save their community and possibly mankind.
"I think it's needed, especially with everything as a collective we've gone through the past couple of years," actress Christie Burke told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "I need some optimism. I need some witty, Scottish one-liners. I need that in my life!"
Her co-star, Reece Ritchie, agreed.
"People are drawn to optimistic stories. I like optimistic stories. You don't necessarily want to come home from work or wherever you've been and watch something that is humdrum," Ritchie said. "This is energetic and youthful and bright, but in the midst of chaos."
Set 100 years in the future, The Ark follows the crew and passengers of the spacecraft Ark One, which is on its way to colonize another planet as the Earth is becoming less habitable.
When a catastrophic event kills many of the top-ranking experts in various fields onboard, the survivors must step up and try to complete the mission.
Cast member Richard Fleeshman described The Ark as the very definition of escapism.
"This never stops. There's never a lull, even for us, watching the first episodes back. We were in it and we lived it every day," he said.
"There's so much going on that even we weren't aware of it, having read the scripts. It moves incredibly quickly. It's just like a roller coaster. That's the pinnacle of what you hope to do, really."
Dean Devlin, who serves as showrunner alongside Jonathan Glassner, noted that lately "dark and edgy" have been all the rage when it comes to programming at television networks and streaming services.
"That's fine. That can be very compelling," Devlin said.
"Both Jonathan and I are very optimistic about the human species. That doesn't mean we don't have our conflicts. It doesn't mean there aren't problems. But, ultimately, we believe in the triumph of the human spirit and that is the heart and soul of what our show is about."
Helmed by Independence Day and Stargate writer-producer Devlin and Stargate-1 creator Glassner, the series premieres Wednesday on Syfy and stars Burke, Fleeshman and Ritchie as three crew members vying for control of the ship.
"One of the things that sets this apart from other shows that have gone into space is that these aren't the people who were sent there to lead," Devlin said.
"So, the question is, 'Can people become the best versions of themselves in an incredibly short period of time?' I think watching them succeed or fail is really compelling."
The show also explores the dynamic of power versus leadership, Glassner said.
"Our people aren't interested in power. They are interested in doing the right leadership," he said. "As soon as it becomes about power is when things will fall apart. That makes it optimistic almost by default."
Fleeshman said the crew really is committed achieving the "greater good" for the people its members are shepherding.
"Even though we are in positions of power, as it would be, in the leadership roles, it is such a collective, especially in the first four episodes. As it goes on, every single member of the crew has their moment where they, maybe, saved the day or were completely needed to solve a problem," he said.
"It reinforces that collective spirit and [the idea that] we're all better when we work together."
Pilot episodes for shows like The Ark are notoriously hard to pull off because they have to establish a world, introduce numerous characters and make viewers care about them in a relatively short amount of time.
"What we tried to do with this one was get the premise out in the first six minutes and then really focus all on the characters," Devlin said.
"Of course, they are all in this trauma that they are trying to deal with, but very quickly we start to realize that there are other levels of conflict and things going on that supersede the accident," he added.
"They are very different from one another. They speak differently, their points of view are different, their philosophy is different and we watch how that either meshes or clashes."
Fleeshman praised the showrunners for creating something entertaining and emotionally satisfying.
"What the balance has struck so well is to get the juxtaposition of the enormity of space and the enormity of the problems that this crew is facing," the actor said.
"You get that minutiae of day-to-day life and the interplay of human emotions and the romance and the arguments and the bickering, normal day-to-day stuff that could happen in any office building in the world, but it is set against this incredible backdrop of space."
Glassner recalled how the characters changed as the writers got to better know the actors cast in the roles.
"That helps add a diversity of type. I don't mean that as race and look. I mean the type of personality that I think we really found a cool balance of with these guys," he said.
Ritchie, who plays Lt. Spencer Lane, said the cast didn't know a lot about their characters going into the project and the scripts changed even after filming was underway.
"We weren't given the whole season on Day 1. There is always an element of not knowing, which keeps you very alive and on your toes," he said.
"What attracts me to this kind of material is that you get to play humor alongside this very pragmatic, logical intention. Usually it's one or the other. This guy might take himself a little too seriously, but he is capable of humor, as well."
Fleeshman said his character, Lt. James Brice, is the "direct opposite" of Lane.
"He doesn't take himself hugely seriously or doesn't appear to. He kind of shoots from the hip and has a lot of brash and a lot of bravado," Fleeshman said.
"As we move through the episodes, we really start to peel back the layers to him and he becomes much more than meets the eye. As an actor, it's never not going to be fun to have these one-liners.
"He could do with keeping his clothes on a little more," Fleeshman quipped.
Burke said she was intrigued by the character of Lt. Sharon Garnet because she was written as a woman with "very male energy."
"It's not often that you get to read such a complex, intense character as a female. That was what initially drew me into this," she said. "I had all these questions for her that I was obsessed with -- what does she dream about? Why does she want to be on this ship?"
Garnet sees potential in everybody and nurtures that even as she harbors her own insecurities about her effectiveness, Burke said.
"She leads with her heart first, which is, I think, rare," the actress said.