What Makes The Expanse a Truly International Show

We talked to the cast and creators behind The Expanse about bringing such a global story to the Amazon platform.

The Expanse Season 4 on Amazon

When The Expanse Season 4 launches on Amazon in December, the science fiction drama based on the bestselling series of books by James S.A. Corey will be available in the “same” place around the world for the first time ever as an Amazon Global Original. 

Previously, The Expanse aired on Syfy in the United States, streamed on Amazon Prime domestically, and was available internationally via Netflix. When Amazon swooped in to save The Expanse after Syfy cancelled it after three seasons, that not only meant we would get more of one of the best and most vital shows on TV, it also meant that, moving forward, this story would be made available to multiple countries around the same time.

Prime Video, as it is sometimes known, launched globally in 2016, becoming available in more than 200 countries and territories. This is in addition to the more than 100 million people in the U.S. who have access to Amazon Prime Video, according to a Consumer Intelligence Research Partners survey.

While The Expanse has always been a show that works to include diverse perspectives and tell a story about what outward expansion would look like not just for the United States or the western world, but for the entirety of the human race, this is particularly true heading into Season 4, based off the events of Corey’s Cibola Burn. When we catch back up with the crew of the Roci, they will be setting off on a U.N. mission to explore the new worlds beyond the Ring Gates, the first step of a new world for humanity, which is now faced with the opportunity to explore thousands of Earth-like planets.

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read more: The Expanse Season 4 — What’s Next For Naomi & Amos?

Den of Geek was part of a group of reporters who had the chance to chat with the cast and creative team behind The Expanse about the move to Amazon and what makes The Expanse such an international show.

“Whether we succeeded or not, it was always the intention to not have the American experience of space, you know, the mandate was always the show cannot be white guys in space,” says Ty Franck, one half of the writing team known as James S.A. Corey who writes the books and serves as an executive producer on the show.

“Because of that [mandate],” says Franck, “we always sort of tried to write to as many different audiences as we could. Hopefully we succeed more than we fail, that’s always the intention. And I think, you get people in other countries, they see themselves on screen, and we’re talking about issues that are true worldwide and not just true here.”

Franck’s writing partner and fellow executive producer Daniel Abraham noted that, in writing The Expanse book series, the authors drew from historical precedent and not just American or western examples. Because “history rhymes,” Abraham said, this has led to the books and TV show feeling not only internationally-relevant, but also extremely topical, with The Expanse showrunner Naren Shankar adding that modern parallels to the experiences the characters go through in the series are often discussed in the writers room, using the Syrian refugee crisis and Prax’s experience as a refugee as one example.

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“It was always a part of the project,” says Abraham, speaking about the books’ diverse cast of characters that is also maintained in the show. “When we were talking about it, the mandate of the books was to be as rich, as diverse and the full as our lived experience of world and doing less than that seems weird. So as long as the show was as complex as like a teaching hospital, we win.”

“And everybody is, you know, first and foremost human,” adds Shankar, “which means, they’re good and they’re bad. There are violent people and kind people on every side of the factions in terms of Earth, Mars, and the Belt, of every color and every gender. It’s like… they’re people. And that’s what people are.”

While it’s important to note that The Expanse is an American TV series filmed in Canada and based on a series of novels written by two Americans, it also includes an incredibly diverse cast who hail from around the world themselves. We spoke to some of them about what makes The Expanse an international show and what the move to Amazon could mean for the show’s ability to start conversations and encourage change.

read more: The Expanse Season 5 Confirmed

“I am very excited about the fact that they are on Amazon because this is a global show,” says Dominique Tipper, who plays Belter and Roci crew member Naomi. “It’s very allegorical and I think not many of the people see themselves in the characters, but they see themselves in the situations that the characters find themselves in.”

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Tipper, who is half-Domincan, half British and grew up East London, hopes that The Expanse finds a broader audience now that it is on Amazon. “I’m really excited that we are now with somebody who has the kind of weight that Amazon does. Because I think the show is worthy of that in what it represents across the board.”

“I just want it to go further,” Tipper says. “I wonder if the little kids that grew up how a lot of us on the show grew up have seen it yet. I don’t know if they have and I didn’t know what it would do for them. I hope it would empower them, and I’m really interested in that and I’m interested in using the show as a vehicle for that—not only for it to be seen as art, but maybe we can use it as some kind of vehicle for outreach in the communities that we represent because I don’t really see the point of it otherwise. So I think we’re going to start working on that.”

Frankie Adams, a New Zealand-Samoan actress who plays Martian Bobbie Draper, is proud to be an example of a Pacific Islander on TV, but notes that she is one of only few examples across film and television.

“There’s not really many of us that are going active on the world stage, ” says Adams, who was born in Samoa and grew up in New Zealand, “and the only person I can think of that I saw when I was younger was Lilo from Lilo & Stitch and her big sister, and that was great, but there was never anybody that I saw that I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s me,’ you know?”

read more: The Expanse Book 8 Review — Tiamat’s Wrath

Adams spoke about the privilege of having the opportunity to be that for other women, saying: “I definitely experience that with women in New Zealand, Australia, and in the Pacific Islands where they’ve gone, ‘Oh, like Frankie’s doing it, that’s so awesome.’ It just gives them so much hope and I think it’s such a wonderful thing to do for young women.”

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“The show is about the people of the world,” says Iranian-American actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who plays U.N. Secretary-General Chrisjen Avasarala on The Expanse. “It should have been on Amazon from Day One. If it’s about the people of the world it should be shown to the people of the world.”

Aghdashloo says that, prior to the Amazon switch, she would have to tape the show and send it to her brothers and mother, who live in the U.K., to watch.

“Now, they get to watch it simultaneously,” says Aghdashloo. “These game-changers can change everything, it’s just incredible, unbelievable that the whole world gets to watch this show and see what is happening in this future world. Which they keep calling it science fiction and I keep saying there’s nothing fiction about it anymore, this is what is happening in today’s world.”

Cas Anvar, who plays Martian and Roci crew member Alex, was born in Canada to Iranian parents. He spoke to Den of Geek about the importance of the organic diversity of the Expanse world, and how important it is not only for viewers of color, but white audience members as well, to see.

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“It’s not just as important for the kids of color and the women of color and the paint color to see themselves,” Anvar says. “It’s also equally important for the people who are not of color to see these people in those positions so that they can go, ‘That’s normal.'”

“I think it’s only fitting because it is such a global narrative,” says Steven Strait, who plays Holden, of the move to Amazon. “We were in Europe recently and we went through Germany and we met people from France and all over that part of the world. And it’s remarkable how universal the story is.”

Strait said he was struck by the fact that, even though the source material was written beginning almost 10 years ago, the story feels so relevant to what’s happening now.

“I think we do have a globalized world,” Strait says, “and a lot of the issues we deal with in the show sociopolitically and what not are mirrored all over the place: the things we’re dealing with in the States are similar things they are dealing with, Europe which are similar things they’re dealing with, Asia. It’s a universal human narrative.”

The Expanse Season 3 Reviews The Expanse Season 2 Reviews

For Strait and the other cast members, The Expanse represents not only a chance to tell an important story, but starts important discussions.

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“The show really reflects the current state of affairs and how intimately it shows what the repercussions of those things are across borders,” says Strait. “[Science fiction] is a genre that really lends itself to allegory and using allegory in very powerful way. One of the things I’m most proud of on this show is that, in a time where things are really divided and it’s very difficult to communicate across partisan lines or social lines or whatever… art can manage to bridge a divide and you can spark conversations out there that maybe wouldn’t be had otherwise. If you mask the names and times, and things like that, that allow it to be more digestible. I think it’s one of the things I’m most proud of about this show. The work feels important.”

The Expanse Season 4 will return on December 13th on Amazon. The show has already been greenlit for a fifth season.

Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of GeekRead more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.

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