The Expanse’s Cara Gee Talks Indigenous Representation

Cara Gee spoke about how her indigenous identity influences her portrayal of Drummer in The Expanse.

Cara Gee as Drummer in The Expanse

The Expanse is a series that prioritizes inclusive storytelling, boasting a diverse cast in its story set roughly 200 years in our future, when Earth has colonized both Mars and the resource-rich asteroid belt, the latter of which is mined by the working class Belters. To bring this world to life, the creators behind The Expanse were incredibly purposeful and determined (as you need to be, to work against the status quo) to avoid populating this world solely or even predominantly with white maleness.

Taking its cues from The Expanse book series by James S.A. Corey, the series looks much closer to how the real world looks today (or will probably look in the future) when it comes to ethnic and gender diversity, and not just when it comes to background characters either. Most of the show’s best characters are women of color. This includes Belter captain Drummer, played by Canadian actress Cara Gee.

Gee, who is Ojibwe and one of the very few examples of an actor of either First Nations or Native American identity in mainstream pop culture, was one of the Expanse cast members on hand at New York Comic Con earlier this month to promote Season 4 of the show, coming to Amazon in December.

read more: What Makes The Expanse a Truly International Show

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Responding to comments showrunner Naren Shankar made about the historical precedents the show crafts its political worldbuilding from, Gee said: “I think that’s why having such a diverse cast is such a huge asset to the story because we all bring our unique points of view to this story. I’m an indigenous woman and so, for me, of course I look at Belter issues from that perspective, and I think that’s part of what makes this story special.”

Speaking to EW at NYCC, Gee elaborated on the comments she made during the panel, saying:

“In real life, I’m an indigenous woman and so for me in particular, the questions about access to clean air and water and who has access to that is one that is extremely relevant given that so many reserves don’t have access to clean water, even in Canada and in the United States and that, to me, is just so mindblowing: that we can exist in such luxury, some of us, here and others be so oppressed. And to look at that from a few hundred years in the future and how those problems of today might carry forward to the future and how we might do a better job in the future, and how we might look at solving some of those problems today.”

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

Shankar said that one of the historical reference points used in Season 4, which will explore humanity’s exploration into the unknown worlds they now have access to via the Ring Gate, was the European invasion of America, which would decimate the native populations of the North American continent. In this, and so many other ways, Gee’s presence on the show feels vital, as does giving her the space and spotlight to highlight her indigenous identity, should she choose to.

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The underrepresentation and misrepresentation of Native people (in both period and contemporary media) is a serious problem. If you’d like to see a role of Gee’s that more explicitly taps into her indigenous identity, check out her breakthrough role in Empire of Dirt. The 2013 Canadian film follows Lena (Gee), a 30-year-old First Nations woman who is having trouble connecting with both her teenaged daughter and her mother, exploring the theme of generational culture gaps.

Speaking to Toronto Now about the film and its theme of First Nations pride, Gee said: “I wish my granny [an activist and defender of First Nations rights] were here so she could see this … Part of the struggle of being First Nations is that so much has been tak­en from us. My granny was the last person in our family to speak Ojibway. She had babies in the 50s, and she didn’t teach them the language because they’d get beaten by their teachers for speak­ing it. It was easier not to know it.”

The Expanse Season 4 premieres on Amazon on December 13th. You can read more about it here.

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