The Season 3 finale of the underrated, refreshingly diverse Syfy series The Expanse hadn’t even aired when news broke that the show had been cancelled. In a thrilling twist, Expanse fans rallied to save their beloved series and it was picked up by Amazon for a fourth installment.
(SPOILER ALERT: You might want to watch Season 3 before you read this.)
Among the many reasons to rejoice over the return of The Expanse is that we’ll get to see more of Camina Drummer, the tough, loyal, awesomely angry Belter captain played by Cara Gee.
When Cara made her debut in Season 2 of The Expanse, Drummer was the ruthless, resourceful righthand woman to Tycho Station COO Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman). Tattooed, fierce, enigmatic, and rocking the signature Belter Creole dialect, she stole many a scene.
By the show’s third season, Drummer had been promoted to captain of the Behemoth, become besties with Rocinante executive officer Naomi (Dominique Tipper), and was locked in an epic battle of wills with David Strathairn’s Klaes Ashford.
By season’s end, she’d proved herself the baddest Belter of them all, surviving yet another gruesome near-death experience, gritting it out, despite a broken spine, and strapping on a mech suit to save the day.
As the cast of The Expanse reunited in Canada to begin production on Season 4, I was lucky enough to talk with Cara about what it’s like to portray such a powerful woman in the world of science fiction. Beltalowda, listen up!
You play Camina Drummer on the TV series The Expanse. Drummer is an amazing character and your portrayal of her is so badass. What’s your favorite thing about playing her?
Thank you! There are many things I love about playing Drummer. It is an intense physical and intellectual challenge. The scripts are so full and complex. Getting to the core of what is really going on in each scene and then distilling that into playable action takes a lot of careful thought. It’s a creative dream team and everyone is on board to rehearse on our own time, thank god.
That’s a huge part of why the show works so well. We are all extremely invested. And then of course there is the physical challenge of pretending to be in zero-g, with a fictional dialect and a broken back, hanging from a wire 30 feet in the air. It’s intensely challenging and I love it.
Do you remember your first impressions of Drummer when you read for the part?
I was already a huge fan of the show, so I was excited to audition with the Belter accent. I listened to Jared Harris’ monologue a million times to prepare. I wanted to share my version of a powerful Belter woman and express how driven and strategic she would have to be to achieve the position she holds.
You watched the first season of The Expanse and were a fan of the show before you were cast. What was it like going from being a fan to being in it?
I had to come in a day early to geek out over the sets so I wouldn’t be doing that in front of anyone on my first day of shooting. It’s a dream.
You were nominated for best actress at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards for your role in the series Empire of Dirt. Tell me about your experience on that show, which featured women pretty prominently.
You’ve done your research! Thank you! Empire of Dirt was my first film role ever and it was an incredible experience. Jennifer Podemski produced the film and starred as my mother and she was also nominated for a CSA! She is a brilliant producer and was uncompromising in her vision for that film. She is an inspiration to me. Everyone should check out her new show, Future History, on APTN.
The Expanse is a show that really knows what to do with strong women, including your character, Dominique Tipper’s Naomi, Shohreh Aghdashloo’s Avasarala, and Frankie Adams’ Bobbie. What’s it like to be part of that?
I mean, it’s a dream to know these women. And it is fabulous to be playing in a world where women of colour are in positions of power.
One of the highlights of Season 3 was the complex but devoted friendship between Naomi and Camina. I feel like that sort of female camaraderie can be a rarity in television. What are your thoughts?
I am so pleased with how their relationship is unfolding. It is indeed rare to see a relationship between two women on TV that doesn’t revolve around a man. I appreciate that their camaraderie is complicated and that they have completely different ideologies. They each have a distinct perspective on the best way for the Belt to move forward as the nature of the Universe shifts. Personally, I can see where they are both coming from and it’s satisfying to examine that grey area.
You got to deliver an amazing Braveheart-style monologue to rouse the Belters to fight in Season 3. Can you tell me about shooting that scene?
I was thrilled when I got the script with this speech in it. It’s such an exciting moment in the season —WE’RE GOING THROUGH THE RING!!!!!!! And the words our dear writers came up with were perfect to motivate a group of people about to experience something brand new to the Universe. It’s a dream to get to play something with those kind of stakes.
And our background performers were incredible. They were so on board with the scene and helped me achieve that level of urgency. We shot it so many times, but honestly I could have done it a million more. I left set that day vibrating with excitement.
The Expanse is also an extremely diverse series in terms of representation. Is it exciting to be a part of that?
Honestly, it just feels necessary. It is exhausting to me that all shows aren’t this diverse. There’s no good reason to have a production be all white, yet so many are. A really great resource that explores this is Dylan Marron’s Every Single Word project.
Were you a fan of sci-fi before you were cast in The Expanse? If so, what sort of things were you, or are you, into?
Yes! One of my first favourite books when I was growing up was Brave New World and I devoured all of John Wyndham’s novels. Two of my favourite films are 2001 and Ex Machina. It’s exciting to wonder about the things we don’t know yet.
The Expanse was cancelled in May before Season 3 even ended but, in an incredibly exciting twist, the show was picked up by Amazon after fans waged a campaign to save it. Can you describe the roller coaster of emotions you were experiencing during this time?
Well, one night I sat down for dinner at a science conference (Science of the Expanse Panel at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference). When I sat down, I didn’t have a job. By the time dinner was through, I had my dream job back. It’s still totally surreal!
Has production begun on Season 4? If so, what’s the atmosphere been like on the set?
Yes! It’s been so nice to see everyone again. We’re all extremely excited and grateful to be back.
I know you probably can’t talk about it, but can you give us any hints about what’s in store for Drummer?
She’s fierce. She’s got a new jumpsuit.
Obviously, you’ve had a very positive experience with fans, which is the much nicer flipside of the toxic fandom we’re hearing discussed so much right now. How do you feel about the fans of your show?
Oh, man. I love our fans. We’re lucky.
What are some of the more memorable interactions you’ve had with them?
It was so lovely to meet the people who came out to that fateful science conference. It was amazing to celebrate together when the announcement came. I was honoured to be given the responsibility of bringing the Save The Expanse banner back to set. (P.S. Hi guys!!)
I heard you are obsessed with Beyonce. (Who isn’t, right?) I want to hear more about this!
Obvs. She is a force. Seeing her live was one of the most incredible performances ever. She fills an entire stadium with her presence.
Just for fun, is there another sci-fi franchise you’d love to be a part of?
My actual dream is to be a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race. So I’ll just use this opportunity to put that out there.
The Expanse photos: http://www.syfy.com.