Which means we need to have a chat about casting choices.
We’ve been waiting for this.
The news has finally been released about the cast for The Expanse. The first thing we want to say is that we’re freaking delighted by all of them. We’ve seen a lot of actors trying out for these roles, and we’re very grateful to all of them. There’s nothing like enthusiasm for a project, and we were incredibly lucky to have the interest in The Expanse that we did. For every role we were trying to cast, there were a lot of amazingly talented, hard-working actors who tried out and didn’t get in. That was the worst part of the process by far. The best part: getting the team we got.
We’ve started filming already, and things are looking good. When it does finally roll out where all y’all can see it, we think you’ll be pleased too.
That said, we wanted to sit down a minute and talk about one of the decisions that we made about the Belters. Specifically: Not All Belters Are Tall. There’s reasons for this.
Going into this, we all talked a lot about how to approach translating Belters from prose into a visual medium. In the books, we make a point of how the bodies of people who’ve grown up in microgravity are changed by it. Taller frames, larger heads. Discomfort in high g. We floated ideas like using Lord of the Rings-esque special effects or having the Belter actors on stands and stilts. Or – and why I wanted to talk about it now – only hiring tall, skinny actors for those parts.
When you’re casting something like this, you want the best actors, but packed into that are a bunch of implicit obstacles: The best actor who is available. The best actor who is enthusiastic about the role. The best actor you can afford. Otherwise, Meryl Streep would be in everything. Those obstacles are unavoidable.
Then there’s another tier of obstacles. The ones that you might be able to bend on. The best actor who looks the way you had in mind. The best actor with the kind of accent you wanted. The best actor who’s name is already in the public consciousness. The best actor who has a real chemistry with the other actors you’ve already cast. The best actor who’s the same ethnicity as the character you had in mind. The best actor who’s tall.
If everything’s a priority, then nothing is.
We were involved in the decision to not require that every Belter be tall and skinny. It was the right choice. The pool of actors – especially of women – over 6’2″ is really quite small, and by having a wider group to select from, we got to prioritize things like chemistry and charisma, acting chops and similarity of personality to the character from the book. And race. Let me just tale a minute here to say that both Alcon and Syfy were staunch in their commitment to not whitewash the project, and I appreciate that decision more than I can say.
The other thing is this: people vary. One of the things we tacked against hard in The Expanse was the idea of giving all our Klingons bumpy foreheads. Belters are supposed to be diverse in their language, their culture, their politics, their modes of dress. And yeah, in their bodies. Which is to say, Belters are supposed to be people.
We’re still leaning toward examples on the far ends of the spectrum where we can. You’ll see tall, thin folks over-represented in the Belter population. But you’ll see other things – cultural signifiers, accents (at varying thicknesses), modes of dress – that also go with the Belt.
This isn’t a choice that Syfy made. This is a decision that we, the authors of the books and writers of the show, made and the other players involved backed us on.
And because of it, we’ve got a hell of good cast. And more than anything else, that’s what we wanted. We’re paraphrasing one of our producers when we say, “Height doesn’t act.” This became a truism for our show. If we get a great actor, people will quickly forget that they’re not quite as tall as their book counterpart. If we get a bad actor, no amount of height will save the performance.
So join us in welcoming this stellar group of people to the world of The Expanse. Give them a chance to blow you away with what they’re bringing to the roles. We think you’ll be happy you did.