Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

Meet Bobbie Draper

by Ty Franck

So, yeah, casting.

We’ve talked about how this works before.  Casting is one of the hardest, most important things we do.  Getting the right actors into the right roles is critical and complicated and hard.

When casting you will watch dozens or sometimes hundreds of actors read for a single part. And all of them (OK, not all, but really the vast majority) will have something to recommend them: the right look, the right ethnicity, the right height, the best acting chops, the best availability, the most affordable rate, the best chemistry with the other actors, and on and on.

You have to be flexible with it.  Ready to let go of your preconceived image of the character and see what happens with the skills and toolboxes and talents that come up.  If you’re lucky, you find great new versions of the characters to bring to life.  But no actor, however awesome, matches exactly what you had in your head walking in.  That’s just too much to expect.

So let’s talk about casting our favorite Martian Marine, Gunnery Sergeant Roberta W Draper, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, Force Recon.

Bobbie Draper has athleticism and a sense of peak fitness and physical training. She’s a Spec Ops warrior at the top of her game. Confident.

Bobbie’s also Polynesian. (She’s described as Samoan in the books, but there are many people’s from the islands in that part of the world that would have had the right look.)

She’s tall. Gunny Draper should never have to look up at anyone. She dominates any room.

That’s a hell of a lot to ask for.  And then we asked for more.

We put her through hell in our second book.  Whoever takes the role needed to be able to cover a lot of ground emotionally.  Strength, sorrow, vulnerability, fierceness. You have to be a seriously talented actor to do all that in addition to everything else we’re already looking for.

So what did we compromise on?

Turns out, nothing.

Meet Frankie Adams.


New Zealand-born actress Frankie Adams, athlete, amateur boxer, standing a healthy six feet tall, and with all the acting chops to nail the role, and with a look that says she has zero time for your bullshit.

You don’t know who Frankie is yet. She’d only really broken out in her acting career in New Zealand when we found her, but we were all blown away by what she brought to audition, and by the work she’d already done.

Frankie is also coming to the show ready to work. She’ll be spending a month or so with some of the toughest ex-military trainers we could find, getting her into the peak physical condition of a spec ops warrior. By the time she’s done, she won’t be playing Bobbie, she’ll damn well be the gunny.

So, sometimes you get lucky. You imagine a character, and she just shows up. And if that doesn’t get you excited for what we’re planning in season 2, I don’t know what will.

Also, without context, a sneak peak.


Hat tip to Cher Martinetti who broke the news here

Tagged as: , , , ,

55 Responses »

  1. In the photo, she looks way too petite to be Bobby Draper.
    Or I read that wrong in the books.

    • That photo may not do her justice.

    • I don’t know if I’d call a 6 foot tall athlete petite. I get your meaning. However, to find an actress the exact match of Draper’s description would probably be a Jules Verne moonshot.

      Since we’ll have to wait on the tryouts from Mars, I’ll take a 6 foot tall athlete who appears, I assume to be Polynesian in the meanwhile.

  2. Great choice! She’s actually going to tower over Shohreh, who already looks imposing and dominating in every situation. This will be awesome.

  3. Awesome choice of casting?
    Well done to everyone involved.
    But this begs the question, if Bobbie Draper is in S2 what’s going to happen to the second half of LW? I cant wait to see and hear the Eros/Juile Mao/Protomolecule at work. Also flying into Venus.

    • My guess would be one of two options (or a mix of both):
      1) We will see Bobbie sooner in the series then in the books, similar to characters on earth who also appeared first in CW and not in LW.
      2) We may get introduced to Bobbie in the same manner as in the books but this may come very late in the season, possibly as a cliffhanger for the end of season 2…

      So, I can totally see a scenario where we get to meet Bobbie without it interfering with the conclusion of LW… On the other hand there were some changes made to the story so perhaps a more pronounced deviation from the story line in the books is in the cards for this one. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I do however get the feeling the story will be treated better then the adaptation of ASOIAF (which started out great but is going steadily down hill…)

    • Maybe they will wrap up the end of Leviathan in a couple episodes with or without a 2 hour premier. Which leaves at least 8-10 episodes for the second book.

      Who knows.

  4. Certainly not as massive as I remember her…also too much a classical beauty..Bobbie that I imagined didnt have such fine features.

  5. So excited about this casting! I want her to say “this is literally going to be the best part of my day”. My favorite Bobbie line!

  6. That’s awesome news, but…

    Nemesis Games in November?



    My annual ritual of camping over the fourth of July weekend with a copy of the latest Expanse novel is ruined!

    • Nemesis Games is out right now!!! Getting it in the mail tomorrow. You might be thinking about Babylon’s Ashes, which is out in November.

  7. Do you think The Rock would be willing to play her brother? I just retread Gods of Risk, and while he’s a tad meatier than the description, having him play a self-righteous engineer counterpart to her Martian Death Machine would be a cool meta comment on action hero cliches.

  8. I always pictured Gwendoline Christie when reading Bobbie’s lines. IMO…no one could play the role better.

    • You pictured a blonde white woman and heard an English accent when reading Bobbie’s sections of the novels ? Did ya miss the descriptions of her being of Polynesian descent and from Mars, where much of the population has an American South-like drawl ? (they’re letting Frankie Adams keep her Kiwi voice, which means they’re relaxing the Martian accent thing a bit and/or going with the idea that it’s more of a melting pot of ethnicities and sounds like Ceres and the rest of The Belt).

      I saw a TON of comments on the IMDb and elsewhere about people picturing Gwendoline Christie in the role, but I don’t get it — just because she’s tall and strong-looking ? There’re other actresses like that and “Game of Thrones” shouldn’t be our only reference for large, strong women. I’m as perplexed as when folks are surprised that Col. Fred Johnson is black…do a lot of folks just speed-read and skip over details like that ?

      • Yes they do. I often read the descriptions but promptly forget them within a few minutes. Or sometimes the character’s name will remind me of someone else and I’ll see that other person as the character from then on. In the case of Bobbie I immediately pictured Adrianne Palicki (because her character in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is name Bobbie as well, and she’s also tall and buff). Ethnicity etc are a really small part of my enjoyment of a novel or its adaptation, they could cast Tatiana Maslany (or anyone else, I only mention Tatiana as she’s done the multi-role thing already) as all the roles in a show and it would suit me fine. Provided the story is good and the effects are up to par, it’s all good.

    • I pictured her in this role as well. I think its thanks to her role in GoT. She plays a genuine larger than life bad ass. Its easy to imagine her in this role when you’re simply considering the basics. Frankie Adams may fill all the requirements as described in this article, but she doesn’t come across as the towering super solder I expected.

  9. Having seen S1 (of ‘The Expanse”) AND, having read the 1st two ‘Expanse Series’ books [“Leviathan Wakes” and “Caliban’s War”], I can tell you all that the SyFy Network has taken significant “Poetic Licence” with the TV version of the story.

    • Ty and I have been in the writers room and on set since the beginning of the adaptation process. A lot of that poetic license was our suggestion (or at least approval)on how to retell the suamestory in a different medium.

      • It blows my mind how so many people appear to fail to grasp that you simply cannot take exactly the same story, scene for scene, and put it into a different medium. The strictures of novel pacing and onscreen pacing are completely different. Internal monologues and narration have to be conveyed in other ways, and there’ll always be variance in the way chosen from the way the reader saw it in their mind. Complaining about it (if that’s actually what’s happening here) makes about as much sense to me as saying, “The song Mona Lisa sounds *nothing* like the Da Vinci painting of the same name!”

    • Oh don’t be such a baby. I’ve read all the Expanse books and know full well that to realise them would cost over a billion dollars (I have some film making knowledge shall we say). Stop with the negative. This is a great show.

      So get real. Just be glad the authors are writing the scripts, unlike so many book to TV adaptations.

      Can’t wait for series two. Bobby’s casting looks great.

  10. I think it is a good casting, Frankie is a good actor, she will give a great performance. She is very young and femanine in her onscreen role in Shortland Street, but I think she can toughen it up for the character.
    However, I can’t help wondering if the shows casting directors got her and Valerie Adams mixed up (both kiwis). Val, a world and olympic champion shot putter, certainly fits my image of Draper, at an athletic 6ft4. She has the onscreen personallity too.

    my 2c

    • Oh, we know who Valeria Adams is too. Frankie and Val know each other, but we knew which one we were getting. 🙂

      • Frankie is obviously got in a particular kind of shape for shooting the series, it is easy to see, and the prior photo just caught her in different shape. If she wants to talk about playing Shakespeare’s Hotspur in the off season, we’re interested. CCS

    • Now THAT’S Bobbie! Valerie is exactly how I pictured the space marine in the books. Brutal and intimidating but also exotic and being able to arouse the crew of the Roci. To bad they went for the ‘bland’ (don’t get me wrong, Frankie is gordious) photomodel look.

  11. She’s not 6ft tall in reality. I’ve seen her many times at my local supermarket and we are the same height. 5’10 at most.

    • Haven’t put a tape measure to her, but she’s listed at 1.8 m in Wikipedia, and in costume, she looks down at me. (5’11”)

      • “In costume” eh? Tell us more about the screen version of Gunny Draper’s signature costume.

        The end of Nemesis Games had me screaming (internally, I was on the subway). Can’t wait to see what’s coming in the next book!

        I am gone and gone and gone.

    • How is she in reality? Can you tell us something about her personality? Is she a friendly person? It would be nice to know how she is outside shooting scenes 🙂

  12. If you do not already have a special effects guy for her armor, look up a guy in LA named Dragon Dronet (Renegade Studios). (Even if you do, still look him up.) He is a long-time SF fan and special effects guy. You have seen his work over the last 30 years. Fantastic costumes, armor, and weapons.

    I’m a friend of his, otherwise have no financial relationship.

    And .. I think the Rock would be a great cameo as a Space Marine….

  13. Valerie Adams definitely fits the bill for the Bobbie Draper described in the books physically, but one of the challenges in casting for television and movies is whether or not the performer can act. Not everyone can.

  14. I noticed nobody has commented on the “sneak peak” picture…my guess is that it’s Bobbie’s nameplate from her power armor…? Given the awesome quality of this show so far I can’t wait to see how they pull off that armor 🙂
    I also was kind of picturing somebody a little larger for the role of Bobbie Draper, but again I have to go back to mentioning the awesome quality so far and I ‘d have to say you guys seem like you know what you’re doing. Given that, I’m sure Ms. Adams will be just fine 🙂

  15. Thinking about how disappointed I was when first hearing Dominique Tipper was Nagata, and subsequently how absolutely wrong I was when she completely hit the role out the park, I’m thinking we should be in for a treat with Frankie Adams; considering she has the writer’s blessing and all. Valerie would have been a great (perfect?) choice physically, but seeing as how tall, homely and frail Sara Mitich seemed as the Belter Gia, with camera magic and the planned training/gym visits, Frankie should fit the role.

  16. Loving the show guys. And great casting all round so far. Bobbie is hands down the coolest character in the series, so I’m glad you’ve been thorough with your auditions. Can’t wait to see Frankie rocking that power Armour – Go kiwi!

  17. Does anyone here happen to know anything about syndication in germany ? I looked all over the internet and the website of syfy.DE but i didnt find anything about it. I dont want to write to ask them, because then ill get spam about things that dont interest me, but i really want to know if and when they show this ridiculously cool new scifi-show in germany because i enthusiastically told all my german friends about it, after i saw it at another friends home.

    • The negotiations for exactly how this is going to roll out are still going on, but there was some weirdness I don’t understand that pushed it from being simultaneous. I’m pretty sure we’ll be getting news about this fairly soon.

      • Thanks for the answer ! I wasnt even sure ill get one, so this is much appreciated. Havent heard anything new yet though, except the comic con stuff, i saw the panel, the trailer for season 2 and that teaser scene. I cant wait.

  18. I wouldn’t second guess your choice of casting without seeing this actress playing the part, and if she does a good job, then good for her. But to tell you the truth, I agree with the poster above who suggested that when they read the books, they picture Gwendoline Christie from Game of Thrones as Bobbie Draper. Not ethnically of course, since that actress is not Polynesian/Samoan, but physically. I have to admit have thought the same as I read. An actress as tall and physically imposing would have fit the descriptions in the book better. But I will give Frankie Adams a chance. Maybe they can make her seem bigger with CGI, the way they made all the actors who played Hobbits in LOTR seem smaller. Movies is Magic!!

  19. I understand that in TV everyone needs to be pretty .. but .. in my mind Bobby is a real brute .. not easy on the eyes .. but one grows to like and even love her non the less.

    I have similar problems with miller in the TV series. I understand this is just how TV works, but i’m trying to hold on to the characters that grew in me, and skip the TV series until there are no more books comming 🙂 BTW .. keep’em comming please!

    • If you reread the books, the text doesn’t support your impression. 🙂

      We will keep the books coming for a few more years at least. The series will end at book 9.

    • When I read the books now, I see the characters exactly as they are cast in the series. Alex, Chrisjen, Amos and Miller are perfect casting, Naomi and James not quite as much, but pretty good. I had only read the first book when I saw the series, and now just finished Nemesis Games. And when I saw the show, after having read only the first book, I thought Thomas Jane was the perfect choice to play Miller.

      • Thomas Jane is great as Miller, but although I did see the show first before reading the books, I’m still seeing Miller as a little bit older and more grizzled, maybe something like a space-going version of Wallander.

  20. Sneak *peek* , ABRAHAM. SNEAK PEEK.

  21. Just started Babylon’s Ashes. So far, so good!!

  22. She is so beautiful 🙂