Cas Anvar Talks THE EXPANSE: “Planetism” and the Future’s Familiar Failings
Cas Anvar’s sleek style and handsome face might not save him from the dark abyss of Syfy’s science fiction epic The Expanse, but at least he’ll look good making his way through the dangerous and decaying world of colonized space.
Anvar, who has done work on everything from Olympus to Halo 4, is known for delivering head-turning performances. You can catch him in his newest (and most out of this world) role when the series premieres Monday, Dec. 14.
The Expanse’s first season, based on James S.A. Corey’s international best selling novel Leviathan Wakes, explores post-earth-dependent civilization 200 years after we’ve colonized space. The premise centers on a missing girl, a burnt-out detective and the crew of an ice hauler who become inextricably linked amid a brewing civil war between Earth and Mars.
Anvar stars as Alex Kamal, pilot for that aforementioned hauler, known as the Canterbury. Born on Mars, Kamal enlisted in the Martian Congressional Republic Navy to get away from the seemingly no-where future he saw in his planet’s terraforming efforts. Upon ending his tour, Alex joins the ice-hauler’s crew as a pilot, where he assists with supplying the Asteroid Belt’s residents with water — and himself with a sense of adventure.
That ‘sense’ will be challenged in an unimaginable way after Kamal, along with three other Canterbury crew, embark on a mission to uncover the origins of a distress call on an abandoned ship.
ScreenSpy had the chance to speak with Cas Anvar about the greatly-anticipated small screen adaptation. During our sit down, the actor shared what it was like working in the vast world of The Expanse, “planetism” and what role his character plays within the “Canterbury Four.”
The size of this show’s universe is unreal, which makes the size of its cast all the more interesting. One of the most prominent storylines focuses on that crew of four grappling with the vastness of space — a place that can make you feel utterly alone, even when you aren’t.
The show will take an intimate approach to developing its characters while simultaneously building a rather immense universe in which they take root. Without question, The Expanse’s scope seems like a lot for viewers to grab on to. Anvar confessed that, for him, it was part of the show’s allure.
“One thing about The Expanse that I loved when I first read it was just the complex layered nature of the story and the scripts that were written,” Anvar said. “It’s totally written based on the world as we know it right now. It’s not a Utopian society at all. Much of the science fiction you’re faced with is basically, ‘Ok, Earth has gotten over all these problems and now we’re facing huge consequences and huge challenges out in space, but we’ve kind of built a perfect Earth.’ This is not a perfect Earth.”
The actor attributes future-earth failings to one of the series’ main themes: human nature. While certain parts of Earth’s expanding territories will know no poverty or sickness, others will support societies that unfortunately resemble these familiar ‘human failings,’ according to Envar.
So how do these problems manifest in outer space? The Expanse actor teased that it’s largely the reinstatement of class systems, or socioeconomic parsing, which have plagued Earth since the beginning of civilization.
“It’s kind of a nice analogy for the world that we live in right now,” Anvar said. “You have Earth that is trying to maintain control. You have the Moon which has become the elite. Then you have Mars, which has become kind of a militarized force. It’s the most advanced technology, and [they have] a unified vision. You’ve got 25 million people on planet Mars that are all focused on terraforming that planet. And then you have the Belters, who are working their asses off trying to provide the resources for the rest of the solar system. So they become the working class. They become the abused, they become the oppressed, they become the exploited.”
The working class has a back-breaking and sometimes bloody history in the United States. Limited access to finances could determine anything from the type of food (or lack thereof) you brought home to the quality of air you breathed. Your life span was the result of the life you labored for.
According to Anvar, the Belters’ lives are not much different.
“Literally, you look at the Belters [and] they’re physically starting to change because they live in a zero-gravity environment,” Anvar said. “They’re always in space suits. They don’t get a lot of sunshine, so they become kind of like the undernourished part of our population. And then you have the people who are on Earth, full gravity, strong, and healthy.”
It’s easy to see how that kind of disparity would generate tensions, much like the ones we have in present day. Anvar points out that while the problems are similar, the root of the problem isn’t necessarily the same in outer space.
“It is definitely ‘planetism’ that is taking place here,” Anvar explained. “We’ve kind of done away with racism because by the time we get three hundred years from now we’re all gonna be looking caramel. Now it’s all about classes, and it’s about what kind of gravity you grew up in: who had gravity, who didn’t have gravity.”
So where does Anvar’s character Alex Kamal fall in this morally hefty and physically demanding universe?
“My character Alex Kamal [is] the fighter pilot of the ship that Steven [Strait], who plays Holden, is the captain of,” Anvar said. “Alex is kind of the observer of the group. He’s a little bit older, he’s a little bit wiser, he has a little bit more life experience than the rest of the gang. They’re a lot more volatile, experiencing a lot of these things for the first time.”
Anvar notes that his character’s wisdom — and perhaps his past — put him in more of a caretaker role. For Kamal, in the black abyss of space, losing your mind is about as bad as losing the family you’ve built with your crew.
“He’s kind of the caretaker of the group. He’s the one who holds the family together when it’s threatening to bust open at the seams, when they’re threatening to kill each other, when they’re threatening to break up,” Anvar shared. “It’s incredibly important for him to just hold this family unit together because [they’re] all [they] have. Everything [they] know has been lost. And if he loses this family, he loses everything.”
The Expanse initially premieres over two nights on Monday December 14 and Tuesday December 15 at 10/9c on Syfy. The series will then regularly air on Tuesdays at 10/9c for the remainder of its 10 hour first season.