French actress Florence Faivre has perhaps the most difficult job of any of her Expanse castmates. When it comes to discussing one of Syfy’s most highly-anticipated series in years, Faivre can’t say too much about her role in it.
That’s because Faivre is playing Juliette Andromeda Mao, a character no one (especially the series’ viewership) knows a ton about. That includes the private police detective paid to locate her whereabouts and the crew of an old ice-hauler who might have stumbled upon her ship.
Syfy’s new dark, complex space drama — executive produced by Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby, the writing duo behind Children of Men and Iron Man — centers on human civilization 200 years into the future. Earth has tackled many of its biggest issues, including poverty, overpopulation, and pollution, by doing what it does best: expansion and outsourcing.
Now people live in a fully-colonized solar system, with entire societies on Mars and the Moon. Most of the material work that sustains each of these planets comes from the Asteroid Belt, where people known as Belters toil away day-by-day, the low gravity of the environment warping their bodies’ natural human development.
As tension brews between the planets over responsibility for and access to everything from food to gravity, Mao’s fate becomes entwined with rough-around-the-edges Detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane), Captain James Holden (Steven Strait) and several other crew members from the ice-hauling Canterbury.
Faivre plays The Expanse’s rich, pretty and very missing Juliette Mao. While on the surface Mao may appear to be an unappreciative runaway, the series will slowly uncover her role in a deep conspiracy that could make her the most important woman in the galaxy.
When we first meet Mao in the pilot, she is trapped in a cage-like room aboard a large ship, alone in the vast and creeping darkness. Unfortunately, as the episode goes on, things don’t get much better for her in zero-gravity space.
Faivre’s scenes in the pilot were very physical and required quite a bit of interaction with a world (and atmosphere) that isn’t real. So what was it like for Faivre to work on sets and deal with objects — even space — that wasn’t always tangible?
“The scope, the magnitude, it over-exceeded my expectations,” Faivre said. “You know, we were so blessed and so fortunate to have been able to work in such immense and so intricately, beautifully built sets that… just put us in those environments.”
For Faivre, working without things like a green screen or props that only function as a result of post-production magic makes the actual job of acting within the world and with her castmates that much easier.
“It takes away from a lot of the guessing and more of the really annoying conditions that the characters are supposed to be [interacting in]. It helps out a lot just being able to work on those sets, not even realizing the amount of computer effects, graphic effects that were put in.”
Prior to Faivre’s character being both stuck and alone in the middle of space, Julie had a rather comfortable life — an unexpected backstory for someone in her present position.
“Julie Mao comes from a very wealthy, one of the wealthiest, most powerful families in the galaxy. The Mao-Kwikowski mercantile family. She ends up leaving her life of wealth and comforts. She turns rogue,” Faivre teased. “She ends up joining a group of activists — the OPA, which is the Outer Planets Alliance to fight for the betterment of the people and for equal justice. Eventually she ends up [gathering] a crew and she sets out on a journey to discover something on a ship that ends up threatening the fate of humanity.”
So how does her desire for solar justice land Mao in a cold, broken down ship? It’s apparently not just her ideology, but her fighting spirit.
“She will fight to the death for what she truly, passionately believes in,” Faivre explained. “She’s a fighter, she’s an adrenaline junkie, she’s headstrong, stubborn, will do just about anything she sets her mind to, even if it’s going to put her behind bars.”
“She gets locked up,” Faivre reveals about Mao’s past. “She just doesn’t really care that she’s shaming the family name. She knows that she’s doing that for the right reasons and for the right causes, and she’s ready to go out there and do what she needs to.”
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.