Comic-Con: Q&A with Dominion
The Geekiary has become partial to SyFy’s newest hit show, Dominion, and our admin Angel K was honored to be invited into the press room for the show’s inaugural (but hopefully not last!) appearance at San Diego Comic Con. The Dominion cast were articulate, passionate about the show, and spoke highly of the experience. Each member of the cast seems to have has connected with their respective characters, digging into and at times defending their character motivations, and offering their personal approaches to their roles.
Explaining the premise for the show, creator Vaun Wilmott looks at how the characters shaped the landscape, and his rationale behind the changes between the post-apocalyptic world of Dominion and our own, in only 25 years:
There’s been a lot of movements in history, if you look at communism in Russia or in China, or some of the other ideological movements that kind of sweep over a country and really alter a culture within a decade, sometimes shorter. So I always felt it was logical and possible that an event as great and apocalyptic as an extermination war, where we were literally almost completely wiped out could allow for really any ideology to grow, really driven by these really kind of charismatic leaders, like Evelyn in Helena, or Riesen in Vega. Really Vega is the way it is because of General Riesen. He was a historian of ancient Rome, he loved everything Roman from Julius Caesar to the government, military, everything, so he really shaped that society in that image. And so, I know it seems like a short amount of time, but if you look throughout history there are examples of these fast kind of movements that overtake culture and society. So that’s kind of where that came from, these charismatic leaders.
The focus on the characters was apparent in the panel room, and each cast member discussed how their character plays a part in the greater tapestry of Dominion’s ongoing story. When asked about taking on the part of ‘Chosen One’ Alex Lannon, actor Chris Egan explains that what drew him to the character wasn’t his messiah-like role, but the character’s rejection of it.
Alex isn’t into it. I like that he’s anti-hero in the sense that. . . and I wanted to play around with from the beginning. . . that it’s a real guy, who actually doesn’t like it. He’s against the system, wants out of Vega. I didn’t want him to be a hero straight away like, bam . . . He fails. He has issues with his life, and he has father issues, and abandonment issues. Things you can read on his face and in his voice and who he is.
For me, this has been a fantastic character, because I knew from the beginning. . . see, I read all the episodes, so I knew the arc. And I didn’t want to go in all guns blazing and just be ‘right, I am strong, I am woman, and I am hard, and I am this, and I am that, and I am smart, and I am educated.’ I wanted people to understand that women, men, we’re all multifaceted, and Claire is strong and she’s vulnerable. And I don’t think there’s anything weak in showing vulnerability. In fact, the thing I like about Claire is that she was really innocent to begin with, and then these great troubles manifested themselves and she had to deal with them head-on. And because she’s so educated, and because she’s a tough cookie, she dealt with them, I think, in a fantastic way and everything’s been really challenging for her. I think the audience will identify with her and certainly females will identify with her, because she isn’t afraid to be whatever she is in that moment.
Tom Wisdom spoke similarly highly of his own character, touching on how he feels Michael’s motivations have shifted since the series began.
I think before the series started he was stable, he had a very definite plan and knew exactly what he had to do. It’s all about Alex. That’s all that was on his mind, was training him up, keeping an eye on him, and once the tattoos have passed over to him it suddenly changes everything because he’s a difficult little . . . He’s not playing to Michael’s tune! So it’s become very difficult to him. And he doesn’t understand human emotion very well. He gets excited by it, and he’s very interested in it, I think, and would love to feel like they do.
Anthony Stewart Head seemed amused that all people want to talk about with his portrayal of Senator David Whele is his American accent. “I mean, yes you could have an Englishman in Las Vegas, but what would be the point? It’s Las Vegas!” The complex role of the Televangelist turned founding father of Vega required research to really get into the role, and he turned to real life examples for inspiration.
To be honest, I actually was researching politicians. Because in the pilot, when I was doing my work, I had a look at a few of different denominations, not just Republicans! [Laughs] Well it has to be said that politicians when they get busy can be quite scary! And some of my stuff was actually Clinton getting antsy with some questions he didn’t like. And it was fascinating to watch the beast that I think probably lies in most politicians. They probably start out wanting to do good, but somewhere along the line the furtherance of their political career becomes maybe the most important thing for them. But, I mean, I looked at Rumsfeld, and I looked at a few people.
For Alan Dale, who has played a number of political statesman roles in the past, he like Head seems to draw on real life examples in order to overcome how very different the role of General Riesen is from his real life.
It’s interesting, really, because I am so not like the characters I play, personally. I’m a pinko left-wing actor, you know, dopey drip, help the poor, look out for the dogs. . . and yet that’s not like the character I play. So it’s always quite fun. So I tend to draw on people that I’ve known over the years who are like these characters. So that’s where I get it from. I do worry sometimes that they’re all similar characters, but each time I start I start out with a fresh, blank page and I just do it. I haven’t had many people pick out the fact that they’re all rather the same, which is surprising because they all look very similar. [Laughs] And at the same time, the characters are. . . they’re bad guys. But I love playing bad guys. And this guy, he’s coming out looking a bit good, so I’m having chats about that.
The political aspect of Dominion has come to change even Claire, and Roxanne explains how we begin to see a transformation in the role as she’s pulled into the intrigues of Vega.
[Claire] becomes a huge political animal by the end, to the point where you wonder if she’s good anymore. But what’s interesting for me is, I think, is that’s when you realize humans are flawed. Before the end of this series, you assume that Claire’s the only good person in it. You know, Michael’s flawed, we look into his history. Gabriel is flawed, everyone else has done evil things. General Riesen is power hungry, David Whele is a killer, William is plagued by the demons of insecurity and therefore aligns himself with evil angels. You assume Claire is the only good person in Vega. . . and then towards the end, when she’s manipulating David Whele you start to wonder: is she good? Is she evil? Well, that’s a question for humanity. Are any of us good? Are any of us evil? Or are we all just flawed and we’re just facing situations as they come, as they arise?
So with it made very clear that Dominion is a character-driven drama as much as it is a scifi epic, what characters drew Vaun into the world of Legion, and into developing Dominion for TV?
For me, watching Legion, the kernel. . . the seed for the show is really these two archangels and the baby. Like, as soon as I watched the movie, that was it, right? So I just launched 25 years in the future, what would that baby be doing? What would the archangels be doing? What would be going on? That’s kind of what it all grew out of, but in terms of Michael, I saw him very differently in terms of his past, what he’d experienced, his role as an archangel. Also, Tom brings a whole different vibe, and it’s just such a good vibe, it’s such a special thing he’s got that we wrote to it, and it grew from there. […] It’s just his voice, and the way he delivers those lines; when I saw his audition tape, I literally was like “That’s the guy.” Instantly.
What am I drawing on? I’m not sure! I mean, you take your lead from the script and discussions we had before it started. I guess when I read the script, I had quite a clear idea of what I wanted to do with him. And luckily Scott and Vaun had the same idea, that they really didn’t want him to have too much emotion, that there’s a stillness about him, a kind of intensity. But also to be able to show the cracks in that, too, on occasions. And they’ll get more and more as it goes on. If it goes on!
That hope that Dominion would be able to continue its run into subsequent seasons was echoed by all the cast. Dominion has found it’s feet, and the cast and crew seem pleased with how it’s all coming together now on-screen. Alan spoke of the vast difference between the incomplete work and the finished product.
I’m actually really surprised at how good it is. When we did it, we had no idea how it would all fit. All we’re doing is the acting, you know, and we try to imagine it. Then they said ‘come on in and see the first episode!’ So we went to see it, and every time a special effect came up, they had a little thing on the screen saying ‘oh, and his wings come out.’ My father used to say ‘fools and little children should never see a job half-done.’ And I said to them, the producers, ‘consider me a fool.’ I shouldn’t be shown [a work-in progress]. I want to see the thing complete, and now that it’s complete it’s great, it’s really quite good.
As for what we can expect to see in the upcoming episodes of Season 1, Roxanne discusses how we can expect Claire’s past role as a teacher and woman of faith to help the understanding of Alex’s role as the Chosen One, and advance Claire’s own bid for power:
What is a teacher, for you? For me, it’s someone who’s imparting knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom are the greatest power that anyone can have. So, if you look at it that way, she is a very powerful person and she has all the literature at her fingertips. She knows everything about the Chosen One, and the spirituality of Vega, and the religion of that time. She knows better than Alex knows. So in that respect, she has a lot of power at her fingertips. It’s very unwise to assume that someone who’s quiet, and someone who’s gentle, and somebody who’s rational and calm, is not powerful and fierce. In fact, I think they’re the strongest people. The people who can hold it in, and assess situations, and be sensitive to everyone around them. I think they’re the strongest people.
Alan posed questions for General Riesen in the wake of the last episode as well, and discussed Claire as a growing political threat to her father:
Guys like this, they’re power hungry and nothing gets in their way. Even their children, who are usually the last resort, you know, but in the end they love their power. So, what happened in that instance is that [Clementine] stepped over the line and started endangering the city, and he loves his power, and so he had to do that. But I don’t think he’s happy. But now what’s he going to do? […] There’s no question that she is [a threat], but he loves her, and he’s also pretty smart.
Chris would like the chance to see Alex come into his own, but he doesn’t want him to settle into his role too quickly:
There’s a warrior, I guess, that sort of has to fight its way out of [Alex]. And that’s the journey I wanted as an actor to take with him, to the season finale, where I think he comes to that acceptance. And I don’t know if he even really comes to acceptance even in the season finale. I would like to see a struggle with him, to sort of figure out who he is.
As a fandom news source, The Geekiary was interested in the remarkable interaction between Dominion and its burgeoning fandom, and how it feels for the actors to see the groundswell of fandom engagement. When we asked if Tom was prepared for if this became a high-profile role in an active fandom, he laughed.
I guess I’m not! I don’t know what that means, really. It has kind of taken off in the last couple of weeks. It’s been crazy. But as long as people like the show and enjoy the character, it’s all good by me. I mean, that’s why we do it. We do it for the fans, because people enjoy it.
He goes on to discuss how it feels to see the response from the fans:
Really good! Unusual, because normally you only get feedback in theater or something much more immediate, where to live-tweet to the TV every episode and find the responses and how people are feeling about the characters and the storylines, it’s been brilliant. It’s great, we’ve loved it.
Chris, for his part, discussed being a genre fan himself, eventually leading the conversation into science fiction movies he enjoyed: he seems to be a fan of Tom Cruise’s scifi roles like Edge of Tomorrow and Oblivion, and was excited to discuss it. That sort of enthusiasm is relatable for many of us, and unsurprising after he put up a video of him at age 11, doing his best Captain Kirk impersonation.
I am a science fiction fan, but I kind of believe that things. . . but I don’t understand why you just get attracted to certain things. So it’s just certain things you read that just give you those goosebumps. [For him it is] a lot of science fiction. Like, Alien was one of the movies that made me get so excited about film, and getting into being an actor.
As a Buffy alum, Anthony Stewart Head has a wealth of genre fandom experience, but never quite like this. The advent of Twitter and social media has lowered the wall between a show’s cast and creators and it’s fans.
It used to just be at fan conventions, and in Buffy we used to have Bronze parties every other year, or maybe every year, and that’s when we’d meet the fans and go wow! There’s a lot of fans, and people who took our show to heart. Now you’re getting there instantly, and live tweeting last night was. . . I’ve live tweeted, and it’s obviously easier here because it’s not 3 o’clock in the morning and I’m not in my kitchen, on my own. It’s much more fun with everyone else in the room, and getting the buzz, and sharing tweets, and the pictures, and it’s great. There’s a lot of love, is all I can say. Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be too many trolls [Laughs] …but having said that they’ll appear. But it’s largely, our world is inhabited by people who are very complimentary, and who get swept away in the storylines and watching live reaction, when we’re all going [gasps] and you’re all going “Wow!” It’s great. And it’s nice to feel that you’re sharing that with the fandom. And it’s a really strong fanbase already. It’s brilliant. It’s great.
Can that groundswell in fandom and viewers help cinch a season two for the fledgling show? We truly hope so.
Author: Exorcising Emily
Emily is one of the first contributors to the Geekiary and helped set the standard for convention Twitter coverage for conventions. She’s been involved with fandom all of her life, especially active in the Firefly, Veronica Mars, and Supernatural fandoms. She’s known for her excitement over tea and the planet Pluto, as well as her activism towards fan led charity events and anti-bullying initiatives.
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