It’s evident from our brief conversation that Steven Strait is completely dialed in to the universe of The Expanse. The acclaimed series, based on the novels by James S.A. Corey (the pseudonym of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), has garnered a devoted audience that spans the globe. During the interview Strait discussed the creative joy he has received from playing the principled and focused leader Jim Holden.
Much of your body of work has been in cinema. That said, have you seen an advantage in working on The Expanse as far as long term storytelling goes?
Absolutely. There’s no question about it. I think many actors have become deeply aware at just how gratifying long term storytelling can be. The depth in a character’s arc and to have things be truly earned over the course of years is such an incredible opportunity to delve into colors and motivations and story arcs and all kinds of tones that you wouldn’t have otherwise with (film) – it just doesn’t have the time frame for it.
So yes, for me having a character like Holden be so earned over the course of 5 years and to be able to really plot a very methodical course to show this evolution of a leader from a very naive young man to someone who really does have his feet firmly on the ground in this almost prophet like sense – to be able to portray that in an earned way over time has been extraordinary.
It’s hard to put into words, but this is my cousin’s favorite show (he lives in the Philippines) and The Expanse is such a universally loved show. What does it mean to have that kind of feedback on the program?
That’s amazing to hear just off bat, but yes. I think the greatest feeling that an actor can have is to see the kind of passion one has for a project reflected back at you from the fans. And our fandom is uniquely passionate. We really do owe the survival of our show to them.
For us who have always appreciated the power of the narrative that we have been making, to see it really translate out there on a worldwide basis is . . . I think the themes of this show really appeals universally. We have a real narrative that interweaves socio-political science fiction and adventurism and drama into a plot that really (explores) issues that take precedent today. It makes the work feel incredibly important. To be able to see that others out there feel that way has been the greatest joy of my career.
Do you have the time to read the books for The Expanse with your hectic production schedule? I have just started watching the show myself, and wondering if I should read the books as well.
I would encourage you to. I was a fan of the books before we started shooting the series actually. One of the things that I always appreciated about the novels was just how meticulously well plotted they are. There is literally nothing superfluous within the show or within the novels. Everything means something.
Even if it doesn’t translate into novels later or seasons later – again we have the incredible luxury of having the authors of the books in our writer’s room which is incredibly unusual. Who better to guide an adaptation of the original projects themselves? To me, as a fan of the books, that has been such an incredible security and collaborative effort that we have had with them. To have (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) available there all the time as this kind of encyclopedia of this world as they work with everyone involved to adapt this thing to a very different medium has been amazing.
On a singular level, what has it been like to work with Thomas Jane on The Expanse? Considering Joe Miller’s bond with Holden, it must be a very enriching collaboration for you.
Absolutely. I have loved working with Thomas Jane all of these years. Not only is he a phenomenal actor, but he’s also a great guy. As a fan of the books the relationship Holden has with Miller and subsequently proto Miller was one of the things I was looking most forward to being able to portray.
Especially in the last season and in this one (season 4) to really play with the progression of Holden’s relationship with the proto Miller and what that does to Holden has been so interesting because it is such a unique kind of relationship that is built on so many nebulous foundations.
Holden doesn’t really know if it is the consciousness of Joe Miller or whether it’s the proto molecule projecting something that’s comfortable with Holden to interact with. He doesn’t know a lot but what he does know is that every time he has trusted this character it has come out well for him. In the beginning of season four that begins to change and he really doesn’t why.
To have a relationship like this which is so tricky to navigate, to be able to do that with someone who is as talented as Tom Jane is incredibly fortunate for me. We’ve had such a blast on working on this arc between these two men. It’s been great.
With season four, do you see The Expanse even going to further horizons?
Yes I do. I think one of the things that The Expanse has always done very well in terms of storytelling is that every season it manages to get more massive scope in scope yet more intimate. I think that continues to be true in season four. The (overall) structure of the story gets larger but we end up getting to know a lot more about the individuals that make up the story in a very intimate way.
And with the support of Amazon, we’re in this incredible place where we have a parent company really understands the passion that everyone involved in making this has (and) why the story is important because they feel (the same way as well).
To be able to have that kind of support has been incredible. We have obviously the reach of Amazon being in all of these different countries but just by simply being on this streaming service, so many of the restrictions that we had previously simply don’t apply anymore. We can kind of say and show whatever we want to that necessitates the story going forward without any restrictions. So in every way, us finding ourselves on this platform has been liberating.
Steven can you name one of your favorite films and what is it about this specific film that stands out for you?
There is so many of them. One that resonates with me and I recently saw it because it was playing here in Toronto is Blade Runner. It’s remarkable how well it holds up as a film. But also in speaking to the tone of how they were able to portray the future, and the subtleties in which they show those values and struggles, to me, still really resonates in a very deep way today.
****Season Four of The Expanse debuts December 13 on Prime Video.