After six pulse-pounding and emotional seasons, the Rocinante and its crew’s harrowing journey across the stars—and through ring gates—is coming to an end.
We chatted with series stars Steven Strait and Dominique Tipper about what it was like to bring The Expanse to a close after it was canceled and saved, how the absence of one crew member and the addition of another will affect the dynamic on the Roci, and what their biggest hopes were for their characters in the final episodes.
So, you’ve had quite a journey on The Expanse, starting on Syfy, being saved by Amazon, filming during the pandemic… With all that in mind, what was it like going into Season 6 and knowing that it was the last one?
Strait: Bittersweet. On one hand, incredibly grateful that we were able to finish the story. It was always the dream, from the beginning, to be able to close it out on our own terms and have a complete beginning, middle and end, especially with something that we were all so passionate about, all these years. On the other, part of me just wants to keep working on it forever!
Tipper: I think we just love each other, all, so much. And we enjoyed working together and creating together. There is this thing of, we’re not only leaving the show and these characters, but the team.
Tipper: We’ve had such a joy, even through the hard times, shooting this show. But I do think there’s something to be said for being able to finish something as an actor, to finish an arc. Not many people get to do that. When we were canceled by Syfy, [we had] that feeling of, “This is so unfinished, there’s still so much left to do,” and then the joy of being able to finish off the arc—I know we’ve still got books left and stuff, but it does feel more final in a good way, on this occasion, then when we got canceled before! So, I think we’re quite lucky to be able to finish out our characters’ arcs in this nature and with such a beautiful final season.
Strait: We’re really grateful. I think, too, to what Dom was saying: We were always able to tell a very meticulously plotted story because the end was always a very specific place we were aiming at. I don’t think it’s possible to have a very concise, well-structured story unless you know where you’re going to end. It’s that Catch-22 of it, right? On one hand, we all got so close, and we’ve said that it’s always felt more like a theater company than a TV show. In that way, on the personal front, it’s a little sad. But on the creative front, I’m grateful we got to complete our story. It was what we always wanted.
What can you say about the new crew dynamics on the Roci this season? Holden and Naomi lost Alex (Cas Anvar), and whether they like it or not, they gained Clarissa (Nadine Nicole). How will that affect things in Season 6?
Tipper: Oh, God. [Laughs] I mean, we find Naomi with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s reeling from the part she played in Alex’s death. She cannot find any consolation with that. And then we’ve got this person who not only tried to kill everyone, but who also pales in comparison, to her, as a replacement for Alex. She’s furious with Amos for bringing her on the ship. To add to that, they’re going around killing Belters in the name of this war, and again, there’s this challenge of whose side they’re on. Things are really fraught. Everyone is so exhausted from this war. They’re exhausted morally, they’re exhausted physically, and I think we’re just trying to get on with it. But it is literally punching holes in all of us, in different ways, and I think Clarissa is salt in the wound for Naomi. But I also think, for Holden, too.
Strait: Yeah. Everyone’s at the end of their rope, this year, at least when we first meet them. Having Clarissa be on the ship is difficult for Holden, no doubt. He trusts Amos and it’s a show of respect for him and that relationship that’s developed all these years, that he’s okay with trusting his judgment about that. But I think for Holden, he’s so preoccupied with the larger problems going on, and he’s so tired, that he’s just trying to hold it together. He’s just trying to hold the crew together—
Tipper: As always! [Laughs]
Strait: [Laughs] Yeah, I mean! [Holden wants] to complete what we wanted to do before we tear each other apart. And [Clarissa]’s presence certainly is not helpful, in that!
What was your biggest hope for your characters in these last six episodes? Was there material from the books you hoped would make it in, or things from previous seasons you hoped would come up again?
Tipper: I really wanted to play with Amos (Wes Chatham) and Naomi’s dynamic. They were so close at one point, and that kind of got torn apart by what they were doing, the choices they made. Going into this season, we have some scenes together that I think wrap up our relationship in a really lovely way. That’s something I really wanted to address in this season. And [also] just, what does the aftermath of something like Season 5 look like for Naomi? What effect does it have on her, the way she’s going forward in life, the relationships she has, how she conducts her affairs with the universe at large? But we for sure address that, and I think it’s beautiful. I think we got what I wanted to address with her.
Strait: I’ve always had this overarching goal in playing Holden all these years, to show a realistic evolution of a leader. Someone who was not prepared for what he was thrown into, except for his ethics and his moral core. Just trying hard to step up to the plate whenever he is presented with a challenge, and often failing, and learning from it, and showing that messy process of how someone grows into a place where he can hold the responsibility he is given. This season was a very gratifying completion, for me as an actor playing him. I think it culminates with a very mature moment of leadership for Holden, and it really completes that arc from the beginning on the Cant, where he’s constantly rejecting responsibility and making those choices out of a sense of irresponsibility and naivete. Being able to show his growth justified every step of the way, for all these years, is something I’m incredibly grateful for. I know it’s rare to have the time and the writing, frankly, to be able to do that. So, I’m very grateful.
The Expanse Season 6, Premieres Friday, December 10, Amazon Studios