‘Defiance’ Creates a New World — an Earth and Alien Mashup

by | April 8, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Defiance, Interviews

"Defiance": Tony Curran as Datak Tarr, Jaime Murray as Stahma Tarr, Julie Benz as Amanda Rosewater, Mia Kirshner as Kenya Rosewater, Grant Bowler as Joshua Nolan, and Stephanie Leonidas as Irisa Nyira (Photo by: Joe Pugliese/Syfy)

Defiance” is a first: It is both a TV series and a videogame set in the same world with characters moving between the two. The game launched on Tuesday, April 2, and the TV show will premiere on Monday, April 15 on Syfy.

Starring Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Stephanie Leonidas, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Graham Greene and Mia Kirshner, “Defiance” is set on a radically transformed planet Earth in the not-too-distant future, but far enough to allow for there having been a prolonged war between humans and seven unique alien races, known collectively as Voltans. Before Earth became completely uninhabitable, an uneasy peace was declared by all parties, who are now trying to cohabit in the boomtown named Defiance.

XfinityTV.com spoke to executive producer and showrunner Kevin Murphy, and Trion’s Vice President of Development, Nathan Richardson, from the company behind the development of the videogame, to get the inside scoop on the behind-the-scenes work that went into creating this new world.

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How the different designs for the races came about: When the look for each of the alien races was being created, Trion submitted several ideas, but because this is also a TV series, the producers knew that there were only a few races that could be CGI because of the limits of the budget and the limits of technology in terms of acting. But they were also aware that that how the Voltans look in the series affects how they look in the game — so the production company and the game company had to work closely together to develop a look that could satisfy the requirements for both the TV series and the game.

Watch the First 14 Minutes of “Defiance”:

“We knew that we were going to have to use flesh and blood actors,” Murphy says. “So we really had to look at, ‘What can we do that’s cost-effective?’ Some of the decisions about how the aliens look, like for the Irathients, we decided that we would do mostly with makeup and we would use a forehead prosthetic.

“The Castithans, we decided we would settle with contact lenses. And we did a lot of experimentation with makeup to make them glow, but they don’t actually have any latex. The Sensoth and the Liberata are very expensive suits, so we see fewer of those aliens.

“And the Indogenes are also very expensive because they’re an entire latex head. But we really had to look at, ‘How do we make it not look like rubber suits?’ We looked at the way that we were painting the latex to make sure that it didn’t shine under stage lights. And all of this had to get sort of reverse engineered into the look of the game.

“On the other hand, we appropriated the Volge from the video game for the pilot. And they appear in a couple of other episodes. But what we discovered is, when you put them in a photo-realistic environment with actual flesh and blood actors, they looked a little too Buck Rogers, they didn’t look grounded. So Gary Hutzel, our visual effects supervisor, did some tweaks to the design and then ran it back to the folks at Trion. And happily, the folks at Trion really loved what Gary did and so they incorporated those changes into the design of the game.”

Watch: The Making of “Defiance”: Game Meets Show:

Original language had to be created for the Voltans: David Peterson, who created the Dothraki language on “Game of Thrones,” was brought in as both “Defiance”‘s language creator and cultural consultant. He was asked to create a spoken version of Irathient, as well as a written version; a spoken version of Castithan and Indogene; and he is working on Liberatach. At last count, there are 1,962 Irathient words with more to come.

In addition to creating words, Peterson has developed rules for grammar, syntax, and verbs, including irregular verbs; there’s a 150-page, orthographic document that he’s created. And while doing that, he also developed ideas for what the alien cultures were like and who they were on their home world.

“Every now and then when he was creating the Irathient language, I would get this weird phone call from David and he’d go, ‘Is it okay if the Irathient home world sky was kind of red?,’” Murphy recalls. To which he responded, “Okay David, sure.” And Peterson answered, “Great, that’s going to make everything work.”

“I had no idea why a red, Irathient sky made the language work, but I know that David knows, and that’s what’s important,” Murphy adds.

As for the “Defiance” game, Richardson says, “In the game itself, [language] is not to the same extent. It’s more that we pick up individual, for example, swearing and stuff like that from different languages, which add a certain flavor to the conversations that are happening in the cinematics in the game itself.”

Learn About the Languages of “Defiance”:

Will there be a soundtrack release for “Defiance”? Bear McCreary wrote the score for the game, and he has contributed to the soundtrack for the TV series as well, including a few pop songs that are in the alien languages. As a result, Murphy says it would be “a crime against nature not to have a soundtrack album because it would be awesome.”

Examples of what could be on the soundtrack include the song that McCreary wrote that is playing in the pilot when the Castithan teenagers are dancing. It was decided that Castithans for some reason really like Frank Sinatra music so they sing their own sort of Castithan version of Rat Pack swing music. And Alak (Jesse Rath), who is Datak’s (Curran) son, runs the Defiance radio station, like Chris in the Morning on “Northern Exposure,” and plays cutting-edge music, which can be an Earth and alien music mashup.

“Defiance” premieres Monday, April 15 at 9/8c on Syfy.