If you love action-packed soapy sci-fi sagas and all-around bad-assery, then welcome to “Defiance.”
“Defiance” is a new frontier both on-screen and off — it’s a television show weaved together with an online video game that converge for a unique cross-platform experience. The series, premiering tonight with a two-hour episode at 9/8c on Syfy, stars Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Stephanie Leonidas, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Graham Greene and Mia Kirshner as a group of humans and aliens trying to co-exist together on a dramatically transformed Earth and must join forces to defend “Defiance” from a new threat of invaders known as known as the Volge.
At the core of the cast are ex-Marine Nolan (Grant Bowler of “Liz & Dick” fame) and his adopted alien daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), with the story opening as they attempt to scavenge parts from an alien spaceship. A band of outlaws pounces on them and they escape into Defiance, where new mayor Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) is trying to keep the peace in the town, which feels like the Old West of the Future. Graham Greene plays Human Rafe McCawley, who runs a local mine; Tony Curran and Jamie Murray play alien couple Datak and Stahma Tarr, who are considered the leaders of the alien side of the town’s tribe; and Mia Kirshner is the town’s brothel mistress, because, of course, there’s a brothel.
Filmed on location in Toronto, the show is set in the not-too-far-off future after Earth’s been ravaged by the arrival of seven alien races and a 30-year war with humans that has left the cities in ruins, with new ones emerging on top of old ones. Defiance is a frontier town that’s built on the ruins of St. Louis, and the landmark Gateway Arch is featured prominently in the show’s impressive, sweeping landscapes.
“The Arch — there’s a whole mythology for it, it’s a huge character in the show,” showrunner Kevin Murphy (“Desperate Housewives”) recently told xfinityTV.
From seven different alien races to geographical transformations — Las Vegas has turned into marshland and “The Strip” is now home to a series of prisons, for example — there’s a very dense mythology to “Defiance,” and it’s not something the crew takes lightly.
“You have to go quite deep,” Murphy said. “Part of what our writers have had to learn is they do book reports. Whenever somebody’s got idle time, they’re not on Facebook, they’re sitting down and doing college essays with research and footnotes on everything. For instance, The Arch. I know everything about the Arch, the whole history, but we have a Wikipdeia that our mythology coordinator keeps that has all of the information in it and it’s searchable,” Murphy explains of how the creators are keeping all the complex layers of the worlds and its vast characters in sync.
“The show is mapped out for like three years,” Murphy added.
It’s no easy feat, but a worthwhile one, because Murphy has two audiences to please — TV viewers and gamers — and gamers do not mess around, as Murphy learned while promoting the Syfy series at Comic-Con.
“Man, there are some bloodthirsty gamers out there,” Murphy said. “Because their first question was, can we kill the cast of the TV show? And we were like, NO you may not,” he laughed. “They belong to me, and you may have them when I’m done with them and not before.”
After all, the “Defiance” gang is a tight-knit cast, whose connections read like six degrees of Kevin Bacon.
Kevin Murphy and Julie Benz, beloved by genre fans for her roles on “Buffy”/”Angel,” both worked on “Desperate Housewives” at one point, while Benz and Jaime Murray became great friends in real-life after starring on Showtime’s “Dexter” (Benz played Dexter’s wife Rita for four seasons; Murray played Dexter’s psycho sponsor Lila in Season 2).
Murphy explains how they all ended up together in “Defiance”:
“I’ve been friends with Julie socially for years, and she’s married to a very good friend of mine, and I’ve just been a fan. I love her, and ultimately when she was floated as an idea, I said, yeah, we can’t afford her,” Murphy told xfinityTV. “Lucky for me, I’d done a show with Jaime Murray [2008's short-lived "Valentine"]. And Jaime Murray really bonded with Julie doing ‘Dexter,’ so once Jaime took the part of Stama, she started being very Stama-like and working all the angles, like, ‘Come on, wouldn’t it be wonderful? We’d have such a fun time together. Yeah, come to Toronto, it’ll be a great adventure,’…
“And you need to play a part where – and this is why Julie took the part – because she’s always playing the victim, like she’s always getting abused and murdered – and she likes the fact that in this, she gets to wear a cool Katniss [Katniss Everdeen of "The Hunger Games"] braid, and gets to wear awesome leather pants, and gets to kick ass!”
The two-hour series premiere of “Defiance” airs tonight at 9/8c on Syfy.