We discuss Dark Matter Season 2, cast habits and Akira Kurosawa with Dark Matter creator Joseph Mallozzi
Canadian born writer and producer Joseph Mallozzi is well loved and well respected within the Science Fiction community. Not only is he half of the creative mind behind Dark Matter (both the comic and SyFy’s successful show) but he also wrote and produced on Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe, as well as many other genre shows.
We were granted the privilege of undertaking a personal interview with Joseph to discuss his career. Below you will find our in depth, one on one interview, in which Joseph sheds light on what’s to come in the remainder Dark Matter‘s second season, reveals how the cast acts behind the scenes and more.
Please be aware that there are some spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen Dark Matter‘s second season, and also some minor spoilers for the episodes that are still to air.
Let’s begin with how you first fell in love with Science Fiction. Was it literature or cinema that first made you a genre fan, and which authors or directors were responsible for sparking that genre passion within you?
To be honest, it was a little bit of everything: comic books, novels, films, and television. I grew up reading The Avengers and The X-Men, team-centered titles that engendered my love for ensemble shows like Star Trek and Farscape. I was an avid reader growing up and my mother fed my habit with classic SF authors – Clarke, Asimov, Ellison. My interest in genre fiction translated to film and television as well, everything from the Planet of the Apes series to Star Wars.
Your early career heavily focused on children’s television. One of these shows was Big Wolf on Campus, which is a little-known Canadian show that appears to have beaten MTV’s Teen Wolf to the punch in modernising the teen wolf in a high school trope. How do you view this project now, looking back on it? Do you have any opinions on how MTV handled their version of this narrative?
I can’t take any credit for Big Wolf. The show was the brainchild of two very funny, very talented guys – Peter Knight and Chris Briggs. Paul (my writing partner) and I were invited to play in their sandbox for a while. Looking back, I think it’s one of those shows that still holds up today.
Among the young, then-unknown cast in Big Wolf of Campus was Rachelle Lefevre, who, like yourself, has since gone on to much bigger things. Did you have much interaction with Lefevre on this show and what was she like to work with at this early stage in her career?
I knew Rachelle before her time on the show when she was a hostess at one of my favorite Montreal sushi restaurants. I never had the opportunity to interact with her on the show however.
Adaptions from book to screen is another a strong theme in your early career (The Lost World, Lassie). Did these experiences teach you anything new about the process of adapting content from page to screen?
One of the lessons it taught me (a lesson that was cemented when I worked development for an animation studio early in my career) was the import and weight of “established properties”. Selling an original idea is the longest of long shots, but you increase your chances by attaching yourself to a proven commodity. It was a lesson that served me well in setting up Dark Matter. Rather than go out and pitch it as a television series, we partnered with Mike Richardson and Keith Goldberg over at Dark Horse Comics and launched it as a limited comic book series. Then, Jay Firestone, President of Prodigy Pictures, took the show out and used the trade paperback (collecting those first four issues) as a visual aid to the pitch.
For those Dark Matter fans who love the show but who are yet to try the comics, what can you tell them about the comics that might entice them to check the these out?
The comics are very interesting in that they present a world and characters that are, at times, very different from the world you see on the t.v. series. It’s an opportunity to get a sense of the show as it was originally envisioned, from a much younger FIVE to a male Android. Great art work by artist Garry Brown and colorist Ryan Hill. Story editor Patrick Thorpe was a blast to work with.
You kindly confirmed that we were correct when we highlighted Seven Samurai as an influence for the show. Could you tell us how you first discovered Akira Kurosawa and what it is that you admire about this great director?
I’ve always been drawn to Japan – anime, food, language, and culture. My girlfriend (who is Japanese) and I visit every year. With regard to Kurosawa, I’ve always admired his visual style and the narrative depth of his storytelling.
Do any other Kurosawa films play into your creative influences for Dark Matter? For example, Yojimbo features a man-with-no-name who chooses to adopt a false name. He deceives others for personal gain, but all the while exhibits an underlying desire to protect the innocent, beneath his apathetic rogue exterior. This could also be said of many of The Raza crew members.
You can certainly draw comparisons to other works, and not only Kurosawa. I’ve been fairly vocal about the inspirations drawn from Cowboy Bebop for example.
You’ve truly struck upon a wonderful cast in the show, who are among the best casts that we have ever seen. In interviews they come across as a thoroughly charming and close-knit group of individuals. Were there any Raza characters who were particularly difficult to cast?
I suppose it depends what you mean by “difficult”. Not so much “difficult” in an inability to find the right actor as “difficult” to choose from among many great auditions. Some of them came down to the wire while others, like the part of THREE played by Anthony Lemke, were a slam dunk from the get-go. The most challenging part of casting is not finding the right person for the role, it’s trying to convince the other people weighing in that you’ve found the right person for the role. In the case of Dark Matter, I’m happy to say we have the perfect cast.
Melanie Liburd has effectively become a new core member of The Raza crew. Can you tell us about the casting process for Nyx? How did you ensure that Liburd was the right fit for Nyx and that she would gel within the core Raza cast?
Melanie’s audition reminded me a lot of Melissa O’Neil’s audition for TWO. I remember sitting in the office, going through the various candidates, when I happened upon her audition. I was amazed. She totally popped and, right then and there, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. As for how I knew she’d be the right fit and gel with the rest of the cast – prior to every second round audition, I’ll call up the actor and give them some backstory on the role. Partly, it’s to help them prepare so they can give the best audition possible – but mostly it’s so I can get a feel for the person I’ll be bringing into “our home”. Melanie Liburd is probably the sweetest person I’ve ever met so, after that phone conversation, I was secretly rooting for her to nail that second audition. And she did.
Zoie Palmer is from Lost Girl and now Kris Holden-Ried has now joined the cast too, who is also a Lost Girl alumnus. Are these casting choices intentional, given that the Lost Girl audience and the Dark Matter audience likely share many commonalities?
It’s always nice to have a little talent crossover, get fans of former shows excited about a new series. We’ve done [it] with Lost Girl and I’ve done it with Stargate as well, casting David Hewlett, Torri Higginson and, mostly recently, Mike Dopud in recurring roles on Dark Matter. To be honest, much of that casting is personal and a little selfish on my part. I just want to hire talented people who are fun to work with.
Another of our favourite guest spots this season was Ellen Wong as Misaki Han-Shireikan, who played a much darker role than we are used to seeing her take on. Can you tell us what qualities you feel Wong brought to the role and whether this character is likely to return in the future?
I remember seeing Ellen in the Scott Pilgrim movie and being wowed by her performance. In season one, her name came up in a casting list and I filed it away because I knew I wanted to cast her in Dark Matter – I just wasn’t sure what role. And then, as season 1 drew to a close, I envisioned the character of Misaki Han, a former childhood friend of Ryo Ishida, who takes over as Commander of the Royal Guard following the shocking death of their mutual friend, Akita-san. Ellen is wonderfully talented, sword savvy, and a delight to work with. And, yes, we’ll be seeing more of Misaki later this season.
To touch upon diversity, the crew of The Raza is wonderfully representative of a variety of ethnicities, as well as featuring many strong and complex female characters. Nyx’s introduction only served to continue this trend. We just want to commend you and your team for this.
While I thank you for commending me, I don’t think I’ve done anything particularly special, merely reflecting society and casting the best actor for the role. It required no special effort on my part.
Melissa seems quite passionate when talking about topical advancements in the scientific field. Does she verge into these endearing articulations on set too?
Yes! Occasionally, I’ll receive texts from her linking to the latest cutting edge technology or scientific finding. She’s such a geek!
In the darkest hours of the morning, when everyone is tired after working long hours, which cast member is the most vibrant, energetic and upbeat?
It’s impossible to pick one. They’re all vibrant, energetic, and upbeat. Our cast is amazing and their positive attitude translates to a happy work environment the entire crew can appreciate.
Season 2 has been consistently brilliant and inventive, and we couldn’t have asked for a better second season for the show. This season’s narrative keeps teasing a pending war, in which the crew of The Raza will likely play a role and potentially alter the course of history. What can you tell us about this war and the role that the crew might play?
Season 1 was fairly insular in its narrative, focusing on these seven individuals, their respective backstories, and the shipboard drama. In season 2, we’re expanding that narrative as our crew becomes more proactive, exploring their universe. We pay off a lot of the world building elements we only hinted first season – the Galactic Authority, the corporations, and the big picture. We learn very early on that there’s a corporate war coming that threatens to involve all of colonized space. And, as the season progresses, and as the possibility for open conflict draws ever closer, the crew of The Raza will discover they may have the means to stop it from happening. Whether they’re successful, and who will play what role – well, that remains to be seen.
Alicia Reynaud is a character that has so far only appeared on the fringes of this season, serving to provide a lingering background threat. However, in the upcoming episode, titled ‘She’s One of Them Now’, it looks as though she finally comes into the foreground. What can you tell us about Reynaud’s motivations?
Reynaud is a free agent in the world of corporate play. We get a sense that she’s powerful, mercenary, and has connections to Ferrous Corp. We’ve also learned that the mysterious “key card” from season 1 seemingly belonged to her before a pre-Raza FIVE pick-pocketed it. Why is this card so important? What does it do? And what role could it play in coming events? Well, all those questions will be answered next episode.
Finally, correct us if we’re wrong, but the comics only appear to be four issues in length. We know that the longevity of television shows are dependant upon ratings successes, but does this mean that we might see a decisive end to the show sooner than viewers might expect?
Well, that really depends on the broadcasters paying the bills. The four issues of the comic book cover the first two episodes of season 1. I have a plan in mind for five 13-episode seasons. And, hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity to tell that story. But to ensure that happens, I need to you to tell your friends, family, and acquaintances to tune in!
We would like to sincerely thank Joseph for taking the time to undertake this interview with us.
We hope that you enjoyed it too and that you’ve come away with a deeper knowledge of both Joseph’s career and of what lies ahead this season. We also urge you to take Joseph’s words to heart; tune in, support the show and hopefully we’ll get those five glorious seasons that Joseph intends to deliver.
Dark Matter airs on Fridays in the U.S. and on Sundays in the U.K. We review new episodes of Dark Matter every Saturday.
Image credits: SyFy, Dark Horse Comics, Joseph Mallozzi