A few weeks back we ran a excerpt or two from a brief interview that SFX did with Kevin Murphy. The executive producer of Syfy’s hit series ‘Defiance’.
The article got a fair bit of feedback from fans on Twitter and pulled me into a bit of a discussion about the show, which returns later tonight on Syfy in the USA.
Last week I was lucky enough to take part in a phone conference with Kevin Murphy who was more than happy to answer various questions about the new series and even took time to clarify a few things along the way.
SFP: How does the game from Trion tie in with events that will be happening in the second season and how much will the game bleed into the TV show and so forth?
Kevin Murphy: What we discovered first season was that just a television show and a video game have very different needs, and there was a real challenge for Trion putting three different platforms up live for an MMO at once.
A lot of their elbow grease in the first season was focused on making everything work.
We wrapped back in December and we’re doing post production. So there’s a limit to how much we can change. And during the time when we’re in post that’s when Trion is making a lot of their big decisions about what they’re going to be doing in the game for the upcoming season.
So what we did this year, because we had to jettison a few ideas that we were really into last year because of timing and schedule. For example like the astronaut who came into Episode 8, Brian Smith who just got a Tony nomination for Glass Menagerie, he was supposed to be part of a larger integrated story line, and it was just something that Trion couldn’t accomplish technically with the time that they had.
So what we did this year is every – the second page of every script after the title page has a list of proposed crossovers that were generated in a big meeting that we had with Trion and the writers.
Then when we actually got the scripts written and we go through our process, we put which – and it’s like a Chinese menu of ten options that Trion can access. And they can use it or not use it if they wish to.
And then as they go on the process of figuring out what they’re going to be doing in the game and what their crossovers are, they decide okay, we like number two and we like number four. Those are the ones that we’re going to pursue.
Can you give us one of your actors so we can bring them into the game digitally? We’re going to bring this character in; can we have her voice. We’re going to do a clue that’s going to put in this thing that you suggested back in Episode 7.
So it becomes sort of like a game of improvisation where the TV show makes a whole bunch of suggestions to Trion, and then Trion decides the ones that they can implement effectively.
SFP: From the little we have seen and read already about the second season. The show seems to be getting a bit more edgy and dark. Was that a conscious decision to take the show in this year?
Kevin Murphy: Well there’s a certain darkness in the premise because last year Defiance was a very sunny, optimistic place. The first time we saw – like entered this world, you know, if you remember the first act of the pilot was Nolan and Irisa in the badlands getting attacked by Spirit Riders and getting stabbed and shot and, you know, almost devoured by saber wolves in freezing rain.
And then they showed up at Defiance and the sun was shining and everything was marvellous.
Season One was about this idyllic little Oz like happy world went through the wringer. And by the end of the season, Datak, through a very good move on his part, he let his vanity get the best of him and the poor, sad bastard, he got his goal of being mayor—and he got to keep it for about 15 minutes before they let him stab the Colonel. And that gave the Earth Republic the pretext that they were waiting for to swoop in and take over.
So now we’re looking at an occupied territory, and it becomes a very different show. It becomes, how did the members of our cast deal with the fact that everything has been taken away from them?
If you remember the end of Season one the last episode was called, ‘Everything was Broken,’ which is the name for the Bob Dylan song. And that’s where we come in. Nobody is where we left them.
Nolan is no longer the law keeper. Irisa is no longer completely in control of her own mind. Rafe McCawley no longer has a mine and he’s going to lose more as the season goes on.
Datak is no longer in charged. Doc Yewll is no longer the town doctor. Amanda is no longer Mayor.
Stahma is the one person who is no longer a housewife, but she kind of likes that, and she no longer has her husband.
Alak no longer has the luxury of being a spoiled rich kid and he’s actually called upon to be the—at least the symbolic—head of the crime family.
Everybody is at a place of crisis and change and trying to figure out how they’re going to put their lives back together. And that’s basically the story of Season 2, you know, watching who succeeds and who falls.
SFP: The look of the series is a bit darker this year. Have you changed how you shoot the series in order to bring that darker tone?
Kevin Murphy: We didn’t. We still have our same DT, and largely we have our same slate of directors that did first season. There are a couple of small changes, but we have pretty much kept the same crew that we worked with in the first season.
I think it was more of a – it was more, once you put the Earth Republic visuals into the town, I think there’s a psychological clinch factor that you get. Because if you look carefully at your screen, you’ll be seeing propaganda posters are in the background where once you didn’t see them.
You’re seeing Earth Republic flags. You’re seeing – where you saw the fist in the symbol of Defiance in Season one, now you’re seeing The Earth Republic logo.
And there’s something just creepy about those uniforms. They just feel dystonic and disturbing. And they – you know, they evoke the Third Reich without actually being…
SFP: I read a recent interview that you did with SFX Magazine and you spoke a little of the changes for season two in that, but you also spoke a little about season three, which gave a sense that you were pretty confident of the show being renewed for a third season. Am I right for getting that vibe?
Kevin Murphy: I’m confident that if there is a third season, I know exactly what’s going to happen in it, and I’m very excited to do it.
That doesn’t mean that Syfy will agree with me, but I’m very confident that we’ll do a great job. And I think, based on the reaction of the show, I remain cautiously optimistic.
But to answer your – I think the question behind your question, is what’s happening this season is setting up the situation for a third season. Because we’ve just put to bed the finale and its setting up the stage for what next season is going to be about, much like this season, you know, and occupied.
Like Season one was about a wild and wooly, rural free sheriff driven frontier town, Season two was about a town that is under occupation dealing with what does it mean to be free and what does it mean to work within a larger context of society as we look at the rest of the world or the rest of North America.
Season three is going to be more global, and it’s going to be more about dealing with the role of theology and government within a society.
SFP: Last year we got a look at what was left of Los Angeles and Chicago. Are likely to see what remains of some of the other states this year?
Kevin Murphy: Yes, we’re going to get a real good look at New York before the season is over.
We also go to – we’re also going to hear a bit about New York and we’re going to learn a bit more about Amanda’s time in New York. There’s one other city that we’re going to get a little glimpse of before the season is over.
- Defiance begins its second series on Syfy later tonight in the US. At present there is no firm date for when UK Syfy channel will air the second series.
Written By: Ian Cullen