On the Syfy show The Ark, colonization missions are necessary for the survival of the human race. One hundred years in the future, the first group of humans board the spaceship Ark One and set sail for a new planet that will serve as their future home. Traveling on a spaceship into the unknown – what could go wrong?
In The Ark, just about everything goes wrong after a disastrous event destroys critical sections of the ship and kills most of the senior officials on board. With a year left on their journey and dwindling resources, Lt. Sharon Garnet (Maids Christie Burke), Lt. James Brice (The Sandman Richard Fleeshman), and Lt. Spencer Lane (the outpost Reece Ritchie) must act quickly and take control of the ship before it’s too late. Created by Dean Devlin (Independence Day) and Jonathan Glassner (Stargate SG-1), The Ark is an intense “lost in space” drama that forces a diverse crew to rely on each other to survive.
In an interview with Digital Trends, the cast and creators of The Ark share their love for space, note the show’s similarities with Game Of Thronesand explain why good characters are the most important aspect of a TV series.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: Dean and Jonathan, you’re both back in space creating a TV series. What makes space such a good setting for a show?
Jonathan Glassner: It’s the big frontier, as they said on star trek. It’s the only boundary that remains except perhaps the deep ocean. It is fertile ground for adventure, fun and the discovery of new things and new challenges.
Christie Burk: I think there’s something about being an audience member that’s so exciting about the unknown. It’s almost like a common fear that I feel with everyone, which is this idea of what exists. I get excited to watch sci-fi stuff like that.
Something is always wrong with these shows or movies. I always wonder if you could do a show where everything was okay. It’s like, “We made it. That’s it.”
Dean Devlin: [Laughs] I like this idea. No drama or conflict.
Burk: It lasts one episode.
It can be like a reality TV series.
Devlin: It would be a webcam, you know?
Christie, your character is immediately propelled into a position of leadership. Were you inspired by leaders in the media or in real life?
Burk: Absolutely. I feel like going to the audition, I’ve watched so many strong female and male characters on shows because obviously I’m standing on such huge shoulders with Sigourney Weaver, Demi Moore and stuff like that . I just wanted to try to do something different and say something different, but still respect and stand on those amazing shoulders too. I am a big movie fan. I watch a lot of shows and movies, so I feel like it would be a disservice not to.
Reece and Richard, your characters are also considered leaders, but they have this distinct, sometimes brash way of going about their business. What was attractive about each of your characters?
Reece Ritchie: I think the situation calls for that kind of gallows humor, so the brashness probably comes from the hopeless situation they all share. As far as this leadership goes, it’s not a done deal for any of these three lieutenants. Not only do you have the environment, [but] you also have this interpersonal relationship and this interpersonal conflict, which is constantly changing, fracturing, [and] re-form.
Richard Fleshman: There is a small echo of Game Of Thrones in the fight for the chair. Throughout the series, the captain’s chair remains vacant for a very long time, possibly indefinitely. It is always the place of honor on the bridge. It’s a bit in the background. Everyone’s eyes are on the prize. Certainly, Lt. Garnet takes the lead and does an amazing job at the start.
Burk: Initially? [Laughs] Give me some more credit!
Ritchie: She is fine…
Does that mean dragons will be in the future if it’s like Game Of Thrones?
flesh man: There are dragons, yes. Spoiler alert.
Ritchie: That was actually the working title, I think. space dragons.
Burk: In fact, I put it in my contract. Will only do this if there are space dragons.
It was mostly shot in Serbia. I’ve seen many Instagram photos of the cast hanging outside of work. I’ve done enough to tell which actors are lying when they say the cast got along well throughout filming. Judging by these photos and the way you talk, I believe you two are getting along well and have bonded.
Ritchie: It was amazing.
flesh man: It was amazing, yeah. There was something about doing a show that takes place in space where the characters are immersed in a situation. They find family in such an eclectic group, and they’re just thrown together. There are bonds of brotherhood and bonds of brotherhood. All this dynamic [is] event.
Then in real time, the actors who play them experience exactly the same thing. We had a very eclectic and diverse group of people from all over the world. Because we were in Eastern Europe, it allowed the cast to be even more diverse than if it had to be filmed elsewhere, just through visa restrictions and all that. So it was amazing. We really became a family for basically four and a half months. It was amazing, actually. Truly unbelievable.
Burk: We still keep in touch with everyone, as I recently spoke to [cast members] Christina [Wolfe] and Shalini [Peiris] and stuff like that. I felt like we were all so close. Yes, it was so beautiful and rare. You’re right, that rarely happens.
flesh man: Really rare. Usually you’re sitting here saying, “No, everyone is great [smirks].”
They just smile and nod.
flesh man: Yes, smiles and nods
With the casting, many actors kept their natural accents. Jonathan, was it a deliberate decision to make it an international crew?
Glassner: Yeah. You think that in the future, if this happens and we have to send an arc, you hope it would be an international effort to save humanity. And there’s the scientific reason for wanting to have genetic diversity. That’s why we did it. Some of them don’t do their own accents, which is interesting. Richard actually does a Scottish accent, but it’s not his accent.
flesh man: [Laughs] In some episodes.
Burk: Yeah he tries [laughs].
flesh man: You see? That’s what I have to put up with, Dan.
Glassner: Christie does an American accent. She is actually Canadian.
Burk: [In an exaggerated Canadian accent] Oh, yeah, don’t you know? Let’s put the puck on the ice, huh?
It will be for next season.
The pilot wastes no time getting into the conflict. It’s in seconds. Was that always how you went to open the pilot, to start the action right away?
Devlin: Yeah. We wanted to dive you right into that premise so we could get to the characters quickly. But also, we wanted you to be with our characters. In other words, they don’t know what just happened and neither does the watching audience. Something happened to the ship, and we don’t know what caused it, so we wanted to have [the audience] immediately absorbed in the same mystery our characters are trying to deal with.
Dean, you mentioned the importance of good characters and how people care the most about characters on a show. What’s the secret to creating good characters that an audience will care about and invest their time in?
Devlin: Well, I think the thing is, the premise is about 15 seconds long. It may lure you there, but once you get there, it all depends on the characters. One of the things that Jonathan is so good at is weaving these stories where you think it’s going one direction and then it’s going another. He also did it with the evolution of the characters.
What we tried to do from the start was to make sure that they all had very different but distinct voices, so that they didn’t all sound the same. A lot of the character development honestly comes from the actors. Quite often, Jonathan and I will look at dailies, and we’ll see something like, “What was that look she just gave” or “What was going on between them?” Then it sparks the idea of writing something that responds to that.
I think you’re trying to plan this thing out as best you can, but you also have to be really open to the magic that happens on set because quite often you’ll see things on set that take you into a whole other direction than what you thought you were going to do with the show.
The Ark airs on Syfy at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday evening.
Leave a Reply