Whenever I see the science fiction series Defiance, I think it looks like all the music videos from the 1970s and 1980s rolled into one.
“I know!” said actress Jaime Murray, who plays Stahma Tarr. “There was a scene recently where, just the way they were shooting it, I thought, ‘My God, we look like Abba, or Queen.’ ”
Well, whether or not there’s a musical episode coming up at some point, Defiance returns for its second season, Thursday, June 19 on Showcase in Canada and on Syfy in the United States. As for Abba and Queen particularly, I imagine Stahma Tarr’s favourite songs might be The Winner Takes it All from the former and Under Pressure from the latter.
Defiance is set in a future world that has been radically transformed by the arrival of several alien races. Murray – who, prior to this series, probably was best known to TV audiences for her portrayal of Lila, the main antagonist in the second season of Dexter – plays a member of an alien race known as the Castithans.
The Castithans have the most striking look in Defiance, with their long white hair and bleach-white skin. Remember the band Nelson? Just pretend there were more than two of them and you’ll be on the right track.
“(The makeup) is a huge part of the job, it takes two hours in the morning to put it on, and then an hour to get it off, because you don’t just pull off the wig, it’s glued on,” Murray said. “After season one, I felt as if I had been home for a good two or three months before I got the white residue fully out of my skin.
“I actually do quite a lot of Pilates when I’m up in Toronto (where Defiance is shot), and the Reformer machines and the mats are all black. So the instructors always know when I’ve been in, because there are all these white Jaime shapes and marks everywhere. It’s like a chalk outline.
“I couldn’t commit a crime while I’m filming. Everyone would know it was me very easily.”
For Murray’s character in Defiance, however, getting things done without calling attention to herself has been her specialty. But there’s a striking scene in the first episode of the new season where Stahma’s icy resolve will give you a whole new way of thinking about the character.
“You see that steely moment in the first episode and you just know there’s more to come,” Murray said. “It’s quite frightening when somebody has been so repressed culturally and psychologically for such a long time. You don’t know how angry she is and what’s going to come out of that, but you definitely have a feeling that it’s not going to be good.”
Murray also has the added burden of having to speak an alien language, in addition to English, in Defiance. Jaime, please tell me you just make that up on the spot. That would be so cool.
“No! I don’t make it up on the spot!” Murray said with a laugh.
“You’d think that you could, because it’s gobbledygook. But it’s so well thought out, and there’s such a rhythm and a symmetry and there are certain vowels that just sound like Castithan vowels. I learn it from these recordings, and if I get a syllable wrong, I’m like, ‘Damn, I messed it up,’ and I go back to the beginning.”
Considering the makeup and the language, I sure hope Jaime Murray is getting paid in future “adjusted for inflation” dollars.
“I should get paid more than the other actors!” she said. “The amount of time I spend learning Castithan and being painted head to toe in white, surely there has to be more compensation than the human characters. The humans have it so easy.
“I’m like Pinocchio. I go in and by the third episode every season, I’m like, ‘I just want to be a real girl.’ ”
Hmmm … what’s the Castithan word for “renegotiate?”