With “Dominion” premiering June 19th, Syfy recently hosted a conference call with star Chris Egan and exec producer/creator Vaun Wilmott, and we have the highlights for you here.
Settle in a bit because it’s a long, wide-ranging discussion that touches upon the mythology of the TV show vs. the movie (2010’s Legion) and how things have changed – Wilmott promises for the better – in this adaptation. He also describes the caste system in place in Vega society, what other worlds and supernatural beings we might see, and what the plan is for future seasons.
Egan elaborates on his character (soldier Alex Lannon) and his relationships with both the Archangel Michael and the upper class Claire Riesen. Of course the great Anthony Head’s name comes up as well as how much like the angels we know from religion these guys really are.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Dive in, and be sure to tune in Thursday night for the premiere of “Dominion” on Syfy.
Q: Chris, how did you get involved in the project, and what attracted you to it?
Chris Egan: I was approached by my managers. There was a few things I was looking at, a few different scripts, and I heard about this one through the same management company [that reps exec producer] Scott Stewart [director/co-writer of Legion]. They brought it up to me and discussed it… I’d had a look at the script, and it fascinated me straight away. Definitely wanted to get on the call with Scott and Vaun and just talk through the idea and where the series was going to go.
And I was very impressed with Vaun’s vision, Scott’s vision for the pilot, where they wanted to take the story and where they were going to take Alex. So I was just – in that presentation, in that call with both of them – I was completely blown away. And I loved the idea that we were taking this to Cape Town, South Africa, as well. To me, it just sort of felt that they were really taking this seriously. We weren’t just sort of going off to Vancouver or somewhere local, you know; we were really going to take this production somewhere that was really special. I was totally blown away by it.
Q: Vaun, how much of the mythology from Legion is going to be in the series? Is it completely the same mythology, or have you changed things?
Vaun Wilmott: It was definitely the jumping off point. But for the TV show it’s definitely expanded and changed, and there’s all kinds of new stuff. Legion was definitely kind of our foundation, and then from there the show grew into its own thing with new rules, new terms, new angels, new mythology for the chosen one. Then of course a whole new setting, all new characters with just a couple of the characters from Legion moving into the TV show… the baby growing up to be Alex, Michael, Gabriel, Jeep. But it’s definitely become its own thing in terms of the TV show, “Dominion.”
Q: Can you walk us through what the world of Legion is now like in “Dominion,” a quarter century later?
Vaun Wilmott: In terms of what the world is like, 25 years in the future, it’s got contemporary aspects… it’s definitely grounded. It’s definitely a big “what if?”…what if angels appeared in the sky? What if this actually happened; what would life – or what could life – be like? So it’s not an alternate reality. It is very much based in what could have happened, and Vega has a lot of giant casino hotels that could actually be perfect for housing people if need be. And we use all of that to basically create this new city, this new civilization, [ and] built a wall around it to protect this from the angels. But it will definitely be a recognizable world in terms of things we know…
Chris Egan: For those that are fans of Legion, this will be a whole new story, and for those that haven’t seen Legion, it really is a whole new world 25 years in the future. The world of Vega and this fortified city… the land is desolate apart from these fortified cities. It’s a completely different spin to the movie.
Q: Chris, Alex has been described as rebellious in nature; can you talk about that a little bit?
Chris Egan: The story is that hero’s journey that he takes to discover himself, to discover who he is. And that’s sort of between being a man and the responsibility that’s laid on his shoulders to save mankind. It’s from that beginning, and the pitch of the story for me was so interesting and where that was going to go. We establish that in the pilot, but then as the episodes come on, it gets crazier and crazier, and the relationships around him are redefined between [the Archangel] Michael and [Alex’s true love] Claire. And really it’s about which path is he going to take as a man to realize and understand his calling in a sense upon his life.
Vaun Wilmott: I’ve always loved characters that have a strong point of view and something’s thrust on them that they didn’t expect or didn’t want or something’s asking them to change in a way that’s uncomfortable for them. And they fight against that – like John Conner in The Terminator. You know, characters that have something about their personality that fights against what’s being done to them or have had… Alex’s journey has been a tough one. And so he’s had to take care of himself; he’s had to survive. So that rebellious nature has actually kept him alive. But now he’s being asked to do something that he didn’t expect, that he didn’t ask for; it becomes a trick – like what is that rebellious nature going to do in terms of how he handles that destiny that he’s been given? And I think from a character point of view that’s where all of the fun of the storytelling comes in. And we get to watch Alex go through really the thing that we all watch characters for, which is just growth and change. We want to see what they’re going to do. And that’s what’s exciting for me about Alex’s character, about Chris’s character.
Q: Alex and Michael seem to have a complicated relationship. How will we see that evolve throughout the season?
Chris Egan: I’d like to think there’s a Star Wars element to this, the teacher, the student, and those roles that reverse. It’s a great relationship, and it is constantly getting redefined. Alex is constantly learning more about Michael, and Michael is learning more about Alex. So it grows. It’s constantly growing, and as Alex is struggling with this responsibility and learning about the tattoos and learning about his destiny, it gets tense with Michael and then it’s back on track, and it’s this back and forth. It’s been really wonderful to play with Tom [Wisdom] as well, the actor who plays Michael. It’s just been fantastic. He’s a great actor, and yes, it’s a great relationship.
Q: And what about Claire, played by the lovely Roxanne McKee? It sounds like it’s also a complicated kind of thing.
Chris Egan: Yes, Romeo and Juliet. And really it’s that great unattainable love. Their love is full of tribulation. And the responsibility; in the pilot Alex just wants to get out of Vega. He’s got the love of his life; he’s got his family. He’s just ready to get out and he’s over the system; he wants the freedom. But then there’s what happens in the end and the responsibility and this great calling. And then there’s a responsibility that Claire has to Vega, and we go into that back and forth. They take that road, sort of discovering themselves, discovering the responsibility that they both have, and it’s going to be interesting to see where that goes.
Q: Vaun, will the action primarily occur in Vega, or will we be moving on to other cities as well?
Vaun Wilmott: In the first season we’re very much based in Vega. It was important to establish that world, establish all the characters, establish “Dominion” the series. But definitely in future seasons we’ll be expanding out to New Delphi. We’ll learn what the camp is; the camp is a city that moves, which is very mysterious. We don’t really know much about it or who they are. So we will definitely explore the world, and the world will grow out with each season as we go. But for the first season it was kind of important to orient the audience I think in the world of “Dominion” and then Vega so we didn’t overwhelm right upfront. And so that definitely was the focus for the first season.
Q: These angels are so different from the traditional ones that we were brought up with as children. Do either of you personally believe in angels? And does that affect your performance, Chris? And your writing, Vaun?
Vaun Wilmott: That is a great question… Two things: One is the show is very much non-denominational. You know, I always intended it to actually not make a statement about religion. I really view the angels, Michael, Gabriel, and all the other angels, as literary characters, storytelling characters, as interesting as supernatural characters, as interesting as vampires and werewolves and ghosts or anything else that’s being used in genre right now. So for me it was very much about just simplifying it, just seeing it as a literary creation. There’s a ‘God’ and that God has angels and these angels are doing X, Y, and Z in this story.
For me, I have my own personal faith, but it isn’t like I grew up fascinated by angels or had that be a focus of my religion. This show is purely for entertainment, purely for storytelling purposes, and they don’t really intersect with my own personal beliefs other than the way that all storytelling is informed by what you believe in all ways, not just in your religious beliefs. You know, the themes you’re interested in, the things that attract you to characters of the storym but for me, those two things are separate.
Chris Egan: I agree with Vaun. Yes, I have my own personal faith and I think really it’s about… there’s a greater good, you know. I’ve always been very fascinated with that outer world. Like with “Kings,” we took a biblical story [and made it modern day. Now we’re taking angels that are in the bible and we’re putting them into this world… it interests me, and I want to know these guys, I want to discover their world. This story resonates with me, and I think – as an actor and as a person – maybe I don’t quite understand subconsciously why I’m so attracted to it and what it is the message in this story, what we’re trying to say. But yes, I think it hits on all those points.
Q: Will we be seeing any other sort of beings coming into play during this series? Will a ‘God’ or a higher power or anything that can kind of rival these angels be coming into play during the series as it develops?
Vaun Wilmott: There definitely will be new and exciting angels, new additions, and expansions of the mythology. But you know… those will all be spoilers if I were to say anything now
Q: We’ve heard from people that are pre-judging the show because they were a bit disappointed with Legion. How can you get those people to tune in?
Vaun Wilmott: I think the most important thing is to give it a shot. If they have interest in genre, if they have interest in supernatural anything, if they have interest in angels or just good characters and drama, give it a shot because it really is its own thing. It’s not called Legion. It’s called “Dominion.”
Chris Egan: Yes, essentially this is a hero’s journey, this is a hero’s story, this is Alex, this is his discovery of himself. And really it’s about taking the audience with him… I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised. It really is a completely different world to where the movie is at. And of course, being 25 years in the future, it really is far from the movie.
Vaun Wilmott: One quick thing… “Buffy” was [first] a movie that some fans loved, some fans didn’t. And then it became a very new and different show that was very popular that people really loved and embraced. I think they’re two separate things. Personally I liked the movie. I saw Legion and I was a very attracted to it and I thought it was well done, but in terms of our show, it really is its own thing.
Q: With regard to Vega, there’s some CGI and green screen of course, but did you guys also have practical sets built?
Vaun Wilmott: We actually used a mix of both; we did build a lot. That was one of the advantages of going to Cape Town; the level of crew was really high in terms of their talent and experience, but also in terms of what we could build, how far our dollars went. Scott Stewart, director of the pilot, was the founder of a special effects house called the Orphanage, one of the founders. And so he’s a real genius at special effects, and he’s just a really talented guy.
He used to always say to me, “Real is better. Whenever you can point your camera at something real is better.” So we built a lot of sets, but we also had [VFX company] Spin working for us, and they could create unbelievable vistas and landscapes and buildings so we did a lot of that as well. And then of course, wherever there’s angels flying, we do something more practical with the wires or we use green screen and those as well.
Q: I understand that David Peterson created a language for “Dominion.” How much of this language will be spoken in the series?
Vaun Wilmott: David Peterson is an absolute genius, and the stuff that he creates is just incredible… he created a language called Lishepus for the angels, and we feature it here and there depending on where it’s the most dramatic and the best used. But it definitely is going to be in series. We try not to have it be used in an entire scene where you’ve got giant blocks of dialogue being said in it. But we definitely utilize it, and when we do, it sounds cool. David is amazing.
Q: Vaun, you mentioned “Buffy” earlier. Certainly American genre fans have a fond affection for Anthony Head. Can you talk a little bit about working with him and what he’s brought to the series as a cast member?
Vaun Wilmott: Tony Head is just… you know, he’s Tony Head. He’s so funny, he’s so talented, he’s smart… he just pops off the screen, and I think the “Buffy” fans will be really interested to see him in such a different way because he plays such a different character than he did on “Buffy.” [Secretary of Commerce] David Whele is this rakish and manipulative, charismatic, articulate kind of power broker. And I think it will be a big surprise for the fans of “Buffy” and Tony Head to see him in “Dominion.” It’s really a whole new Tony.
Q: From what we’ve seen of the way that the social society is structured, it’s a very strict caste system. What’s the thinking behind having these very specific social structures and people unable to move between them?
Vaun Wilmott: It basically was a system that General Riesen [Claire’s father, played by Alan Dale] created at the beginning, basically at the founding of Vega when they were still fighting the war against the angels. They were quickly trying to build a wall at the same time as fighting off these onslaughts… So it was a chaotic time and they needed a way to kind of give everybody a job, give everybody a designation, give everybody a way to pitch in and be classified. It was a very military system that Riesen used. It was called the V system for Vega, the V one through six. And each level had a different designation in terms of what it means and who’s in it.
But then, like all systems that start out intended to be one way and often become something else, that happens. Over time you have the elites getting entrenched, taking control of more and more of the resources of the city, installing themselves as senators, as basically the fat cats of the city. And then everybody else below them getting further and further cemented into their V system or their V level and not being able to move about. So I think that one of the great conflicts in the season and in the series will be, certainly in Vega, what is right and what’s wrong and what’s happening to the people and is it fair?
I think Claire certainly represents a very different point of view than her father in terms of believing that it needs to change; whereas, although he recognizes that it did get warped and… became distorted basically over time, he’s not really willing to get rid of it. But that was the thinking at the beginning. It was definitely created for survival, and then over time just unfortunately it turned into something else.
Q: Talking about the caste system, is Alex going to maybe to some extent move up, or is he going to continue for most of the series to hide who he is since nobody else knows anyway?
Vaun Wilmott: I’m sure we can both answer that. From my point of view, he’s got bigger fish to fry because of what kind of landed on his shoulders. But certainly, as we clearly see in the pilot, he does not like the system. He hates it. He wants to escape it. And who knows? Down the line we’ll get to see if he does anything about that as part of his journey, and that’s just something that we’ll learn as we go. But I’m sure Chris can speak about that from a character point too.
Chris Egan: It comes down to that saying: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ I think we’re going to see that struggle, that constant struggle with himself and with his relationships around him. And by the end you’re really going to be left with: What’s going to happen? Is he going to leave? Is he going to join? With the relationship with Michael, where does that leave us? He goes through stages and he makes sacrifices and it’s really about someone owning that calling on his life.
Q: Vaun, it sounds like a lot of planning went into this series. As far as what’s ahead, how much do you have planned out for this season and possibly beyond?
Vaun Wilmott: When I wrote the pilot, I spent about six weeks working on a series document that broke down the first three seasons in detail. And then another three seasons after that more macro. And one of the main spines through the series is, of course, Alex’s journey and the stages that he goes through – through each season. I’ve got loads of ideas, loads. So yes, we have all kinds of stories to tell for many seasons for “Dominion”!
Our thanks to Chris and Vaun for their time, moderator Stephen Cox, Garrott Smith, and everyone at Syfy.
“Dominion” follows the perilous journey of soldier Alex Lannon, set against a backdrop of the ultimate celestial battle as it touches down on earth. The series stars Christopher Egan (“Kings”), Tom Wisdom (300), Roxanne McKee (“Game of Thrones”), Alan Dale (“Lost”), Anthony Stewart Head (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), and Luke Allen-Gale (“The Borgias”).
It premieres Thursday, June 19th, on Syfy (9-10 pm ET/PT) with limited commercial interruptions.
Based on characters from the hit theatrical film Legion (2010), “Dominion” is an epic supernatural drama set in the year 25 A.E. In this transformed post–apocalyptic future an army of lower angels, assembled by the archangel Gabriel (Carl Beukes), has waged a war of possession against mankind. The archangel Michael (Wisdom), turning against his own kind, has chosen to side with humanity against Gabriel. Rising out of the ashes of the 25-year battle are newly fortified cities which protect the human survivors. In Vega (formerly Las Vegas), the largest of these cities, two houses vie for control; and the stage is set for political upheaval and a dangerous power shift. Meanwhile, a rebellious young soldier (Egan) begins a perilous journey as the war between the human race and the fallen angels hell-bent on their domination escalates.
“Dominion,” produced by Universal Cable Productions and Bold Films, is executive produced by Vaun Wilmott, Todd Slavkin, and Darren Swimmer, along with executive producers Scott Stewart, who co-wrote and directed the feature film Legion, Michael Litvak, and David Lancaster of Bold Films, who produced the original film. Film Afrika serves as the local production entity in South Africa.
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