After six seasons (three on SyFy and three on its current home, Amazon Prime Video), The Expanse wraps up with an epic finale dropping January 14, 2022. The show, which will certainly go down as one of the finest science fiction series ever and a highlight of the “Peak TV” era, is notable for many things: its powerful and believable story universe, its ability to mix imaginative high-concept sci-fi and gritty realpolitik, and its faithful adaptation of source material from author James S.A. Corey (the nom-de-plume of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who both served as writer/producers along with showrunner Naren Shankar). But what really held the show together were the stunning performances by the diverse ensemble cast, including Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Frankie Adams, Cara Gee, Cas Anvar and many others, bringing depth and nuance to the dozens of characters who propelled the show’s byzantine plot.
Among that group, award winning actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog, The Flight Attendant, Star Trek Beyond) provided many of the show’s highlights as the determined, and at times ruthless, leader of Earth’s government, Chrisjen Avasarala. Aghdashloo brought a regal air to the character, fully inhabiting Avasarala’s sumptuous wardrobe of silks and jewels, while cutting everyone down to size with her earthy manner and iron will.
I had a chance to speak to Aghdashloo about her thoughts on the show’s ambitions, impact, legacy and future. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Rob Salkowitz: What were some of your favorite moments from Season 6?
Shohreh Aghdashloo: There were so many! I would say the one in the snow with my friend Bobbie [played by Frankie Adams], where we walked through the ruins of this beautiful garden, lamenting what wars had done to displace that beauty. Avasarala realizes there’s so much work that needs to be done, and that no matter what, she has to do what’s necessary to defend Earth, even if it means entering into certain alliances, becoming more friendly and more receptive toward the people who migrated to other planets [who had been on bad terms with Earth].
RS: Were there times when you and the cast watched the finished shows where you were surprised by how certain scenes came out, or by the work of your castmates?
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SA: Absolutely. Every season, the producers would screen the first two shows for the cast all together in a theatre. There was one moment, maybe from season four or five, where Amos [Wes Chatham] was talking about his mother, and it was so powerful that I just lost it. I had to leave the theatre crying, I couldn’t help myself. The other cast members, my friends, came up to me and asked me what happened and I said I was just overcome seeing that scene. But you know, there were so many scenes and moments that felt so real like that, which made me feel like we did a good job bringing this saga to life.
RS: The rapport between Amos and Chrisjen was one of the delightful surprises of the show, but we didn’t get to see much more of that in Season 6.
SA: Well, you know, Chrisjen is a woman looking at a handsome young man, and it’s inevitable that she will feel something. I haven’t said this before, but I believe that for him, this closeness comes from Amos’s feelings for his mother, how he talks about his mother, and when he sees a powerful woman, it hits him in a certain way.
RS: When we first met Chrisjen Avasarala, she was the doting grandmother who then went in to work to torture a captured prisoner. In the second-to-last episode, she reflects on that moment and says she’s a different person now. How did the hard decisions she had to make in the intervening years shape her into the character we see at the end?
SA: It was a really interesting journey from being, let’s be honest, a spoiled brat, a famous politician from one of the richest families on earth representing this very elite view, to one who was genuinely a populist representing the feelings of the people. She had lost a son in the war, she was in mourning, and she keeps losing more people in her life. So she starts listening to others, starts thinking what is in the interests of the people even if it’s not really good politics. She would not have accepted the alliances from those other planets if she had not gone through so much with her family and friends.
RS: The Expanse built up this very expansive universe and all these characters over five seasons, and then had just six episodes to wind things up in Season 6. Do you feel that your character got a satisfactory resolution, or are there more stories to tell about her and about that universe?
SA: I am extremely happy with the way it ended, but it doesn’t end really. This story is only a slice of life, and there is more to it. In fact, there are three more books in the Expanse series that take place years afterwards in a totally different atmosphere.
RS: When an ambitious show like Breaking Bad or Mad Men comes to an end, it leaves a lasting legacy that people remember. What do you think the legacy of The Expanse will be when people look back on it?
SA: You know, the show is supposed to be set a couple hundred years in the future, but what we portrayed, especially in Seasons 5 and 6, are so close to what’s happening in the world today, it’s unbelievable. I cannot think of any show that could be as relevant to today’s world as The Expanse, and [the authors] predicted all that when they started writing the books ten or more years ago. For the first few years, we were on cable and few people saw it, but I kept saying, if the whole world could see this show, with a cast and crew representing everywhere – New Zealand, the UK, Iran, Canada, Australia – it would make an even bigger impact. And then Amazon came in and made it available to millions more… but not as many, I think, as will see it in the future. Maybe this is an end for some people, but the way I look at it, the series is going to take off from here.
RS: If it does, and that opens the door to new seasons or maybe feature films, would you be interested in coming back and revisiting this character?
SA: Any time, if they give me a call and tell me they’d like to do another series or a movie. There are still the final three books and I think the idea is to turn it into a movie, like two and a half or three hours maybe. There are millions of people out there who would like to hear the rest of the saga.