Jaime Murray ranks as one of the best UK exports to American TV, with the ex-Hustle actress having taken part in some of the biggest TV shows in America over the last half a decade.
Now she’s a part of SyFy’s incredibly ambitious new show ‘Defiance’, and with the show launching in both the UK and US next week, we talked to her about the massive scope of the show, her success in the US and the American reaction to odd UK sayings.
So, just to kick off with, what can you tell us about Defiance as it's a bit big.
It’s a big world right? It’s a really complex show set 35 years in the future and unlike a lot of science fiction shows that focus on alien invasions and the battle surrounding that, in Definace it’s done, it’s already happened.
There are seven alien races, collectively known as the Votans now living on planet Earth and trying to co-habit with human beings. But what’s really interesting is that it’s not just that aliens and humans have certain prejudices against each other, the seven alien races didn’t particularly hang out on their own planet. They don’t like each other at all there either. I would say that it’s essentially an immigrant drama.
Your character Stahma seems like she's got a lot bubbling beneath the surface. Was that something that drew you to the role and what was it like playing an alien?
I know, as an actor you want to play as many varied roles as you can, but in this day and age there’s so many actors to choose from, the fact that I’m a white British girl with brown hair slightly limits me. I can do an Irish or America accent, but there’s so many cultures I’ll never be able to play. So to be able to play someone of a completely different species was a brilliant challenge for me.
I was immediately drawn to her, she’s a very strong and interesting woman. She comes from a very proud race and so in many ways she’s a little repressed. That contrasts with the fact that she’s very clever and with a man who’s done very well for himself in Defiance. Back on his home planet, he would have been the lowest of the low.
Here though, his survival instincts have meant he’s running the slums of Defiance like a gangster. He’s quite an aggressive and impulsive man and she has to use her patience and intelligence to counsel him. She has to be quite shrewd and cunning in the way that she goes about dealing with him.
This show's massive in scope, it must be great to be involved in something this ambitious.
It’s a huge, complex world and there are so many different things in play. I would say it’s all just a backdrop though to some really relatable drama and relationships that will resonate with people when they watch it. This world is made even bigger by there being two gateways into it. You can watch the show, or you can play the game.
The show’s set in what used to be St Louis and the game’s set in San Francisco, but they’ll both be affected by the same issues and events. I think that having these two ways in was great as an actor. The game’s been in development for five years, so anytime I had a question on this crazy and intricate world we’re trying to create, there was always an answer for it because we literally have a person who’s job title is ‘mythology co-ordinator’.
As you said there, there's also a Defiance video game out now. Do you think this sort of pan-media launch is something we'll see more of in the future?
If we’re successful! The world is changed hugely in the ways we communicate and I think that it’s such an interactive world now and I think that people can play a game based in a show that they’re hugely invested in is a great way of them having a more immersive experience. I was at a convention in Birmingham last week and I already knew them because they tweet me all the time. It’s great to be able to give the audience a way to participate in a different way with this show.
Is it right that you've already had someone tell you they've got a tattoo of the show?
Yeah, the show’s not even aired and there’s a lady who showed me a tattoo she’s already gotten at the convention in Birmingham. It’s actually a tattoo of her own name written in the Castithan language. I told her she must be very confident about the show! Luckily it’s a beautiful looking language when written so at the very least she’s got a beautiful looking sign.
You had to learn a whole new language for the part too, what was that like?
We were lucky enough to work with David J Peterson, who did the Dothraki language for Game Of Thrones. He constructed all of the alien languages for us, but unfortunately when he turned up I was completely overwhelmed partly because the Castithan’s are such and clever and impatient bunch that they like to show off by talking very rapidly. So when I heard him speak I just thought 'Oh my goodness, how the heck am I ever going to be able to do that?'.
It's actually that well constructed and thought out that there's a real symmetry, balance and rhythm (for me there's a lot of musicality to it) so it turned out to be much easier than I ever expected it to be. I really enjoy using the language because in order to make to make my character alien, we all made the choice that English was our second language.
Obviously, we're living in St Louis, so would be surrounded by American humans, so I speak a version of the American accent as if it's not my native one. Sometimes Stahma can't find the right word, or she'll say her sentences back to front or really formally, so that was really fun to play with.
You've been in so many different types of productions, but is there anything else you'd like to have a crack at.
I would love to do a pure period piece. I'm a huge fan of Downton Abbey and great British drama. I've been really lucky though that pretty much everything I've been in part has had me doing rich, interesting characters with great arcs, so hopefully that will be something that carries on into the future.
You amongst some of the British actor's who've found big success in America. Why do you think that there are so many Brits working in American TV?
I just think that world has gotten really small. We can all be in instant contact with each other, be that e-mail or Twitter or even a game like Defiance. There could be thousands of people playing together in the game all at once from all over the world.
When I did the Birmingham Comic Con, I had fans coming up and getting photos or other things signed for people that live in Holland or South America.People they've never met in their whole lives, but people they're great friends with because of the way we now communicate with each other. I think that when the world's shrunk in that way, you don't have the same barriers to when your choosing actors as you used to.
You've been over in the States for a few years now, but is there anything you really miss about the UK?
The more I'm away from London and the rest of the UK, the more I miss it. When I first left I was so excited to go and try something different. I read somewhere that an anthropologist once said that you've got to be away from the culture and society that you came from to truly see what it is. when you're in it, you can't see it.
Having been away for so long though, when I come back I realise how much I miss certain English sensibilities. There's a cheekiness and a naughty, sarcastic sense of humour with us Brits that I really enjoy. Luckily for me I've got two Brits on the Defiance cast and they just crack me up. Straight away we were all doing silly accents and making references and doing sayings that the other members didn't have a clue what we were talking about.
It's just made me fully realise that sometimes when I'm in America, people really don't know what I'm talking about. Earlier today I said that 'We've got to shake a leg' to my American friend and she didn't have a clue what I was on about. If I say 'Bob's your uncle' they just think I'm crazy. When I first went over there, I didn't really have any close friends, so I'd say things and they just wouldn't explain that they were clueless. It's only now when I've got some really great friends over there I realise how odd they must have thought I was when I went over there.
So, finishing up, is there the possibility of a season two already and what else do you have in the pipeline?
This is something I've signed up for seven years with, so I'm very excited about going back this summer and shooting the second season. It takes a long time to film these shows, but I actually went straight from this to working on Fright Night 2. I play the vampire role in that film, so that was great fun. I seem to be forever destined to be in these genre dramas, but they're that fun I don't care.
Defiance starts in America tonight on SyFy and comes over to the UK tomorrow night.