A cross between Firefly and The Office, the new a space adventure TV series Nobility combines a sleek spaceship in a deep-space adventure with a hearty dose of comedy. The polite, albeit dysfunctional crew aboard the C.A.S. Nobility—the most powerful ship in the Confederate Alliance—are the subjects of a documentary about how this mightiest of all ships is run. Each episode explores the actions of the ship’s wacky crew as they overcome their personal trials and challenges in a broken world that surrounds them.
In these one-on-one interviews, Torri Higginson (Stargate SG1, Stargate: Atlantis) talks about her role as Cdr. Eugenia Pikeman. Also weighing in on his role as the heavily disciplined Eujin Liaison, Lt. Sirius Halud is Darren Jacobs (Elevator Gods, Death Machine, and the two-part sci-fi Starship).
What attracted you to the role of Cdr. Eugenia Pikeman?
Torri Higginson: I find that I always get cast in these big-hearted, nurturing characters, but I love Commander Pikeman because she’s not that. She’s very smart. She has an eye and a wing over everyone, but she would rather not talk to you or you to her. She would rather smack you if you misbehave. I find her energy quite wonderful. She reminds me a little bit of a German dominatrix.
How is this different and how is it similar to the sci-fi work you’ve done in the past?
Higginson: I’d never been part of a project on this grass roots level. Adrienne Wilkinson (who plays Lt. Ara Eris) got in touch with me, so I first heard about it through the actors who told me there’s this world that E.J. De La Pena created that’s really exciting and filled with lots of possibilities. So let’s all dive in and play and see what happens with it. It was a little bit scary but it seemed like a nice environment to play. The cast had already been compiled at that point and it sounded fabulous. E.J.’s energy is very lovely and innocent and he has this big heart for sci-fi. You never know how it’s going to pan out. There’s a bit of irreverence, which you find in the original Stargate and the original Star Trek.
Did you audition for the role?
Higginson: No. Adrienne got in touch with me and I met with E.J. who said we’d love you to come on board. Usually when you audition, even though, as an actor, you don’t feel it’s a mutual audition, you walk into the room and you hope you get the gig. But there is this other thing that happens when you get a job and you have an audition, it’s nerve wracking because you realize you haven’t had a chance to see what the person on the other side of the table is all about. There is a kind of mutual audition that goes on. So that was interesting to walk in, even though I had a meeting with E.J., I didn’t know how it would work or how his energy was going to be. Actors are all little kids that refuse to grow up.
How did you prepare for this particular role, a commander in humanity’s most powerful starship?
Higginson: Well (laughs), I just drew on my life’s experience. I find that in a lot of science fiction, the world is so out there, you really just take what you get from the script. And it seems sort of non-pressured for the whole environment. To be honest, I didn’t do a lot of prep. I read the script and looked at the other characters to see what they were doing. I met with the other actors and with the series creator, and then I just shut up and decided to play.
What was the most challenging part of this role? What scenes or parts do you enjoy the most?
Higginson: It was inspiring to see what they did on such a budget challenged series. But you get used to certain things like their wardrobe—like really? I can fit three people in this thing. Just having to feel powerful and strong in an outfit that doesn’t make you feel that way was a challenge. But I’m still blown away by what they did—creating an entire set in basically one room—wardrobe, hair and makeup, shooting, the green room.
As a ship’s commander, do you get involved in any shooting and fighting? And do you do your own stunts?
Higginson: I had a hard time working on my right hook. We had this amazing stunt guy, Mario, who came in and organized these fabulous fights between Adrienne and Darren Jacobs. And they just rocked it out of the park. I just get to punch people occasionally. I don’t break a sweat, I punch and walk away.
How much can you tell us about your character arc? Will Cdr. Pikeman change? Or will she be immune to the zany antics aboard the Nobility?
Higginson: She has a dry outlook that I really like. She has one eyebrow cocked most of the time and a little bit of an eye roll. What I love about E.J. and what brought me on to the role was that E.J. had such a strong sense of where it’s going. Everyone has a very specific arc. He came at me with “this is the history of this character.” As an actor, E.J. created this world with an actor’s mind. So he has a very strong sense of who these people are. As for my character, she is strong and emotionally reserved, but I think she’s going to open up a bit.
Will there be any romantic entanglements for Cdr. Pikeman? Can you say with whom?
Higginson: I hope so. I not looking forward to another four years of celibacy in space. I think Eugenia and Captain Eric Cern (Cas Anvar) have an interesting history. I think they were best friends during their training days, but I don’t think they had a romantic history. And I don’t think they ever will because he’s got his eyes on the mission—like a modern day Captain Kirk. I think she will have a romantic relationship with someone—perhaps with a Eujin because they are a very reserved and deeply honest race of humans.
The series is ostensibly an incongruous coupling. How is Nobility like Firefly and how is it like The Office?
Darren Jacobs: It’s like the Office because we have these cutaways or confessionals where we talk directly to the camera. Nobility has these little robots that fly around and film things that are happening on the ship. They think it’s good for the general population to see what’s happening on board, but it’s not really a great idea because the people running the ship are not the best people. In terms of Firefly, it’s got the sci-fi humor, the science stuff and on-the-nose throw away comedy—like Red Dwarf. All the characters are flawed in some way. My character is differed because I come onto the ship as an innocent optimist who wants to do good. But being immersed with these people changes me. I become tarnished.
You have such a broad acting background. What drew you to the role of Lt. Sirius Halud?
Jacobs: I was in a film with E.J. at the time and he was telling me about this thing that he’d been thinking about—combining sci-fi and comedy. I read the script and I thought it was fantastic. Then he got Claudia Christian from Babylon 5 involved. He asked if I knew anyone could do the serious stuff and the comedy and I got the role straight away. The real test for me was when we did some confessionals with costume and make up. We had a couple of script pages and I did a little improv with the comedy and E.J. and the crew were laughing their heads off.
How did you prepare for the role?
Jacobs: I did lots of research because it’s set 700 years into the future. So I had to learn about the Eujin race of people. We went back and forth about how we (Eujins) would speak. In 400 years, humanity becomes isolated, and in 700 years, they come back. I liked the idea they’re kind of outdated, so we agreed on a 50’s UK accent. In the fight scenes, I’m like a snake.
What was the most challenging part of this role? What scenes or parts do you enjoy the most?
Jacobs: I really enjoyed the fighting, but I also hated it because it was in the middle of summer, we were in this hot warehouse and I had this plastic costume that had half an inch of foam in the front, which when it bunched up, looked like I had these rolls on me. The sweat poured out me. I loved the pilot because the camera follows me through the ship as I meet all the characters. So every day, I’d come to the set and I’d meet a new person.
How is this different and how is it similar to the work you’ve done in the past?
Jacobs: It’s similar in that you come on set and you work with great people. It’s different because I’d come on set and realize that every day, I was working on something that I’d dreamed of working on as a kid.
Will Lt. Halud have romantic liaisons with any of the crew? Can you say with
Jacobs: I don’t know. I do know that he is definitely attracted to Eugenia Pikeman. He likes the idea that she has some respect for him. Eugenia is a strong woman who is really the muscle behind the ship.
How much can you tell us about your character arc? Will Lt. Halud change? Or will he continue to evangelize the Eujin culture with its focus on genetic purity and directed evolution?
Jacobs: My character is from a Eujin family who has had some problems in the past but now my sister and I are doing very well. She is in politics and I’m growing fast in the army. Joining the crew of Nobility is a huge slap in the face for my family because it’s a human ship. I’ve literally thrown away my high rank. Lt. Halud has this hope that the humans and the Eujins can work together, to expand humanity and reach the next stage. But the things that happen in the pilot change everything. Initially both the humans and the Eujins don’t accept me.