Recently, I had the honor and privilege of visiting the set of The Expanse while they were filming. For me, as a super-fan of the show, it was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. It was INCREDIBLE to be there as they filmed what I consider to be the greatest show on television!
The set visit came about through a series of events. I had been planning on attending Fan Expo Canada in Toronto for some time. I knew that The Expanse is filmed in Toronto and I hoped to visit the set while I was there. I had contacted representatives of the show to arrange a tour. Fortunately, I was lucky as Bob Munroe, who is a Producer/Sr. Visual Effects Supervisor on the show, contacted me and asked if I wanted to visit the set. Of course, I said, “YES!!!”
The offices and set of The Expanse are located in southeast Toronto, near Lake Ontario. The studio compound is composed of several buildings, a large parking lot for the staff, trailers for the talent, and storage trailers. The production staff is located on the second floor of the main building. This is where I met Bob Munroe. We talked briefly about what he planned to show me. First, he introduced me to Steve Johnstone, the head carpenter. Steve is responsible for the remarkable sets on the show. After meeting Steve, we left to go visit the sound stage.
The first place we stopped on the sound stage was Tycho bar. This set was used for several scenes. From there, we went to the Rocinante’s medical bay, then to Rocinante control decks, and finally, the weapons room. Bob allowed me to touch the equipment and parts of the set. The textures and details are fantastic. The set is so realistic that it is very easy to imagine that you are on a ship in space. We also stopped in the Rocinante galley, where Bob introduced me to John Thomson, the sound mixer. John is responsible for recording all of the dialogue and making the actors sound great!
We left the Rocinante set and went to a different part of the sound stage where Bob showed me the sets that were built especially for Season 3. I am sorry that I am not allowed to tell you anything about them other than that they are AWESOME!!! The sets hint at so many great things. Expect to be pleasantly surprised! I can say this though: as you can tell from the pictures, Wes Chatham (Amos), Terry Chen (Prax) and Steven Strait (Holden) are in battle armor. Also, you may have notice that Steven Strait (Holden) has make-up which indicates that he has some type of injury. It is safe to say that they will be involved in some type of battle. I also met Dominique Tipper (Naomi), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Avasarala) and Frankie Adams (Bobbie). Shohreh’s costume spoke to a major plot element! Also, for those who have read the books, look for things and, perhaps people, in Season 3 that are not in the novels and novellas.
After seeing the new set pieces, we went to the producer’s video center where the episode writer, Alan DiFiore, and the on-set visual effects person, Martin Tori, were sitting to monitor the current scene that was being shot. They are there to take notes for changes that will have to be made in post-production as well clarify elements in the script.
They gave me a headset that they used to monitor all of the scenes being filmed. This allowed me to listen to the current dialogue and input from the cast and crew (insert fanboy squeal here). I watched as Cas Anvar (Alex) filmed a pivotal scene for a future episode. I can honestly say that as I watched, I totally believed what was happening. Cas’ acting made the moment very emotional.
I had interviewed members of the cast and crew at San Diego Comic Con (look for this in an upcoming article), where they hinted at the magnitude of the things we might see in Season 3. If the sets and the scenes I watched being filmed are any indication, then Season 3 will be epic! There was a special treat near the end of the tour. I met Thor Freudenthal, who directed the final episode of Season 2, “Caliban’s War.” He was there editing episodes three and four of Season 3.
As Bob showed me the different departments and introduced me to the myriad of people working there, I was amazed by how many moving parts there are. All of these people (writers, directors, assistants, props, design, visual effects, make-up, costumes, sound) are working simultaneously to make the best show on television. It reminds me of parallel processing: everyone has a piece of the problem, which they must solve to make the great show that is The Expanse.
There is so much talent here. Bob agreed with me when I stated that Naren Shankar, the showrunner, is clearly a genius to oversee and direct all of these incredibly talented people. My biggest takeaway from this visit was just how complex this show is to put together and how hard everyone works.
I really want to thank Bob Munroe for taking the time to show me around the set and to introduce me to the cast and crew. Everyone was incredibly friendly and their energy is just amazing. They took time from their busy schedules to talk to me and explain what they were doing. The experience of visiting the set of The Expanse reminds me of why it is the best show on television. The people who work on this program are incredibly talented and simply wonderful people. I truly appreciate the Herculean effort they put into making this show great. I hope I have communicated my sense of wonder and excitement at being on the set. To say it was amazing seems inadequate. I knew The Expanse was incredible but I appreciate it even more after seeing behind the curtain. It is not the Wizard of Oz, but Merlin, and they truly make magic.