Interview: Defiance stars Grant Bowler and Julie Benz discuss the game and season two of the show

Defiance Screenshot - Defiance Grant Bowler Julie Benz

I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Grant Bowler and Julie Benz, two of the stars from Syfy Channel’s Defiance, and discuss the connection between the show and the game. With season 2 of the show in development and the game continuing along, I wanted to find out what it's been like to work on a TV show/video game hybrid, and how it will evolve going forward.

GameZone: What was it like seeing yourself in the game for the first time?

Grant Bowler: My favorite moment of all time out of anything in my career was, I was podcasting between the release of the game and the premiere of the show. I was down in San Diego at Trion with the guys, hanging out, and I was podcasting from Trion -- it was us playing the game. The guys had done me a [Nolan] skin on my player character. So I was being broadcast, and I’m on a television screen playing me in a game, who met me, in the game! Oh my god! It was like Adaptation. There were so many levels of me in this that I was expecting to have a Ghostbusters moment, the streams would cross and the universe would cease. It didn’t happen, but I got a little worried for a moment.

Julie Benz: Now was it a copy of a copy of a copy?

Grant Bowler: Yeah and then I found out I wasn’t real (laughs).

GZ: So you provided your voice for the game…

Grant Bowler: Voice and motion capture.

Julie Benz: He came up with the three poses.

Grant Bowler: Yeah my avatar has three poses.

Julie Benz: ...and he uses them on set all the time!

Grant Bowler: Yeah, I did voice and motion capture for the game, and then ongoing voicing throughout because there was a lot more content added, and going back between seasons as well.

Defiance game Nolan and Irisa in game

GZ: You have this character built up for the show, your voice, your performance, costume, everything. How challenging was it to strip that away for the game performance?

Grant Bowler: What was interesting was I did the motion capture and the voicing for the game before I ever shot the pilot. So I started developing the character on the game, which is very unheard of. I was shocked, I was surprised.

Julie Benz: But it explains why the first day on set he was like (she strikes a super hero pose)

Grant Bowler: (laughing) I was a little wooden. So I got into the studio with the Trion guys to start work and all of a sudden I was feeling really exposed. I’m looking around for my director and I’m like, oh my god, what am I going to do?

Julie Benz: And it was before the scripts were written too, right? Because you came in very early when they only had an outline.

Grant Bowler: Yeah and it was fun for me, because when I went to record motion capture I had to figure out, “How does this guy walk? How does he wipe his nose? How does he pull a gun?” For me, doing the game stuff was a laboratory for developing the character for the show.

GZ: So when will Amanda be in the game?

Julie Benz: Oh I don’t know! Amanda doesn’t want to leave Defiance. There are other characters that have gone into the game, I am not one of the lucky few that have been picked yet. I’m probably going to be picked last, it’ll be season ten and they’ll finally be like, “let’s put Amanda in the game.”

Grant Bowler: Amanda as a character is a bit like Gilbert Grape’s mom. There’s no way you’re getting her out of Defiance, she’s staying put.

Julie Benz: And I don’t really want to put on the white leotard. Is it white or black?

Grant: It’s black, and it’s not flattering. It’s the world’s least flattering outfit. If they ever have you do motion capture I’m turning up just to take photos of you and tweak them.

Defiance game and show

GZ: Will the bridge between the game and the show continue into season 2?

Grant Bowler: It will. Much was made of the synthesis of the two before both were released, which for my money was a little bit interesting because the adventure kind of starts now. The possibilities start now. We’ve got both platforms up. You had to create the two universes before you could start to travel between the two universes.

Of course, everybody was concerned with what we did right off the bat. But the elegance of any synthesis is going to occur after establishment. So it’s what we do now that’s the lovely stuff, the stuff that can be quite lyrical.

In terms of the ongoing DLC there will be stuff coming into the game that will seed for the show. Characters most definitely will now start in the game and end up in the show. There are a couple creatures or races that have occurred in the game that will come across to the show. Then there’s one epically cool race that we haven’t seen yet that will start in the show and come across to the game.

I personally want to play a Sensoth -- that’s all I want to do -- because it’s like playing Star Wars and being a Wookie (laughs).

GZ: So we can expect a greater synergy between the show and the game going forward?

Grant Bowler: Yeah, we just had the contest where a gamer would become a character in the show. And we want to keep going with that too, because on a story level we want to seed content into the game and back into the show and vice-versa, but also on a more macro level we want to involve the gamers themselves, as people, as individuals outside of their player character.

GZ: Have you both played the game? I mean obviously Grant has but…

Julie Benz: I’ve tried to play the game but I’d need a good seven-year-old to come over and teach me the controls. I’m just past that age bracket where my hands can work with my eyes. I’ve played it, I’ve blown myself up, set myself on fire, ran into a wall…

Grant Bowler: That was pretty much my twenties. But yeah, I played the alpha, the beta, and I believe I had an early release on PC.

GZ: So you were an expert by the time you got on there?

Grant Bowler: Not an expert. First-person shooters I’m not that great on. I’m more of a strategy guy by nature. I love my MMORPGs but my kind of sense of perfection is EVE, because it’s almost strategy and first-person combined.

GZ: That’s an intimidating one.

Grant Bowler: Yeah, well I’ve said this in interviews before but I’ve been in EVE since Band of Brothers was started. I was in the first and second great wars of the EVE universe sitting in battleships or carriers for twenty, twenty-two hours at a time, at gates, waiting for fights that never happened for weeks on end.

Julie Benz: I’m great at Tetris. (laughs) Space InvadersPAC-MAN

Grant Bowler: I love PAC-MAN! I still love me some PAC-MAN. I still want to do a room with two or three sit-down machines.

Defiance season 2

GZ: What are you both most excited about for season two of the show?

Julie Benz: At the beginning of season two we get to see the characters really ripped open. We get to see their guts and more of their darker sides. Especially with Amanda, at the end of season one she lost her job, her sister has disappeared, she doesn’t know how to define herself in this new Defiance. And, you know, she’s a drinker! So what are you going to do when you have a lot of free time on your hands? She’s starting in a very dark place, and also Nolan has disappeared as well, so she’s lost her touch-points, the people she’s relied on.

I’m stealing this from Grant but, Season one Amanda is Snow White, season two Amanda is Sucker Punch.

GZ: It must be great having characters that can change so much.

Julie Benz: That’s the great thing about working on a genre show. They can break the rules of the reality, because they create the reality. They can hit the explode button at the end of season one and do a whole reset for season two and start all the characters in a different place emotionally. They don’t have to be stock characters. They don’t have to maintain the same kind of motivation throughout.

Grant Bowler: The other thing is in season one a lot of these characters were defined by their roles or their job. Interestingly enough, the first thing you do whenever you enter the game, or any MMORPG is determine your race and your job. Pretty much, for every player character it’s gender, race, job. All of these characters in season one have been defined by their job, and everyone’s lost their job! As adults we tend to distract ourselves from all of our baggage with our job, so they’re all left with themselves. It’s a lot messier.

GZ: Sounds awesome and I'm looking forward to it. Thank you for your time!

Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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