Based on characters from the theatrical film Legion (2010) and with a pilot directed by Scott Stewart (who also directed the film), the epic new Syfy fantasy series Dominion is set in the year 25 A.E. (After Extinction), in a post-apocalyptic city called Vega (formerly Las Vegas), where an army of lower angels, assembled by the archangel Gabriel (Carl Beukes), has waged a war of possession against mankind, and archangel Michael (Tom Wisdom) has turned against his own kind to side with humanity. As the war between the human race and the angels escalates, a rebellious young soldier named Alex (Chris Egan) struggles to help save the world.
During this recent interview to promote this intriguing new show, executive producer/showrunner Vaun Wilmott and actor Chris Egan talked about how they got involved with Dominion, how much of the mythology from the film will carry over to the show, what this world is like, 25 years after the events of the film, the challenges in bringing this story from the big screen to television, dealing with the special effects and stunts, the amount of CGI versus practical sets, and how far ahead the story has been planned out. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
VAUN WILMOTT: The producers of the movie Legion are this company called Bold. David Lancaster was the executive producer of that, and he had carved out the TV rights to Legion. So, once it came time to decide if they were going to do a sequel to it or if they were going to do a TV show, they decided to do a TV show and they went out to a bunch of writers. They had some writers come in and basically pitch them on how they would do a TV version of the movie Legion. I heard about it through my agent, so I went in, pitched on it, and really hit it off with the Bold folks and David. They really responded to the way that I was seeing it. So, I met with Scott Stewart, who was the director and co-writer of the movie, and I got the gig. That’s how it all began for me.
Chris, how did you get involved with this?
CHRIS EGAN: I was approached by my managers. There were a few things that I was looking at, and I heard about this one through my managers, who also rep Scott Stewart. They brought it up to me and discussed it, and I had a look at the script and it fascinated me, straight away. I definitely wanted to get on the phone with Scott and Vaun, and just talk through the ideas and where the series was going to go. And I was very impressed with Vaun’s vision and Scott’s vision for the pilot, where they wanted to take the story and where they were going to take Alex. I was completely blown away. And I loved the idea that we were taking this to Cape Town, South Africa, as well. It just felt like they were really taking this seriously. We weren’t just going off to Vancouver, or somewhere local that. We were going to take this production somewhere that was really special. I was totally blown away by it.
How much of the mythology from Legion is going to be in the series? Are you working with the same mythology from the movie, or have you changed things?
WILMOTT: It was definitely the jumping off point, but the TV show is definitely Expanded and changed, and there’s all kinds of new stuff. Legion was definitely our foundation, and then from there, the show grew into its own thing, with new rules, new terms, new angels, and new mythology for the Chosen One. For the TV show, we have a whole new setting, with all new characters. Just a couple of the characters from Legion are moving into the TV show, such as the baby growing up to be Alex, Michael, Gabriel and Jeep.
EGAN: For those who are fans of Legion, this will be a whole new story. And for those who haven’t seen Legion, it really is a whole new world, 25 years in the future. The world of Vega is desolate apart from these fortified cities. It really is a completely different spin from the movie.
WILMOTT: In terms of what the world is like, 25 years in the future, it’s got contemporary aspects and it’s definitely grounded. It’s definitely a big what if. What if angels appeared in the sky? What if this actually happened? What could life be like? It’s not an alternate reality. It is very much based in what could have happened. Vega has a lot of giant casino hotels that could actually be perfect for housing people, if need be. We use all of that to basically create this new city and this new civilization, and built a wall around it to protect it from the angels. It will definitely be a recognizable world, in terms of things we know, but it will also have elements of what if.
Vaun, what’s been the most surprising or challenging aspect bringing this to TV?
WILMOTT: This has been one of those crazy projects that is just a blessing. It just came out of me. From the moment I started working on it and I wrote the initial script, I had this weird state that I went into, where I ended up writing the original script in four days. My experience at the network has been wonderful, from top to bottom, all the way through. Getting Chris on board, getting the actors we did, and filming in Cape Town has all been a crazy good experience. For me, it’s just been one joy after another. It’s also really just been a gigantic learning curve. The amount that I’ve learned about storytelling, about showrunning, about managing a crew and a set, and about interacting and interfacing with the network and the studio, has all just been a fantastic incredible learning experience. I learn, every day.
How do you sell Dominion to people who were disappointed with Legion?
WILMOTT: I think the most important thing to sell to people is that they really should give it a shot. If they have interest in genre, if they have interest in supernatural anything, if they have interest in angels, or just good characters and drama, they should give it a shot because it really is its own thing. It’s not called Legion. It’s called Dominion, and Dominion really is its own thing. I think people will hopefully embrace it.
EGAN: Essentially, this is a hero’s journey and a hero’s story. This is about Alex and his discovery of himself, and about taking the audience with him. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised. It really is a completely different world to where the movie is at. Of course, being 25 years in the future, it really is far from the movie.
WILMOTT: Buffy was a movie that some fans loved and some fans didn’t. And then, it became a very new and different show that was very popular, and that people really loved and embraced. I think they’re two separate things. Personally, I liked the movie. I saw Legion and I was a very attracted to it. I thought it was well done. But in terms of our show, it really is its own thing.
What can you say about Alex’s rebellious nature?
EGAN: The hero is taking a journey to discover himself and to discover who he is. He’s between being a man and the responsibility that’s laid on his shoulders to save mankind. The pitch of the story was so interesting, and where that was going to go. We establish that in the pilot, but then as the episodes go on, it gets crazier and crazier. The relationships around him are redefined, and it’s really about which path he is going to take, as a man, to realize and understand his calling in life.
WILMOTT: I’ve always loved characters that have a strong point of view, where either something is thrust on them or something is asking them to change, in a way that’s uncomfortable for them, and they fight against that, like John Conner in Terminator. Alex’s journey has been a tough one. He’s had to take care of himself and survive, and that rebellious nature has actually kept him alive. But now, he’s being asked to do something that he didn’t expect and that he didn’t ask for, and it’s about how he handles the destiny that he’s been given. From a character point of view, that’s where all of the fun of the storytelling comes in. We get to watch Alex go through the thing that we all watch characters for, which is growth and change. We want to see what they’re going to do. That’s what’s exciting for me about Alex.
Alex and Michael (Tom Wisdom) seem to have a complicated relationship. How will we see that evolve, throughout the season?
EGAN: Great question. There’s a Star Wars element to this, with the teacher and the student. It’s a great relationship, and it is constantly getting redefined. Alex is constantly learning more about Michael, and Michael is learning more about Alex. It’s constantly growing. As Alex is struggling with this responsibility, and is learning about the tattoos and about his destiny, it gets tense with Michael. And then, it’s back on track, and it’s this back and forth that’s really wonderful to play. It’s just been fantastic. Tom Wisdom is a great actor, and it’s a great relationship.
Chris, how do you view Alex’s relationship with Claire (Roxanne McKee)?
EGAN: It’s like Romeo and Juliet. It’s that great unattainable love. Their love is full of tribulation. In the pilot, Alex just really wants to get out of Vega. He’s got the love of his life, and he’s got his family. He’s just ready to get out. He’s over the system. He wants the freedom. But then, there’s a responsibility that Claire has to Vega. We get into that back and forth. They take that road of discovering themselves and discovering the responsibility that they both have. It’s going to be interesting to see where that goes.
What is it like to work so intimately with Roxanne McKee, as a scene partner?
EGAN: She’s fantastic and she’s so strong. She really plays that strong woman. She was fantastic to work with. There was great chemistry and a natural connection between the both of us. And it’s a really great love story.
What does Anthony Head bring to the show?
WILMOTT: He’s Tony Head. He’s so funny, so talented, and so smart. The guy just pops off the screen. I think Buffy fans will be really interested to see him in such a different way because he plays such a different character. David Weel is this rakish, manipulative, charismatic and articulate power broker. It’s really a whole new Tony.
EGAN: I was very lucky to have him to work with. He’s fantastic. He’s just an absolute professional. And working with a great like him, you learn a lot.
WILMOTT: We really lucked out on Dominion. The level of cast that we have on the show is just a cut above. They are an amazingly talented group of actors that bring a heightened world to life with a real legitimacy. When I watch the dailies, and later watch the episodes, I just believe it. I believe what I’m seeing, and that’s a testimony to really great actors.
Vaun, will the action primarily occur in Vega, or will you be moving on to other cities, as well?
WILMOTT: In the first season, we’re very much based in Vega. It was important to establish that world and establish all of the characters in the series. But definitely, in future seasons, we’ll be expanding out to New Delphi. We’ll learn what the camp is, which is a city that moves and is very mysterious. We don’t really know much about it, or who they are. So, we will definitely explore the world and the world, will grow out with each season, as we go. But for the first season, it was important to center the audience in the world of Dominion and Vega, so we didn’t overwhelm, right up front. That’s definitely the focus for the first season.
Will we see any other beings, in this series?
WILMOTT: There definitely will be new and exciting angels, and new additions and expansions of the mythology. But that would all be spoilers, if I were to say anything now. We will be expanding. We’ll keep growing the mythology, definitely.
What’s it like to deal with all of the special effects and stunts on this show?
WILMOTT: We have a really great visual effects vendor, called Spin. They’re located in Toronto, and they do special effects for Game of Thrones and some high-end movies. They’re just really, really talented people. And I think, with the special effects for the angel’s wings, the flying, the fighting, the cityscapes of Vega, and all of the stuff we’ve got going, people are going to be really surprised by the quality of the special effects. In terms of the stunts, we have a really great stunt team in Cape Town.
EGAN: It was a great stunt team, and the training was full-on. Before we started the series, they just wanted to test our agility and endurance, so they made us run around 20 blocks, just to see how our bodies worked. I don’t have wings in it, but watching Tom fly off on those wires is just fantastic. I’m just hoping that Vaun can write something where I’m attached to a wire and I get to fly around like that. It’s great. I have to be good with a gun and a sword, so there’s a lot of sword training and firearms training. We really wanted to keep it tight.
Vaun, do you use a lot of CGI, or are there practical sets, as well?
WILMOTT: We actually used a mix of both, but we did build a lot. That was one of the advantages of going to Cape Town. The level of crew was really high, in terms of their talent and experience, but also in terms of what we could build and how far our dollars went. Scott Stewart, who directed the pilot, was the founder of a special effects house called the Orphanage, and he’s a real genius at special effects. He used to always say to me, “Real is better. Whenever you can point your camera at something real, it’s better.” “ So, we built a lot of sets, but we also had Spin working for us. They create unbelievable vistas and landscapes and buildings.
Why do you think we’re seeing so many movie adaptations on TV, right now?
WILMOTT: I think that networks and studios are looking to pre-brand a TV show, or anything that they’re doing, right up front. They want to get that built-in awareness and recognition from the audience. Certainly, Fargo is a perfect example of doing that. The show has a beautiful symmetry between the look of the movie and the look of the show. I think it all comes down to storytelling. For me, it wasn’t that we had to do Legion as a TV show. There was something in Legion that attracted me to it, and then all the other people that have worked on it and that kernel that I spoke about earlier was there, and it just seemed right for a TV show. That was the jumping off point, and that’s how we did it. I haven’t seen About a Boy, or some of the other shows. Sometimes it is a jumping off point, like ours, and sometimes it really is a continuation of the movie. It’s all pre-branding an audience awareness. It’s good to have underlying material. They feel like they’re hedging their bets, if they do that.
How much of this story do you have planned out, as far as this season and possibly beyond?
WILMOTT: When I wrote the pilot, I spent about six weeks working on a series document that broke down the first three seasons, in detail. And then, I did that for another three seasons after that, in a more macro way. One of the main spines through the series is, of course, Alex’s journey and the stages that he goes through, each season. But, I’ve got loads of ideas. We have all kinds of stories to tell, for many seasons.
Dominion premieres on Syfy on June 19th.