After more than a year away, Syfy’s ambitious drama series Defiance returns for its second season.
The glossy and expensive show, which thanks to the interweaving storyline with the video game is understood to have a price tag of more than $100 million, has a diverse cast which includes two British actors, a Kiwi actor and a Scottish actor.
One of those British actors is Jaime Murray. The renowned actress, who is also well known for her time on fellow Syfy series Warehouse 13, plays the devious Stahma Tarr on Defiance. One of the more mysterious characters, Stahma was last seen with her husband Datak shortly after he murdered E-Rep Colonel Marsh.
So what does the show’s second season hold for Stahma? TVWise recently sat down with Jaime Murray to get an answer to that and many other questions, including what it’s like working with Tony Curran, the importance of Defiance’s strong female characters and much more.
TVWise: Stahma Tarr is such an enigma, what is it like for you to take on such a complex and interesting character?
Jaime Murray: She evolves over twenty six episodes and that’s a really nice thing that you get the opportunity to do with TV. You don’t have to decide on just one thing. What was unusual and surprising to me with Stahma was that in order to play an alien, I wanted to make her different enough, but still have the qualities that the audience would understand. So, that forced me to re-examine to what it is to be human from a totally different perspective. She comes from a very patriarchal, repressive, honor based society that isn’t very female friendly. In the first season, you don’t see her initially questioning that way of life until later in the season when she becomes friends with Kenya. Being with another female species, she starts to have more resentment.
In the second season, she starts to gain more perspective on who she is, where she has come from and what needs to change. So, what’s really fun is that I am playing a character that is evolving in real time. She didn’t know what she was and she is just discovering who she is, while we are shooting it and that’s really a lot of fun.
TVWise: There is almost a rhythm to the way you say your lines, is that something you were conscious of when developing your character?
Jaime Murray: Yeah, it was. I had to make choices that would make her different, but I didn’t want it to be so different that the audience would think it was weird. I did a lot of it with movement. I studied ballet when I was growing up and I moved a lot on a vertical axis, almost like a snake veering up. When we had those bath scenes I knew what we can and can’t show. I thought I can’t hide myself like a human woman would with their insecurities and vulnerabilities. Why would an alien creature have the same hang ups that we have in our society? So, I thought why doesn’t she stand like a gazelle? So, we created all this jewelry that would cover what needed to be cover, but would enable to me to move very unlike a modest human woman.
The accent was part of the ritualistic way of the Castithans. There is almost something geisha like about here with the way she submissively bows her head, but it’s kind of an act too. She is doing what is expected of her with all these Castithans meetings and rituals. Stahma is a much higher class than Datak and the way she spoke is partly soothing, and that’s the elegant way to speak. Everything is said with a smile even though you know she is dying inside or super angry; it’s kind of creepy! The Castithan aliens look the most like humans out of all the aliens. We all agreed quite early on to have little quirks that make us different.
TVWise: You have great on-screen chemistry with your co-star Tony Curran, who plays Datak. What is it like working with him?
Jaime Murray: He’s just good people. He’s so generous, funny and has such great energy. He’s just a kind soul who is a brilliant actor. I’ve worked with some wonderful people over the years , but we do have great chemistry. He calls me his TV wife and I call him my TV husband. He’s a true friend and I am really lucky to work with him. There is such a level of trust between us that we can push things or try things. It may not end up on the screen, but that is what you want in the creative process. You want to work with people who enable you to be brave and he really does because he is so kind.
TVWise: Initially, the dynamic of the relationship between Datak and Stahma appears to be that he has all the power, but as things progress we discover that Stahma is actually pulling the strings…
Jaime Murray: Definitely. I think that her species, society and culture won’t allow her any power and yet she is smarter than Datak. So how does she go about letting him know how to make the right choices and make the smart decisions because she just can’t come right out and say it? She can’t be forthright with him because that would bruise his ego and it’s not the Castithan way. She has to find a way of getting her smarts out there; kind of going sideways about it. She has to suggest the idea into his subconscious and make him think it was his idea. I guess she is super manipulative, but I actually have a lot of compassion for her.
TVWise: Even when Stahma is being manipulative and is lying, she seems to be telling you the truth at the same time…
Jaime Murray: That is exactly what I said about her! I actually think that the best liars do that. When Stahma goes to take Kenya off into the woods and gives her the poison, she tells Kenya how much she has meant to her. Kenya is standing there holding a gun to Stahma’s head and she is really trying to save her own life and waiting for the poison to kick in so she isn’t in danger anymore. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have feelings for Kenya in that moment. Every time she lies, she is telling the truth.
TVWise: Stahma is one of several strong female characters on the show, do you think it’s important to have those types of characters on Defiance?
Jaime Murray: The actors who are playing those roles are accomplished, strong and powerful women. I think the science fiction genre is really generous to women in general. I think we were all drawn to these complex, heroic and flawed characters. Amanda is more of the conventional heroine of the piece, but still incredibly flawed. You’ll get to see more of her flaws in the second season. I really like that in a piece. I don’t like how men throughout the ages have been able to be pretty much all things at once. They’ve been adulteress heroes or flawed and addictive heroes. I think that people are very complex and it’s good to portray that. The more we portray women as complex characters, I think it is better for everyone. We are all living in the real world with real relationships and people are complex. I really love that about Defiance.
Stahma, I guess she can be the baddie if you had to label her. She didn’t set out to be bad, but she will remove any obstacle that is in the way of her objective. Coming up in season two, you see her experiencing the emotion of regret and you see that she is very loyal to her family. You will see her sadness, vulnerabilities and I feel for her. I don’t know if other people do, but I really do. Yes, she can be brittle and cold, but being mistreated doesn’t necessarily turn you into the sweetest person. When she is sweet in the first season, in some ways she’s a bit of a victim. When she hardens up in the second season, she may be a bit colder.
TVWise: Your character had an interesting relationship with Kenya, do you think her free spirit and lack of restraint in her life is what attracted Stahma?
Jaime Murray: I do, definitely. I think that it was so strange for Stahma to actually have an authentic relationship with somebody. It was thrilling, but absolutely terrifying at the same time. She is always controlling everything. She controls her voice, she controls the fact that she’s smiling when she’s unhappy; she’s always wearing a mask. I think that is something a lot of people can relate to. You go to work and you had a bad night, people ask you how you are and you say you are good and smile. You are different with the person at the gas station than you are with the person at work. We all wear masks because if we didn’t, we would all fall apart. Usually we have family and friends that we drop are masks with and can be one hundred percent authentic with. That’s why it’s such a relief to get home at the end of the day for most people because they can just be.
Stahma is wearing a mask with everyone, including her husband and son. It’s not that she wasn’t wearing a mask with Kenya, but there were moments of intimacy when she was able to relax for the first time. I think it was wonderful for her in some ways, but terrifying at the same time and Kenya’s demise was almost inevitable.
TVWise: At the end of Season One, Stahma is asked to kill Kenya by Datak. Do you think Stahma truly had feelings for Kenya?
Jaime Murray: Yeah, I think she did. I don’t think she actually knew how to deal with them. When Datak found out I think she was literally scared for her life. He probably could have snapped her neck and the Castithan culture would have rewarded him. She had no rights at all. I also think that maybe she was somewhat terrified of Kenya too. Once it was done, you will see in the second season that she realizes what she has done and really does feel regret.
TVWise: The sets for Defiance must create such a powerful atmosphere, would you consider the town of Defiance a character as well?
Jaime Murray: Definitely. I would also say the costumes and the make up as well. I am dressed up and I don’t look like me and I walk on to these fantastic sets. The details on the sets are just amazing. Sometimes I feel like we should invite some UK and US journalists and have a party at the Need Want. It’s like the best club I have even been in! We all really appreciate and enjoy being on those sets. The artwork and the set directors are so creative. They love their job so much and it makes our jobs so much easier.
TVWise: What can fans look forward to in season two?
Jaime Murray: You will get a chance to see Stahma being more authentic. You see her take her power back and truly get to see who she is. You never really saw who she was in season one. It wasn’t that she didn’t get screen time and what she was doing wasn’t delicious to watch, but she wasn’t necessarily acting on her own. In season two, she definitely is much stronger.
Jaime Murray plays Stahma Tarr on ‘Defiance’ season two, which premieres on Syfy UK on Thursday September 18th at 9pm.