An Interview with Dominique Tipper
Dominique Tipper, Escape Velocity 2019 special guest, talks The Expanse, Sci-Fi, and More
When Syfy announced it was canceling The Expanse in May 2018 after three seasons, it didn’t take long for the show’s diehard fan base to unite behind a campaign to rescue the show. An online petition went up that eventually gathered over 100,000 signatures, an airplane flew a “Save The Expanse” banner over Amazon Studios’ headquarters in California, and a model of the Rocinante starship was even launched from England to the edge of space. No one had any idea in the beginning whether the campaign would be successful, and that was especially true for the cast themselves. Dominique Tipper, who plays engineer Naomi Nagata on the show, spoke with the Museum of Science Fiction about what was going through her head at the time.
“My way of dealing with it was like, “Okay, it’s done. Carry on, audition, how do I get the next job?’” Tipper said. “I couldn’t quite fathom what was happening, and I think my coping mechanism was to just push forward and not really get involved with it too much.”
While castmate Cas Anvar maintained an active social media presence with the fans, Tipper admits she was skeptical at first that their efforts would pay off. “The talks started happening about us possibly going to a different network, and I was like ‘Yeah, buddy, everybody says that when their show gets canceled.’”
“So it wasn’t until I got up in the morning and realized that I had no data and had all these messages flood through into my phone: we’ve been saved. And I just couldn’t believe it.”
But in the case of The Expanse, it worked. Tipper says she was shell-shocked when the announcement was made that Amazon had picked up the show for a fourth season. In the weeks after the cancellation, she had been splitting her time between auditioning in Los Angeles and renovating the new apartment she had just bought in London, her hometown. When Jeff Bezos said the show was coming back and her costars, most of whom were in the US, began celebrating, it was the middle of the night for Tipper in England.
“So it wasn’t until I got up in the morning and realized that I had no data and had all these messages flood through into my phone: we’ve been saved. And I just couldn’t believe it.” Tipper described the weeks following the cancellation as “like a weird mourning period,” but that once she realized she would have to get back on set and into character, her excitement for the role returned. “When we finally got back to it, I was so excited and grateful.”
Season four wrapped shooting in February and is set to air sometime this year on Amazon Prime Video. While all of the cast and almost all of the crew from the first three seasons returned, Tipper says filming this season had a very different feel than before.
“It’s like we have new foster parents and they really love us and they’re excited about the show,” she said. “Now it’s stopped feeling like a passion project that we’re all doing because we love it, and it’s starting to feel like we have someone who knows the quality and understands the show in a way that I’m not sure Syfy did.”
Tipper goes on to say that while there’s been no official confirmation of a fifth season, the atmosphere has been promising.
“It feels different in terms of how it’s always been when we wrapped the show previously. It feels like there’s excitement. It feels like they really can’t wait to market the hell out of the show and give it a bigger audience than the wonderful fans we’ve already got.”
“I always get quite emotional because people tend to tell me their stories and stuff about how maybe Naomi is giving them strength in their own situation or whatever.
Tipper is looking forward to meeting some of those fans this Memorial Day weekend at Escape Velocity. Prior to recent appearances at Great Philadelphia Comic Con and Dragoncon, she never had an opportunity to meet any of them. Being relatively new to the convention circuit, Tipper says that hearing directly from the fans has been, at times, a bit overwhelming.
“I always get quite emotional because people tend to tell me their stories and stuff about how maybe Naomi is giving them strength in their own situation or whatever. I always find it quite mind-blowing that we may be having an effect on people’s lives in that way.”
Tipper might need to start getting used to seeing those kinds of reactions. The Expanse has received critical acclaim not just for its engaging story lines and refreshingly accurate depiction of real science, but also for its multicultural cast of characters and representation of women. Science fiction fans in general are known to be fiercely loyal, so it should surprise no one that fans from demographics typically underrepresented on screen would be particularly drawn to a show like The Expanse. But did Tipper, herself half British and half Dominican, imagine she would become a role model on a show like this?
“I don’t know what I envisioned. I think often you have ideas for yourself and then they get wiped off the table,” Tipper said. “I thought I’d be doing little obscure indie films because that’s what I love and watch most of the time.”
While Tipper acknowledges she still doesn’t consider herself a huge sci-fi fan, it has nonetheless been a part of her life from an early age ever since she would watch The Twilight Zone on BBC2 after everyone else had gone to bed. These days she has started getting into graphic novels and acquainting herself more with the world of sci-fi and the fan base. Escape Velocity should provide her with another opportunity to see firsthand just how much the genre has to offer.
“I was reading about the con and how different it is,” Tipper said. “I’m quite intrigued to be there and meet everyone and see what it’s about.”
What it’s about is a three-day celebration of science fiction featuring artists, scientists, filmmakers, authors, virtual reality, gaming, educational workshops, and much, much more. It’s unlike any other convention around, and there is something for everyone – Earthers, Martians, and with Ms. Tipper in the building, especially Beltalowda!
Escape Velocity mixes the fun of comic cons with the fascination of science and engineering festivals to create an amazing 3-day experience for the whole family.
Check out the new green screen photo ops, click here.