If Syfy keeps making good decisions like this, I might have to stop making fun of their name, and man, is that gonna sting. First they had to go and start greenlighting all sorts of genuinely exciting stuff, such as Ascension and DMZ and Letter 44. Then they had to go and announce a series adaptation of James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse, easily my favorite new science fiction series in decades. The thought of it done well is hugely exciting…but what if they screw it up? Today, at least, I’m leaning toward optimism, because they’ve just added actor Thomas Jane to the cast, in a role he should be damn near perfect for.
The Hollywood Reporter today broke the news that Jane has landed the role of Detective Miller in The Expanse. If you’re not familiar with the books, Miller was one of the two primary protagonists in 2011’s Leviathan Wakes, the first of Corey’s Expanse novels (“James S.A. Corey” is actually a pen name for two writers, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.) Miller is a gruff, blue-collar cop working the beat for a corporate security force that controls much of the belt. What seems to be a simple case of a missing heiress soon leads Miller into a web of dead bodies, cover-ups, and a secret that could determine the future of mankind.
Jane is at his best playing average guys just trying to scrape by who are thrown into crazy circumstances, whether it’s a father trying to protect his family from Lovecraftian beasts (The Mist) or a high school gym teacher who starts moonlighting as a male prostitute to make ends meet (HBO’s Hung). While I’d never thought of him for the role of Miller, he’s pretty much perfect for it. Sure, he’s better looking than I ever pictured Miller while I was reading the book, but he does “world weary” so well that I don’t think it’ll matter. He’s a great choice.
There are still many roles to fill out, but the other leading-man role for The Expanse will be Jim Holden, an ice miner who discovers a secret that makes him the most hunted man in the solar system. He goes on the run with his crew and winds up on a collision course with Miller, as they’re both trying to unravel the same mystery — they just don’t realize it at first. Whereas Miller is beaten down and cynical, Holden is an idealist willing to risk his life — and the lives of others — in order to do what he considers “the right thing.” The two make excellent foils for each other as the story of Leviathan Wakes unfolds.
The Expanse series is being written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, a pair whose resume includes Iron Man and Children of Men, so we’re cautiously optimistic. They will also serve as showrunners along with Naren Shankar (CSI). Syfy ordered The Expanse straight to series, which means we’ll at least get to see the first full season, which will adapt the first book, Leviathan Wakes. If all goes well, hopefully we’ll get to see future seasons tackle Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate, and Cibola Burn as well.