Expanse Director Rob Lieberman On Why He Loves Sci-Fi
Over the course of two seasons, The Expanse has brought in a team of directors to adapt the epic space saga created in James S.A. Corey’s (writing duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) series of novels. Rob Lieberman (Fire In The Sky, Lost Girl) has the honour of being the first one to be nominated for a Best Director in a Dramatic Series award from the Directors Guild of Canada. We talked to Lieberman about his long history with science fiction and what it’s like to take part in the process of creating imaginative, compelling new worlds on screen.
Space: There are a number of sci fi projects on your CV in addition to The Expanse—is it a genre you enjoy coming back to?
Rob Lieberman: Yes, l love doing sci fi material. It always challenges my imagination to the maximum since most of the time you are inventing every element of the content from costumes to settings, from makeup to props—everything is an invention. I love exploring a vision of the future that makes sense and adheres to scientific projection. And now, with the advanced forms of computer graphics, anything you can imagine, you can create. I feel it is an area of filmmaking that offers the broadest canvas and palette.
You’re nominated for best director in a dramatic series at the 2017 DGC Awards for your work on the second season of The Expanse, but you also directed two episodes mid-way through the first season. What is it like for a director to step into that kind of world as it’s being built?
Well, when I came on first season I had read and loved the novels and watched the first four episodes. I had some issues with the direction the TV show had taken visually and expressed that to the executive producers who embraced my vision. So they gave me the latitude to try and reshape the visual approach, which I did. Everyone was very pleased but not more than me. I love to be able to make that kind of contribution.
One of the coolest things about the second season was getting to see inside the MCRN from a Martian point of view with Frankie Adams’ character, Bobbie Draper. In “Here There be Dragons” you directed her most pivotal scene of the season: going AWOL on Earth. Does a big moment like that in a series put extra pressure on you as a director?
No, not really, it just invigorates me to elevate my game. In all my direction I get a clear image of what a scene should look and feel like and how I want it to effect the audience. I loved staging that scene and creating a sense of future Earth in downtown Toronto.
When you’re directing two episodes out of thirteen and four or five other people are directing the rest, do you want to look at what they’ve done before you tackle your episodes or do you prefer to go in without having seen any of it?
Oh, I absolutely watch all the work that runs up to mine. I have to get on a moving train and I better understand the story and the language that has brought the show to that point. I study the performances to see if I can improve upon them. I study them thoroughly in an effort to make a contribution that I hope elevates the series.