Defiance Season 2 - Interview with Jaime Murray (Stahma Tarr)

Attention, all the sci-fi fanboys and fangirls! Defiance is back with aliens, action, and a massive war at hand. Set in 2046 on an Earth like you’ve never seen before, the plants and animals we know are extinct and new species are here to take their place. Joshua Nolan and his adopted daughter Irisa settle down in the community of Defiance, where humans and extraterrestrials co-exist in peace - and it is up to Nolan to guard that peace.

Picking up from a shocking finale when Irisa is abducted and Nolan is revived from the dead, the search continues. But a missing daughter is just one of Nolan’s problems, when Earth Republic takes over Defiance. New friends and foes emerge and guest star Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)’s particularly horrifying performance as Rafe’s estranged wife is a spectacle you can’t miss.

Photo Credit: Syfy

To better prepare you for the massive war, here's the transcript of the interview with the cast member - Jaime Murray - so you will have a better idea of the show and the cast.

Interview with Jaime Murray (Stahma Tarr)

Jaime Murray as Stahma Tarr
Photo Credit: Syfy

1. Can you tell me more about your character, Stahma?
She is a really interesting character for me to play because she comes from a culture with such a strict class system. It’s a very patriarchal society, we are looking at issues that we have had historically; gender repression and female oppression. I think it’s a complex world and Stahma is particularly complex. I think it was really great to have the whole of the first season to present this fantastical world which now hopefully you understand and now you understand it, it’s going to mean something to you when we tip it on its head. It’s going to mean something to you when you realise that Stahma is looking around her and realising that she is in a brand new world and the constraints of the society she has come from, they don’t particularly serve her very well. They have kept her in a gilded cage and it’s all she knew and she is part of the problem. To any extent we only see the world through the prism that we are given so it has taken her a while. Now, she is looking around and circumstances have changed. Datak has truly fucked everything up and now it’s left with her to deal with the repercussions of that. By dealing with repercussions, it’s also going to make her realise how strong she is. I think the audience already knew that behind that placid geisha girl smile there was a real strength. I think she knew it on some levels but I think she wasn’t as forthright as she is in the second season.

2. Did you know yourself about the character development? I mean, she’s the most complex and interesting character but did you know that would develop through the season?
Well, no. I can’t sit and agree with everything you said otherwise the other actors will kill me. Well, I have worked with Kevin Murphy before and I love him and I love his weird perverse mind and how excited he gets about everything. He has the enthusiasm that is sometimes crushed in human beings that is present in a child and as you get older you learn to kind of keep a lid on that and I love that about him so much. I love psychology, I love other people and I am incredibly interested in humanity so he and I can get together and we can just talk things out. He’s as enthusiastic about all the characters but because we talk about stuff; he’s not precious, he’ll take ideas from everywhere and that’s what I really love.

I love that collaboration of working with people and it’s a shame when it doesn’t happen and it definitely is happening in this project. Whereby, if there’s a great idea, just take it, just take it and if you can make it better, make it better and I’ll steal that from you as well. For example; there’s a blog that is written about TV shows and it’s called TV Without Pity and it’s so amazing and detailed. They analyse the episode and it’s like 22 pages of analysis and they’ll break down the script and it’s actually really funny to read because they’ll say “and then Stahma did this and then she gives her a snaky look” and then they’ll paraphrase what we said and it isn’t actually what we said, it might as well have been, and they talk about the subtext of what were actually saying. Sometimes as an actor you work on a conscious level or a subconscious level and you don’t always know why you’re doing the things you’re doing and it’s the same with writers and directors. You just know that they feel right but he analyses it so deeply that when reading it I am like "Oh my god!

That’s totally what I was doing! And I am going to do that even more next year” So, I think to answer your question, I kind of went off on a tangent, I think I don’t know if necessarily Kevin knew exactly where we were going with this character. He’s just super enthusiastic and he just doesn’t mind about getting down and dirty and weird. If you thought the first season was weird, I mean we’ve really out-weirded ourselves. This season is dark and it’s fabulous.

3. It must be great for you because there are so many different sides to the character.
Well, the thing that has been really fun about this character is although I play an alien and as an actor some of the moments where I’ve lost myself most as an artist acting is when I look at the other person in the scene with me and I really focus on what they’re doing and then I allow my own impulses to come up; it’s a method of acting called meisner. I use that a lot but with this character I would have these impulses but they were human impulses; so it was like “Let’s put that one away, let’s put that normal impulse away. What is really weird? How about if I smile as I am doing that or I tenderly stroke the person as I am saying that or I nod as I am saying no.” Whatever it is because why would these aliens have the same neuro-highways or emotional responses, impulses as human being? For me, it’s really given me a freedom, its enabled me to look at a dancing background. I studied method acting at the drama centre in England which is known as trauma centre and I came out of there totally traumatised and thought I’d never use that work and in this job I am actually going back to that tool box, dusting it off and using things like my study of animals. I often think of snakes or crocodiles or a cat with Stahma because why would she move like a human woman? In the first season I am constantly in that bloody bath but in the first episode in the pilot I was in a bath and I thought “this is not HBO” you know, I understood what we were going to show and weren’t going to show and I thought how can I help that? How is that going to be? That’s going to be really tricky to shoot because as a human female there are things I can do which are very natural which can help the camera hide the things that we needed to hide, my hair, my body language or my modesty but I thought why would an alien woman necessarily have the same inhibitions, modesty and insecurity as a human woman? You don’t watch the discovery channel and see animals walking around with a stoop hiding themselves, why would an alien not be more like that? So, it has been really interesting creatively for me, I have had maybe more freedom than some of the other actors and I embraced it.

4. Would you say you were going to be one of the main villains in the second series?
Well, I don’t know if I could say that, I am very protective of my character. I don’t see her as a villain but I’ll leave that up to you guys to decide whether she is or not because the thing is she has a whole different set of moral standards to humans. She’s not human, she’s a Castithan and you may see a similarity between her and Datak although they are very different. They have different aspirations, they have different emotional responses, they have a different concept of honour, and they have different forces driving them. It’s the same as you don’t judge a scorpion to be a bad scorpion or a good scorpion; I mean, you might not want to hang out with a scorpion but you can’t morally judge it, it just is what it is and she is a Castithan. I don’t know if you necessarily want to have her over for tea but she doesn’t consider herself a villain. In every moment, she thinks that what she is doing is the best decision she can make under the circumstances.

5. She is definitely stronger now, right?
Yes, yes.

6. How would you define your character?
I think she’s very smart. I think she is intelligent, I think she’s cunning and I think she’s charming. I think that she’s a narcissist; I think that in that she had no real sense of self. She came from such a strong culture that she was never allowed to truly be herself. She’s very good at changing into whatever the situation requires. She’s a trickster.

7. What’s going to change in the second season?
Oh, she’s is still going to be all of those things! She wears a lot of masks and she still wears the masks in the second season and that will probably always be a part of her because she always had to do that in order to survive and get what she needed. She was never able to be straightforward about what she needed so she always had to sideways, she always had to wear a mask but I think that to be fair, we all wear masks. I’m wearing a mask right now. We all have armour and we wear it at different times depending on if we are in the workplace or whatever but most of us have somebody or family or people we are able to remove the mask with and she never removed the mask, even with Datak. There were times when it slipped in the first season and in the second season the mask will come off at times and you’ll maybe see more of her; it doesn’t mean she doesn’t put it back on but it’s quite fun to see it slip and to see her being quite terrifying.

8. What motivates her? Ultimately, what does she want?
I hope I don’t have a concise answer for that because hopefully that would be season seven and that would be more clarity but I think it’s constantly evolving. I think really its survival, she has a strong mother instinct; she cares deeply about Alak. I think that she loves Datak, I mean, if she could keep the family unit and protect that and go on. It does shift, it’s kind of what she wants in the moment but survival, power and honour, those kinds of things are quite important to her.

9. Talking about masks, do you think she was also wearing a mask when she was with Kenya?
Oh yes! It doesn’t mean that she didn’t love Kenya; it was obvious that she loved Kenya. One of the fun things about Stahma is even when she is lying she is telling the truth. Even in the scene when she is killing Kenya, Kenya has the flask in her hands and there’s poison on the flask and she’s waiting for the poison to take effect on Kenya and Kenya is saying “did you ever care about me?” and Stahma said that she did and I do believe that she did but it doesn’t mean that she didn’t want the poison to kick in (laughs). So, it was quite convenient to have a conversation at that point as Kenya was being disposed of. I think it was a new experience for her and it was thrilling and terrifying and it felt very much out of her circle of comfort and exhilarating. She handles everything in her life and controls everything and although she was handling and controlling Kenya too there were moments there where she felt quite out of control which was a new experience.

10. How did you react to finding out that you were going to kill Kenya?
Well, I kind of felt like it was shocking, I was shocked.

11. Kevin told us that you didn’t know much about anything when you signed up. How was that?
Well, the original script bore a resemblance to what we ended up shooting but they needed to cast and the original script my character had about two lines and she was very much the good wife which is a role I don’t think I would’ve been very interested in playing. So, there wasn’t much for me to go on in the script but Kevin wrote me two or three really interesting scenes in the audition. Then, because he is Kevin he put a four or five page description of who she was. It was such an interesting psychological break down of the person and he was talking about some really epic things and some things that are really interesting to me as a woman as well. I understood that her character would have a long way to go and be dealing with some really big themes, so he talked me into it.

12. What are those themes?
Themes of power, love, loyalty, repression and anger and repressed anger and all of those darky, murky emotions that linger in those places where you store anger.

13. The hair and make-up process, is it laborious, is it long, and is it annoying?
Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. The actual process, I rather like it in the morning. I come in, I get to see Colin who is my make-up artist who has become a great friend and we listen to music, drink tea or coffee and he makes me up. Between hair and make-up (Ryan and Colin) it takes about two hours which actually isn’t that long; it sounds like a long time if you never been in a make-up chair but often it takes a normal human actress about that long. One of the wonderful things about it is I can come in absolutely dreadful and you’d never know at the end of that process because really I am completely painted. I am painted like a geisha, like a clown; I don’t know if it reads that way with the lighting on set but I am snow white so I can hide behind that. Sometimes it’s a bit tough if I am in the first scene of the day and the last scene because other actors can go off and do whatever they want whereas I am sat like a painted china doll, I can’t go anywhere or do anything, I am glued into the wig and I am just left there looking ghoulish. The costumes are pretty elaborate too, sometimes if were breaking for lunch everyone will run off because they’re hungry and I can’t even go to the loo on my own. It takes three people to un-lease me; unhook me and all those sorts of things. It’s not the easiest thing, with the eyes, with everything else; the make-up is also incredibly fragile. In fact, some of the other aliens are in prosthetics so their look ends up being more transformative than mine and they are glued into plastic foreheads and whatnot. Theirs is more hardy than mine because mine is paint and poor Tony Curran who plays Datak in the first season because we are husband and wife, he’d want to go touch my face and I would be like “Don’t touch my face!” because even when my own hair blows into that sticky paint that is all over my body; I have to ask somebody else to get a hair out of my face. I can’t tell you how claustrophobic that can make you feel and then I am wearing corsets and stuff but I decided quite early on that I would use that and what I do with that is; that claustrophobia that it makes me feel, that frustration and irritation and oppression that all of those physical things make me feel, even the vision particularly if the light isn’t good, with the eyes, I can’t read. There’s a lot of down time when you’re an actor and people will read and I can’t really do anything. I use all of that and I think about woman over the ages and the shoes we wear today but particularly if you look at the corsets of the 50’s or centuries ago and how constrained those women are and how vulnerable they were made by their attire so I use all of that.

14. If you had to pitch this show to a female audience that doesn’t like or watch sci-fi, what would say to entice them?
I think the wonderful thing about the sci-fi genre is that the themes are so big, that they’re almost epic Shakespearean themes; life and death, good and evil, you have real moral choices to make. In this fantastical world which knows no bounds that can be as outrageous and weird as we want to make it. Also, it is a soap opera and social commentary and even if you were not into the sci-fi genre I think that there are really relatable themes which we are able to examine from another angle; a new angle. For example; female repression is not necessarily a topic which is particularly popular right now. You don’t really want to sit down, unless you’re watching a documentary or you steal yourself and look at something as difficult and kind of unattractive as that issue but you can skew everything so ever so slightly you can re-examine things from another angle and make them easier to digest.

15. Sometimes Stahma seems to care a lot about her son and his relationship with Christie, she’s really kind to Christie, Datak never liked this relationship; why do you think Stahma is ok with it?
Well, I think that the thing that differentiates her and Datak is that she’s a pragmatist. She’s very practical and I think she really does care about Alak and I think she is rather fond of Christie as far as humans go; she is quite a cute one. She is harmless, she is probably quite easy to control so she will always have her son, she won’t lose him entirely but also if you remember in the first season Datak had the typical honour response to “that’s disgusting, I am not allowing an inter-species relationship in our family” whereas she is far more willing to evolve into this new world where we integrate. Also, Christie was really a way to gain more power within the city. It was a marriage of two houses, the McCawley house is the only other family which is of an equal or higher social standing powerhouse compared to us. Ultimately by that marriage we would become more powerful but that’s the same thing; even when she’s lying, she also telling the truth. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel affection for Christie or want to make Alak happy so she is a bundle of contradictions. There is a lot going on all at one time.

16. So I get to ask the bath tub questions, obviously that was quite a big feature in season one.
I’d love to ask Kevin, I haven’t asked him this, whether it was just a scene in the tub in the first episode and then they liked and it ended becoming the tea ceremony of the Castithans or whether he always intended it to be so! Maybe, actually, if I’d been smarter and more like Stahma, I would’ve totally sucked in the bath and then I would never have had to get back in there again.

17. Obviously, it looks quite striking but I guess the reality of waiting for the shoot to start and getting soaked and getting wrinkled and all that kind of stuff. What’s that like?
Honestly, you think it’s going to get easier. It’s so challenging. It seems like quite a simple thing to shoot, you know, it’s one bath; what could go wrong? But you have different directors coming in and out; you sometimes have different people coming in and its there’s always a moment when you’re shooting that scene when they’re like “Welcome to the bath scene” because there are just some things that are really kind of awkward and difficult to get to where you want to be for the camera and what that means for me is that I am in the water for about 8 hours and I’m shrivelled like a prune. One of the other things about the bath is, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve said it and they’ve not done anything about it. The actual distance from the top of the water to the bottom of the bath does not correlate with my spine. If my head is to be above the water I have to be off the bottom of the water and I have asked them for a stool or something to sit on and they go “Brilliant! Great idea!” and they go off and it’s like the trauma of the bath; they just want to forget about until we are shooting again. Often times I am balanced on the nape of my head, my one finger and a big toe. To try and look graceful in that bath is a comedy of errors and if I wasn’t in there, it would be funny. Obviously, if you’re going to paint an actor with white paint, one of the things you don’t want to do is then put them in water. There’s not much covering me and it kind of all falls off so I am trying to be graceful and I’ve got petals and beads and bits of make-up all falling off around me; it’s absolutely mortifying. Trying to be graceful and remotely sensual and sexy and I feel very much the opposite to that.

Cast of Defiance S2
Photo Credit: Syfy