Exclusive Interview with Nicole Muñoz for Defiance
By Jamie Ruby
Tonight Syfy airs an all-new episode of Defiance
. Now that Christie McCawley, played by Nicole Muñoz, is married to Castithan Alak Tarr (Jesse Rath) and living with his parents, Datak (Tony Curran) and Stahma (Jaime Murray), things will be different for her. The actress recently sat down with Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision for an exclusive interview about marriage, pregnancy, and what's next for Christie.
Sometimes the actors get their scripts a week in advance, but it's always being changed. "We film the scripts in blocks. We get the first few scripts, and then we film it for a couple weeks, and then we get the next set of two scripts. So we get two scripts at a time, but usually they're constantly being revised; they're constantly changing. They never give you one script and go "Okay this is the script you're going to work with for the rest of the month." Every day a new one comes out. There might be just changes in spelling or a new character, but sometimes the storyline changes, because the writers are continuously doing meetings; they're continuously writing and creating and making the show better and improving. And so as actors we're always getting revisions. So sometimes it can be a week in advance, sometimes it can be a couple days in advance."
The script changes can sometimes make learning Castithan even more difficult, which is something Muñoz has struggled with. "I've heard that Jaime Murray and Tony Curran, they have issues sometimes, because they get revisions a couple nights before the day we're supposed to start filming, and their whole paragraph of alien becomes two big paragraphs of alien, and they have to quickly memorize that.
"And learning Castithan is so hard. I have to speak Castithan in season two. I've tried so many different ways of doing it, and it is really hard. I have the utmost respect for Jaime; she pulls off the Castithan so well. She says it like poetically, and I tried learning it with dance moves and with hand movements and as a song, so many different ways I've attempted to learn it. I mean I pull through at the end of the day, but she does it with such ease; it's incredible."
This season Christie has a family bathing scene with her husband and mother-in-law, which was also a concern at first. "That was fun. I was quite worried about doing that scene actually. I was very self-conscious about the whole thing at first, but then I realized, 'why are you being self-conscious, just be proud of who you are, and it's going to be on television and memed for the rest of your life, so let it be. That's how it's going to work, and just be proud of it, be proud of who you are and what you're doing.' And you know people would kill to be in a bathtub with Jaime. (laughs) I'm the one in the bathtub with Jaime.
"So the second I got to let go of the mental block as every teenage girl - I'll be honest, I was worried, it was like, 'what's going on? I'm not a model, but whatever.' I was like, 'you know what? The point of the bathtub scene is not to look good in the bathtub; the point of the bathtub scene is to be Christie uncomfortable in the bathtub.' Christie doesn't do this kind of stuff. She doesn't like it. So I used it. I used the fact that I was uncomfortable in the scene. And I think it worked. And it brought comedy to the scene, and it would have been weird if Christie stepped in the bathtub for the first time and just owned it and was totally okay and just relaxing with Shahma and Alak in the bath together.
"So she is nervous and it's kind of weird, and it even says in the script like "they awkwardly glance at each other," and it would be really awkward, and it'd be so scary to be in the bathtub with your mother-in-law. It would be the weirdest thing ever. Poor Christie.
"But she's trying hard to fit in. She wants this to work and she does love Stahma, and she looks up to Stahma, and she really admires what she does and how hard Stahma tries to keep her family together. That's essentially what Stahma's doing, even though she's doing it in a very dark way, and she's keeping them together by manipulating all of them, which is not the way Christie's doing it, but they're taking different routes to the same goal, I would like to kind of say, I guess.
"But yeah, that bathtub scene was fun. The funny part was that there're no chairs in the bathtub, and even though it looks like we're sitting, we're really just doing these really deep squats. I don't know how Jaime does it for so long, because she's just sitting there squatting in the bathtub, and we're all just like, "Oh God, my quads are killing me."
"They tried putting these like little plastic stools [in], but they kept floating up halfway through the scene, and we all started laughing. And we had little like water fights in the tub and the makeup for the scene [wouldn't last through that], because as soon as water hits the Casti they go human again! It was pretty fun, and I guess pretty hot and steamy in there, because the bath water actually is warm, thankfully. So they have to keep towels on board and bottles of water for us, and it's all very comfortable. It's a nice environment, and the cast and crew are all looking out for each other.
"You know, I was dreading this scene and then once I did it I was like, "All right when do I get to be in a bath next? Sign me up; I'm coming back in.""
Muñoz really liked her costume in that scene. "The costume itself was amazing. Simonetta [Mariano], the costume designer, used pieces of the Tilo actually as part of my kind of half bra thing I've got going on. So they're recycling costumes. I thought that was really cool, and it was comfortable, and I hope they get a shot of my back, because they made this awesome crocheted [piece]; it was just beautiful. It has beads sewn into it and it has pearls sewn into it, and it's so shiny and amazing. I was like, "Can I take this home with me, because it's amazing?" And they're like, "No you can't." I wanted to."
It wasn't just in that scene that the actress loved. This season most of Christie's wardrobe has changed for the better, in her opinion. "Oh my God, I love it; I love what they've done with Christie's wardrobe this year. She definitely went from [Quentin's] hand-me-downs to Stahma's hand-me-downs. Quite the upgrade. She is thrilled; I am thrilled. She looks more like a woman this year. She's growing up. I think it definitely reflects her maturing, not only mentally but physically, and now her clothing is reflecting that. And she's also living with the Tarrs, so she's trying to fit in, so she's dressing like them a little bit more. But as you can tell, her wardrobe is not necessary full Casti garments. She's got like Casti with a human twist. I don't think Christie would ever be willing to fully go Casti. She's true to her roots and she would never change. But she's adapting; it's a new world; you have to adapt."
It's not just the wardrobe Christy has to adapt to. Living in the Tarr house will change a lot of things in her life. The actress talked about how Christie's relationship with Alak will develop during season two as she starts to realize what he's been up to. "Last year it was very sort of fairytale, their relationship. They were madly in love; they got engaged right away; they got married right away. Christie thought everything was picture perfect. That's what she wants, a picture perfect family.
"Starting season two, actually in the second episode, I believe, there's a scene where you start to realize Christie knows what's going on in the Tarr family, and she's not liking it. And she doesn't support it. So her relationship with Alak starts to get rocky, because he's not what she thought he was. And it disappoints her, and it saddens her, but it also angers her. And throughout the season you see that inner conflict with her as to what she does with him, because she is in love with him, but she doesn't love what he does."
Now that Christie's pregnant, will that change Alak and maybe stop some of that behavior? "I think she's hoping it will bring Alak back to her. I think she hopes he will be there as a supportive father figure. That's what she wants; she wants family. She wants this child to be [part of] a happy family. She tries. Everything she does in this season is because of the baby. Her motive is to protect her child and to protect the family that she is creating.
"So I think she has faith in Alak that he will do the right thing. I think she knows that he's not the most mature person out there and that he has some growing up to do, and I think she's really disappointed, because in the first season...she looked up to him; he was new to the world; he was an alien; he was mysterious. He's like the bad boy, and she likes that. But then she grew up towards the end of the season, mentally.
"So now at the beginning of season two, I think mentally she's probably a little more mature than Alak is, and so now she has to put him in place. And poor Alak not only has Christie putting him in place, but also has Stahma putting him in place, so he starts rebelling.
"...Alak and Christie, they do love each other. They do have their fights, their arguments, but always in the end they do support each other, even though she doesn't support what he does as a job. She has faith in him; she knows he's going to pull through, but throughout the season there's a lot of push and pull between them. He does some bad things that are very much unforgiveable, but she does find a way to supposedly forgive him. It's hard to say by the end of the season. The season finale is very intense and it kind of leaves us all wondering what is going to happen with all the characters."
It's not just Christie's relationship with her husband that is going to change this season. She and Stahma will become even closer, even though she isn't as naïve as everyone thinks and is aware that Stahma's manipulating her. "I think she's aware of what's going on. I think she knows she is being manipulated. You know, she's not going to go after Stahma, she likes Stahma, but she doesn't really like what she does. It's like a respect thing; she respects Stahma. She knows what Stahma's doing, but she's not going to go after Stahma, because she doesn't have a death wish; she doesn't want to die. (laughs) And Stahma's Christie's mother figure. It's kind of a very interesting relationship they've got going on, but as the season develops, I'm not going to spoil it, but Christie and Stahma's relationship gets closer, I guess, and you start to wonder how far Christie will go; she wants what she wants so badly that she is willing to blur her moral boundaries to get it. Christie has this like utopian style family image in her head that she's [moving] towards.
"And then she starts doing things to get to her goal, but they become very dark things. She's doing very dark things to get to where she wants to be and then you start wondering, oh is Christie the innocent one in this whole thing? Is she the victim in this, or is she becoming like the puppet handler? Is she becoming mini-Stahma, is the question"
The Tarr family may not be the most law-abiding citizens, but her own father (Graham Greene) isn't innocent either, having had her husband beat up and threatened on a few occasions. Christie isn't completely naïve to him either. "I think she becomes a little suspicious, but I think she turns a blind eye, because it's her father; it's her family; she doesn't want to ruin that. She's already got enough family issues to deal with."
The set of Defiance is massive and Muñoz had a hard time choosing a favorite part of it. "That's a tough one. I love the set, honestly, out of all the sets I've ever been on in my life, and I'm sure all the sets I'll be on, that's my favorite one. I love the fact that you can walk through the actual streets. Sometimes I'll like walk down the streets as Christie and I'll like improv going to the market or something, and I'll like pick up fruit, and I'll smell it as Christie. How would she react to the meat hanging, or how would she react to the pile of dead mannequins in the corner? How would she react to seeing the Tarr house, kind of thing. That's my own little acting exercise I do sometimes.
"But my favorite part of the set itself is definitely the NeedWant. And they've kind of renovated it for season two, and it looks incredible. I wish Christie had more scenes in the NeedWant. It's so cool.
"And there's a new set this year, I forgot what it's called, but it's in one of the later episodes, you'll know it's like an underground club. But it's a really awesome set they've got. It's really grungy looking, and the set really comes alive with all the extras and the background actors there. That's another amazing part of Defiance
: our background actors and our extras. Everyone's so dedicated and works so hard and actually gets into character, and everyone bothered to learn the mannerisms of each race, and you know if it weren't for them, the show wouldn't look the way it does, so big shoutout."
It's not only the series that has a great look, but also the console game that it inspired. The actress has played the game a bit. "I have attempted to play the game; I uploaded it to my PC, because I have a Mac, but I had a PC in my closet from grade ten, and it uploaded but it was very, very slow, and it wasn't really working, because I guess my computer was too old. But I did get to the point where I got to design my Irath and that part was fun...And I have some friends that play it, so I've attempted to play it. I don't play it on the regular, but I have played it."
You can catch Nicole Muñoz Thursday nights on Defiance