Published: Sunday, 12 November 2023 13:58 | Written by Jamie Ruby
Beacon 23, the new series based on short stories by Hugh Howey, premieres tonight on MGM+. The series takes place in the far reaches of outer space, when after a Beacon malfunction, ex-military man Halan (Stephan James) rescues government agent Aster (Lean Headey) from a crashed ship, bringing her onto the intergalactic lighthouse. The two find themselves trapped together on the Beacon where they must question each others motives and depend on each other if they want to survive.
Recently, executive producer Glen Mazzara spoke with SciFi Vision about working on the series, including how closely it resembles the original story, the relationship between Halan and Aster, creating the unique look of the series, casting, and more.
Watch the interview and read the full transcript below. Be sure to stream Beacon 23, starting tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
SCIFI VISION: Obviously, this is based on a book by on book series by Hugh Howey, on his short stories. Especially since it's short stories, I'm assuming there's a lot that's been added to it, but can you talk about how you decided what to pull versus what needed created, and how much it resembles the original overall story?
GLENN MAZZARA:Well, thank you. Great question. So, the show was created by Zak Penn, the writer of Avengersand Ready Player One, and I joined the show after [production began]. And I think I've had conversations with Hugh about his original intent with the show. I think that there is a major change; there is a major difference that Zack made to differentiate the show from the book. The tone is the same. The tone is a character drama. It's about damaged people needing each other to survive on the edge of space in this incredibly hostile environment. So, the conversations I've had with Hugh, I will say, he said he really wanted [was], he felt this was about small moments. It was about, you know, the kitchen drama of it all. So, it's really about his intent and the tone, and I will say, I feel like that is the same.
Obviously, this is, to some extent, a big, sci-fi space drama, but a lot of it is obviously about building the trust between the two main characters. Can you kind of talk a bit about that, about their relationship?
Well, they're both damaged characters, and I think that each one is their own worst enemy. They don't trust each other. They see each other as the enemy, but they're stuck together. They need each other to survive, and I think they need each other to heal. So, what we'll see in season one is that Halan is a mystery. Aster is a mystery to Halan. But as they to try to figure each other out and come closer, they have to reveal more about themselves to the other to gain trust. That's not what they want to do. They don't want to reveal themselves, because they don't want to deal with their emotional baggage, but they have to deal with that emotional baggage, so that they can gain trust and survive. So, the only way to survive is together, but that's requires a painful, painful, emotional journey. So, that's the crux of the show. And we have this fantastic setting and this beautiful set and great visual effects and wonderful music and all of that, but there's a heart to the show, and it's really the relationship between Halan and Aster.
Obviously though, this does have high production value. What did you kind of do to make this look different than other sci-fi space [shows]? I mean, it's a beacon; it's not a space station, but, I mean, it's got some similarities to that kind of thing. So, how did you guys go about making sure that it was something unique?
Great question. You know, we paid a lot of attention, and we approved, as we went on. We paid a lot of attention to making sure that the feel of the beacon and the lighting of the beacon and all of that felt grounded and authentic, so it didn't feel too glossy, or whatever. We wanted it to feel lived in. But we also started pushing into where it feels sort of like a gothic castle, that it's reflecting the emotional state of the characters. So, it's not just a space there, but it sort of feels as if it's reflecting their personality or what they're feeling at the time. We paid a lot of attention to that, particularly as we went on. So, I think by grounding it in emotion, as opposed to just, you know, a bright light showing every part of the beacon, you know, we've seen that, and that wasn't interesting to me.
We're almost out of time, but can you quickly talk about the casting. I mean, were they who [were chosen] from the beginning, or did it change?
Yeah, I think people were very excited about [it]. I signed on after Lena and Stephan were already cast. But I think, from what I've heard, is that people were very excited about this. They were excited about Lena doing sort of this kick ass character with a criminal past, very different from the Cersei character on Game of Thrones. Stephan is just bringing so much vulnerability to really an action hero type character. So, they just added so much depth to it that I found that as we were editing the show and writing future episodes, we were catching up to the great work that they were doing. They were adding things and nuances to the characters that opened up story for us. So, it was really exciting to work with such talented actors.