BBC America presented "Outcasts" at the recent Television Critics Association press tour. "Outcasts" is the latest production from the producers of "Hustle," "MI-5," "Occupation" and "Life on Mars."
Currently filming in South Africa, the eight-part series takes viewers to the planet of
Carpathia, where a group of pioneers have a second chance to build a better world, if only they could escape the pitfalls of human behaviors that they found on Earth.
This past Saturday BBC America presented creator, writer and executive producer of "Outcasts" Ben Richards and actor Eric Mabius, just in from the shoot in South Africa, together on panel. Eric plays Julius Berger, a man that's just been evacuated from Earth and who is a new arrival on Carpathia.
The series is about second chances. According to Richards, it started from a quote from Stephen Hawking who said if humanity is to survive we have to reach for the stars because we have to move to another planet if the species is to survive.
"Outcasts" is described as sci-fi and a pioneer drama. "It's about the idea of what would happen if a small group of humans started again in another place and whether the classic questions -- would we make the same mistakes? And the emergence of politics and of conflict and the social stratification and all that kind of stuff," explained Richards.
He went on to further explain the premise, "One of the key things I wanted to do in this drama -- one of the books I particularly hate is "Lord of the Flies" because it suggests for me that humans are inherently evil, and particularly children are filled with original sin. I don't believe that for a moment. So one of the things that I
wanted to say in it is that humans are neither good, nor bad. They're just humans, and that's really what the show is really about."
One critic asked if the name "Carpathia" inferred vampiric arcs.
"You're not going to get any vampires. No, no, not at all. Sorry, I didn't follow that association. We hemmed and hawed over naming the planet. It was absolutely based on the survival ship that came to rescue the Titanic survivors." explained Richards.
Richards also shared the crossover effect that westerns and sci-fi seemed to share at times.
"I think western and sci-fi genres go very much together. One of the shows that I particularly love is 'Deadwood,' for example. And I think given that it's 9 o'clock on BBC1 on a Monday night, there's certain things in "Deadwood" that we wouldn't get away with in this, but -- although I could try, but I think BBC editorial policy would be over me pretty fast. But, yes, absolutely. I think -- I hesitate to say it's not
sci-fi, because I think that's quite condescending as well. I mean, I love sci-fi, and I think sometimes when people are trying to sort of be clever about sci-fi, they go, 'Oh, it's not sci-fi. It's all about the human spirit.' And, well, every drama is about
the human spirit. I don't think you have to reject sci-fi as a genre. And I certainly don't. But I think the best sci-fi always has that element of the western in
it, and precisely Eric is sort of riding into town."
Eric Mabius also shared what the project felt like to him, "What was that term? The director of the first block, I think he called it "soft-fi," which we all kind of laughed at...we have so many TV shows and films where the second the British actor comes on the screen, we know 'Aw, there's the bad guy.' But it seems to be happening in the reverse. But it's nice for a change. It's nice to sort of be out of -- it's refreshing to be out of the Hollywood paradigm. We're sort of free being tens of thousands miles away, free to not being watched to sort of pursue what we think is, you know, fulfilling what Ben's put into motion. And it's nice."
Mabius finished his thought. "There's -- it's more fun to create in that environment because things are more rugged from the crews, themselves, to the environment to the way things are done, because there isn't as much of a legacy, per se, and unimaginable amounts of raw beauty down there."
"You know, this is `probably one of the most fun characters that I've ever played because he's not black or white. You know, he's a lot of -- he's sort of the anti -- the hero and antihero, for lack of a better description. And all things to different people and has a very specific relationship to each of the different characters, depending on what he thinks they need or what he's trying to get out of that dynamic."