Debris Norbert stars Leo Butz and Scroobius Pip tease the secrets their respective characters keep in NBC’s new sci-fi series.
One of the biggest series to premiere on NBC this year is Debris, created by JH Wyman. The show features a new clandestine branch of the CIA working with the British government after pieces of an alien spaceship are scattered across Earth, each fragment possessing its own paranormal properties. At the heart of this race to retrieve all the alien debris is CIA Branch Director Craig Maddox, taking on the mysterious antagonist Anson Ash, with the two characters played by Norbert Leo Butz (Blood line) and Scroobius Pip (Taboo), respectively.
In an exclusive roundtable interview attended by CBR, Butz and Pip shared how they view the tone of the enigmatic show, teased their character arcs in the inaugural season, and revealed how they were approached both for the project.
By Pip, he felt Debris was more in line with The x files Y Stripe-science fiction type. Pip observed the comparison with Stripe it was especially clear, given that both he and Debris were created by JH Wyman. As for the comparison with The x files, Pip noted that both shows have a kind of case-of-the-week format, with a different issue addressed and resolved within each episode, while also possessing an overall storyline and character arcs.
“Because I head this highly secret specialized wing of the CIA, I have recruited [co-star Jonathan Tucker’s] character to be your controller. To me, the show feels less sci-fi and more like a geopolitical thriller, “added Butz.” My role in it is to play the master chess player trying to keep these things out of the reach of not just the bad guys but the good guys who are allies, like in any arms or space race. I am representing the United States [and] I like that look; the politics of the piece, the strategic mindset of a CIA agent. With that being said, I’ve had to do some really weird things in front of green screens. [Laughs] But it’s the scenes that we sit in, we get some really cool stuff this season. It doesn’t look like any science fiction to me … it feels like a real thriller for smart people. [Laughs]”
“One of the best things about the episodic, [case-of-the-week] “The nature of this is that each episode can feel like a different movie,” agreed Pip. “There is an upcoming one that made me think of Primer Y Time crimes, there is one that made me think Cocoon. And it’s great that we can reference all these different movies in individual episodes. The feel of the show is more of a thriller, Marathon man-as a mystery and a race to get this technology ”.
When asked what elements the actors wanted to keep in the middle of the week’s case format, the actors were candid. “The constant thing I wanted to shine for my character was mystery; it’s kind of a double negative where I want to show them that it’s nothing,” said Pip. “What he wanted to show is his comfort, his experience that we will discover more and more of as this program progresses. He is always relaxed and has the feeling that not only does he know more than the viewer, but, in his mind , , more than [characters] Finola and Bryan and Craig. I wanted to make sure that was there because, particularly in the beginning, this could be a character from an episode who’s just doing his thing and then you’ll never see him again. I wanted to get into that, that mystery … I didn’t want to stand out even though I have a big beard and a stupid British accent; you don’t necessarily want to attract attention and that was at the forefront of my thinking. “
“I think the thing I had the most fun playing as the season progresses is that I think I’m the only character that you’re going to walk into the house; you can see that I have a wife, a seventeen-year-old woman, older son,” he joked Butz. “People who work in intelligence, special operations of any kind, very secret stuff, it’s a very lonely and isolated life. And seeing this guy try to balance being a father and husband with trying to save the world since the end of days. it’s really cool stuff. And the way these people can compartmentalize and be so comfortable with discomfort is so amazing to me and it would be terrible at that; I’m so reactive. “
Butz noted that both he and Pip’s characters come from tech-oriented military backgrounds, and while Craig becomes something of a mentor / surrogate father figure for Bryan, he could order his execution in a matter of minutes and still be able to sleep for the night. It was this level of compartmentalization and control that Craig possesses that Butz found “extremely interesting” when addressing how to portray his character.
“We’ll see how far these characters can bend before breaking and they will be bent throughout the season,” Butz hinted.
Pip shared that while her character itself was always the same, the first script she was offered simply labeled Anson “Creepy Brit # 1”. He didn’t discover the character’s background and his fuller role with Wyman until after he was offered the role. Similarly, Butz had reservations when he was first offered the role, as Craig did not play a major role in the initial pilot script before his character was further developed upon meeting Wyman. After the phone call with Wyman, Butz took the “leap of faith” and praised Wyman’s collaborative spirit in working with the actors, an aspect of the production that Pip agreed on.
Created by JH Wyman, Debris stars Riann Steele, Jonathan Tucker, Norbert Leo Butz, and Scroobius Pip. The series premieres March 1 at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.
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