NBC’s new sci-fi series, Debris, is created by JH ‘Joel’ Wyman (Fringe). When the wreckage from a destroyed alien spacecraft starts falling across the world, two agents from different continents are thrown together to investigate. Rainn Steele portrays Finola Jones, part of MI6, and Jonathan Tucker plays Bryan Beneventi, a CIA agent.
Riann, who was born in New York, trained as an actress in England. She worked at the Royal Shakespeare Company and has appeared in Doctor Who and Death in Paradise.
Jonathan was born in Boston and starred in DirecTV’s drama Kingdom, and has appeared in Showtime’s City on a Hill and HBO’s Westworld.
Both Jonathan and Riann joined the TV Critics Association to talk about their intriguing new drama, which premieres on NBC on Monday, March 1st, 2021.
Can you tell us a little about your characters?
Jonathan Tucker: I play Bryan Beneventi. I have served overseas in Special Forces and made my way through a process into this coalition agency called Orbital. (It) is a partnership between the CIA and MI6. I’m probably much more about intuition. I’ve had a lot of actual experience on the ground and am guided by my gut. And I’m beautifully balanced by Riann’s character.
Riann Steele: I play Finola Jones. She is part of MI6, and she also joins the coalition. (She’s) from the UK side under Orbital, (which) was a creation of (her) father. But you’re meeting Finola in a very particular point in her life, in her journey of grief. She’s just lost her mother and father, but, through duty, is taking on this challenge to continue his work. So, we follow her along this journey partnering with Bryan and, despite the issues, finding a way to trust each other.
A lot of shows will waste time by having one of the two characters be a skeptic. This show doesn’t do that. You guys are both believers.
Jonathan: It’s hard to not think that there’s something else out there. Our own government (is) secretly siphoning money for UFO research. If you’ve got any basic understanding of statistics and numbers, it would be pretty wild to think that we’re all here by ourselves.
Riann: It’s a really great question because they are believers, but they believe in very different ways. I think that what is at the core of the show is heart. Finola approaches things through heart, and I know that Bryan does as well, but very (differently).
Finola was probably the child that spent her time looking up at stars. I feel that Bryan has a different relationship with life. While we are believers, it exposes something very different about us and ultimately about humanity.
For fans of Fringe, they know that the mythology got denser and denser. There were so many things that were layered in, Easter eggs and hints. Have you started keeping track of all the clues and strings that are connected to the central case?
Jonathan: It’s a great question. One of the unique parts about the show is that, week to week, a new piece of debris is discovered. And it allows us as partners, and the audience, to discover the unique capabilities that this debris has to offer. How it affects people and the world; ultimately how it affects our own relationship and the people who discover it.
It’s fun for us as actors, but I think it will be fun for audiences. (It) speaks to the kind of cable-level sci-fi that we’ve become accustomed to. You can have a case of the week. But you can also have meaningful character development and mythological roll-out over the course of at least this first season.
Debris‘s Amazing Scripts
It can be tough enough to launch a saga with scientific concepts. Especially in this era we’re living in, attention is so dissipated. Do you have concerns about whether people will hang with this week to week?
Riann: Going off of what Tucker was saying, there is the story of the week and the debris of the week. But what is so amazing about these scripts and about Joel’s writing is that there is a realism alongside that. You’re meeting two characters who are very flawed and are very broken. We get to also see them, (throughout) the season, understand each other through the debris. So, I’m not concerned at all.
Jonathan: The debris is really fun. It is very exciting, scene to scene, whether the debris allows people to go through walls or manipulates weather or ESP or doppelgangers. We, as actors, and as the characters, are constantly on our toes trying to track things, figure it out.
I think audiences will find that there’s constant attention that is not just demanded, but that you’ll want to provide to the story and the show.
Why is it that we’re so fascinated by science fiction?
Riann: Because we are this tiny little speck of, like, stardust in the middle of an ocean of nothingness and (the) unknown.
How are we even here? What does it all mean? I think, with science fiction, we get to create those answers. If we were to come in contact with someone else or something else, what would we do? What does that say about us? Are we as great a species as we think we are, or do we have a lot to learn? Have we got it so wrong? I think that’s what it is.
Jonathan: Yeah, and the paradigm shift that is caused by sci-fi. We grow up thinking that when you drop something, it lands and that matter is not created or destroyed. A basic understanding of how the natural sciences work. And then all of a sudden, something from outer space comes and changes that perspective. That’s very exciting, scary, dangerous and beautiful and makes us question who we are and who God is or isn’t. That’s a very existential journey to go on.