Christie Burke, Richard Fleeshman, and Reece Ritchie portray the leading roles in The Ark. After an unexpected catastrophe occurs that wipes out the spaceship’s leadership, Lt. Sharon Garnet (Burke), Lt. James Brice (Fleeshman), and Lt. Spencer Lane (Ritchie) are called to lead humanity towards its new home. While talking with ComingSoon ahead of the series release on SyFy on February 1, the actors explained the story focuses on who’s the fittest person to lead regardless of their gender.
“The Ark takes place 100 years in the future when planetary colonization missions have begun as a necessity to help secure the survival of the human race. The first of these missions on a spacecraft known as Ark One encounters a catastrophic event causing massive destruction and loss of life. With more than a year left to go before reaching their target planet, a lack of life-sustaining supplies and loss of leadership, the remaining crew must become the best versions of themselves to stay on course and survive.”
Christie, your character takes leadership of this situation once an unexpected catastrophe occurs. How is it to be a woman in charge of a spaceship?
Christie Burke: Wow. You know what’s so funny is when I first read the script, I didn’t know Garnet was a woman. I really love what Jonathan Glassner and Dean Devlin have done with this character. All the characters, I don’t feel like what leads them is a gender, you know what I mean? I don’t think that’s like something that we think about when we see all these different characters, which is kind of something I love about them. They kind of defy what we as an audience know, to be kind of the sci-fi cliches of these specific genders. I think it was easy. It was exciting. I had such great actors to act opposite on, and the writing really does the work for me. I just really had to show up and deliver a speech.
Richard Fleeshman: Well, speaking of showing up and delivering a speech. I have to say, there’s not many people who know this, Tudor. Christie got cast on a Saturday. She flew out on the Sunday. Cut to like three days later. We’ve all just met, jet-legged, and stepped off a plane in a foreign land. She’s up in front of 200 extras. I have a little line, Reece has a little line, and then Christie has a four-page monologue, which, the best of time is tough, right? But when you’ve just arrived and you’re jet-lagged, and you don’t know your job, and you don’t know anyone, and Dean Devlin’s directing… It’s a big deal. She smashed it out of the park.
Reece Ritchie: She did, yeah. That set the tone.
Fleeshman: Me and Reese looked to each other and went, ‘Okay, we’ve got something to do here.’
Yeah, she sounded very convincing during that monologue. The relationship and the dynamic between the three of three characters you portray is fascinating and peculiar. Richard, how would you describe it?
Fleeshman: I think they are instantly like siblings and they have that same unwavering affection for one another and complete competition with up each other at all times because… maybe Lt. James Brice to a lesser extent, but they’re all vying for the leadership role, whether willingly or unwillingly. They also all at certain times take the peacekeeping role and sometimes one’s the antagonist and the other one is trying to… It’s very interesting. It’s very fluid and that’s what keeps it exciting, ’cause one minute Lane is antagonizing Garnet and the next minute Brice is being like the little baby, or then the next minute Brice is being like the dad and then these two take each up. It’s like they’re three siblings who’ve never met, which is really interesting.
Reece, following up on that question, siblings from time to time argue. Your character seems to be a little bit in conflict with Sharon Garnet, and it seems that he believes only the strong should survive or lead. What is it that makes your character Lt. Spencer Lane?
Ritchie: It’s a conflict born out of familiarity as well. When he looks at Garnet, he knows that he knows some of the time that she’s more than competent and more than capable of doing it, and maybe some of his own nervousness and fear comes out in kind of goading her and testing her abilities. Throughout the series, you start to see power shift one way or another amongst these characters. It’s really interesting to see how each one of them deals with it at any given moment. That was really interesting to play, and Christie’s amazing at kind of playing all the notes of ducking and weaving and changing from time to time and showing that vulnerability alongside that kind of stoicism, because it’s scary. Let’s not forget, we’re all just lieutenants. All three of us are just out of military school basically. You know, we’re still wet behind the ears and suddenly we’re in charge. All of our leadership are gone. It’s such a great premise, such a creative premise to kind of grow a show in.
Burke: Just to add to what Reese said, Garnet is someone who’s just been put on the ship. In Reece’s defense, Lane doesn’t really know her. I would have difficulty relying on someone to save humanity who I just met and didn’t really know. She is someone who does hold her cards really close, and I think that can be unnerving for people. She does have secrets, right? I think Lane is such an astute character, he can see that. The fact that she’s not divulging everything would make me, Christie, a nerve. I wouldn’t trust that person, you know?
Ritchie: Going back to your question earlier about gender, like what’s so great about these scripts is that it’s nothing to do with it. Everything is based on competence. We are constantly having to prove our competence to one another in order to garner confidence in or for each other. As these exterior things are going wrong, we are all struggling inside to trust one another to get things done and to keep everybody alive. So that’s where the conflict and the drama come from.
Burke: The issue of male versus female is never brought up. It’s not something that is ever talked about because I don’t think it’s important. It’s more about the human spirit, which I think defies gender. The show really is about the unexpected becoming their own heroes, which I think defies gender, which is honestly one of my favorite things about the show, genuinely.
Richard, would you like to add anything on the gender topic?
Fleeshman: I think the fact that Garnet is a woman couldn’t be further from the importance to Lane and Brice. I think as Reece and Christie were saying, they just want to make sure the best man, inverted coms, the best person does the job and gets the role. I think the second Brice actually sees Lane and Garnet, he’s like, ‘I’ll lead this,’ I don’t think he has sort of great designs at any point. I think he wants an easy life and he wants on to tell him what to do and how to play the ship and stuff. What’s lovely is this, as we delve further into the series and we see things that maybe I won’t talk about now — and this extends to the further cast as well –, every single person on the ship has their moment to really shine. The moment when we couldn’t have done without Alicia, we couldn’t have done without Angus. So we couldn’t have done without whoever. It explores everybody’s strengths and also at the same time explores other people’s weaknesses within that, and how actually the sum of all the parts is what makes it great and what makes it work.