With the Debris two-parter (last week's "Do You Know Icarus?" and last night's "I Am Icarus") having resolved the bilateral deviation, we're left to wonder where Orbital Agents Bryan Beneventi (Jonathan Tucker) and Finola Jones (Riann Steele) go next. Did the bleeding of realities really get a tidy fix or will the residue of the time jumps subtly change what happens going forward?
Don't go looking to actress Riann Steele for answers. When she took on the role of Finola Jones, Steele admits she decided not to ask Debris creator/executive producer J.H. Wyman to disclose the overall arc of her character. "Each time I get a script, I am learning as much as Finola knows. I just naturally gravitated to this decision, which is that I was going to learn as I went," Steele tells SYFY WIRE when we recently got on the phone with her to dissect "I Am Icarus" and what we've seen so far on Debris.
Because Finola is Debris' resident model of hope, Steele says experiencing the revelations of the series much like her character, and the audience, does makes the journey authentic for her performance. But production for Season 1 is now complete, which means she's genuinely in secret-keeping mode for the final three episodes...
**SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers below for Debris Season 1, Episode 9, "I Am Icarus?"**
You're no stranger to sci-fi shows with massive fandoms, having appeared in Doctor Who. Debris is amassing its own army of dedicated followers who obsess over all aspects of the narrative. How does it compare or contrast?
I'm learning, it's ongoing. With Doctor Who, because you're just a guest that presents its own challenge. I respect all the amazing guest actors that we've had on Debris, and I really understand how hard it is to drop into a team that's already moving. When I did Doctor Who, you have to make very, very strong and very quick decisions when I was playing Queen Nefertiti as you're these cogs in this wheel. You don't really know what to expect. And it's its own beast.
But to then to play a character from the beginning to the end [on Debris], and go along with the audience as well and build it with them, I'm just so, so astounded with the amount of support that we're getting already. To me, it's like surfing. We're just all riding this wave together as the season is building and these episodes are growing.
But the fans, I mean, I love this genre. The worlds that you can create, and they're so loyal. Even with the [fan] podcasts and the discussions that pop up and the things that they notice. I'm not even sure that I've noticed all the little Easter eggs that Joel [Wyman] has planted. I enjoy listening to the reviews and the discussions because people are seeing things that I've not seen. Or there are scenes that I'm not in, for example, learning about Maddox and Bryan and how they interact with each other. I don't participate. I only hear from his point of view in our conversations in the car, or when we're now opening up to each other.
Debris has a lot of concurrent threads to keep up with. Is that a challenge for you to keep straight for your performance?
Yeah, there are so many moving parts to this show. The only way that I can describe is like spinning plates. You have to make sure that you are playing the relationship building between Finola and Bryan, then the relationship between Finola and her handler and the slow destruction of that trust and that bond.
And then watching Finola's relationship with Maddox and not really being able to trust Maddox at all and having her own personal feelings towards Maddox, but then respecting Bryan's connection to Maddox. And then finding the right moment to step in and expose that relationship without ruining her building trust with Bryan. And then her relationship with DeDe [played by Gabrielle Ryan] and where she is in her sobriety.
Also, her guilt at not being home to be with her sister. There are so many moving parts and that's just the interpersonal relationships, not even touching on the espionage between the CIA and MI6, and then stepping outside and doing it themselves.
As the first two-parter of the series, "Do You Know Icarus?" and "I Am Icarus," how was the storyline conveyed to you?
We always knew that this episode was coming. [Episodes] 9 and 10 were going to be block shot [e.g. shot together as one during production]. Nine was going to be Bryan's perspective. Then we were going to shift Episode 10 and it would be Finola's perspective. What I really didn't expect when we were filming it was that it really exposes the authenticity between their connection. At one point in 10, she's being told — in another reality — that this person, you know him and he's trying to get back to you. She's never seen this guy before in her life! But there is a beautiful moment that they just look at each other and she makes this decision. I guess it's a feeling of déjà vu that you go, "I don't know what it is, but I know you. I do know you and I do trust you." And she makes the decision, again, to go against everything and follow her instincts, which Bryan is always so supportive of. She goes against her mission there on that day and decides to break with protocol and believe this girl Kathleen [Jessica McLeod], and they try and repair the damage to the universe.
You are made to believe, especially in [Episode] 9, that the reality that you meet Bryan and Finola in that that's the right reality and the only reality. It reminds me of the film The Others with Nicole Kidman where she thinks that she's being haunted. There are ghosts around but the actual reality is that she is the ghost. When you meet for Finola in 109, she's in her own reality and Bryan is in an alternate reality, as opposed to Bryan's reality in 109 being the true reality.
We did get to see a very different version of Finola in "Do You Know Icarus?" who never goes to the U.S. and becomes an Orbital agent, but she still meets Bryan. Talk about that.
I loved playing different parts of yourself, different versions of yourself. And when Finola hasn't left MI6 in London, and they communicate, I love that moment so much. I enjoyed that they are communicating over a phone, and she makes a decision not knowing this person. But through his energy and, again, her instincts to trust this person and believe this person and help him, it just really speaks to the strength and the honesty and the love that they have between each other. And I'm not even talking romantic, right? Just connection.
Let's talk about the great moment between Finola and George getting the chance to say "I love you" to one another.
It really is a credit to Joel's writing that he included a scene like that. We've been on this journey with Finola, and right in the beginning of the pilot episode, we learned that she received a text message and she didn't answer it straight away. And that has lived with her, that regret that you weren't able to save someone. And that is the core of Finola, and that is what drives Finola. At her very essence, in her very heart is that deep, deep, deep regret that you weren't able to save [George] and had you got to the phone and had you answered the text message, maybe that you could have changed the outcome. And so every piece of debris and every character she meets, is to do the right thing and to not to fail again. She cannot fail in not saving someone or fixing something.
When we get to this moment where he's alive, and in another reality she's speaking to him, it is that chance to have that conversation as if she had picked up that phone and replied to his text message. What an opportunity to play that as an actor! But I had to sit with it for a long time. I realized that a lot of my process is to reread the scene and really, truly to meditate on it, to just to live with it and build quietly these layers. Because it's so complex that you are speaking to someone but yet you have regret. You have anger. You have abandonment. And yet you have this desperation to have this person tell you that they love you when it was never said. That conversation was never had. And when they do say it to you, how do you hold onto them knowing that you're going to have to go back to another reality when it didn't exist? And you will forget it.
It's heartbreaking that she loses that moment in making things right. Can you tease what is next for the returned George's dynamic with Finola?
I can say this: Episode 8 was very pivotal for Finola. It was a huge moment to be able to confront and have this conversation with her father. And yet, there are so many questions, which again, is so conflicting. He is alive. He's standing there, but he's also been reanimated so what does that mean? Is he really him? Or is he a version of him? And the fact that they went through his eye and he's having memory issues, so is that him? Is this person really who he says he is? And even if she wants so much to believe with her whole heart that he is, it is still so very conflicting, because their relationship is going to take a long time to repair from the abandonment. But as you see, the relationship has progressed. They're slowly, slowly building that relationship. And a lot of those questions that we have, and I have had because I'm obviously on this ride with you all at the same time, get finally answered in the finale.
The end of "I Am Icarus" seems to be a reset for Bryan and Finola with the two of them not remembering everything that happened, while the siblings do remember. Should we assume everything they said and did is lost from the discourse in fixing the time rift?
It is tricky with sci-fi. And, I don't know that I can 100 percent answer that question. I know Jonathan probably would because he's had different conversations with Joel. I know that Jonathan had long conversations with Joel about the whole character arc up to the end. Without giving too much away, it was only until I got to the last episode of the season finale, that I was exposed to much more of what that moment is in 110. It kind of went full circle.