"Only a third of it is truly set on the spaceship. A third is told in flashback where you're following the astronauts through their five or six year training program for the mission. That's where you see all the interpersonal dramatic stuff. The rest is set at mission control, where they're either dealing with the astronauts or politics. It's not a traditional science fiction narrative."
In part, that comes from the fact that the show is set less than 50 years in the future. "It's pretty soundly grounded in possibility, the real possibility of 40-50 years time," Airlie said. "All the stuff we do on the ship and on the ground, Jim has run his ideas by people at NASA and they say we're actually well down that road."
He joined the cast a week before filming began in January, before reading the complete script, and calls it one of the most positive experiences of his career. "Jim Parriott and Michael Edelstein producing and Ron Livingston attached as the lead was enough for me. I had to get in on it." He feels fortunate his bosses at Reaper agreed to release him from his contract — his zombie dad character didn't appear to have much of a future, and it turned out the series didn't either.
It's a slight exaggeration to say Airlie has appeared in every series ever filmed in Vancouver, but it must be close. The Glasgow-born actor said he's felt no temptation to move to Los Angeles. "I love it here. I want to raise my family here. I've done pretty well for myself basing myself from here."
Unlike Reaper, Defying Gravity was not simply filmed in Vancouver – it's a co-production, with broadcaster CTV and Omni Film Productions the Canadian partners. "Our second lead Laura (Harris, a Canadian) is equal with Ron. There's 14 of us in the main cast and 10 or 11 of us are Canadian. It's all Canadian directors. I think we can say we're a proudly Canadian show."