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Dark Matter - Interview - Joseph Mallozzi (Executive Producer/Co-Creator)

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Far too often the impression we get of the famous on social media is far from whom they are as real people, but I can attest that Joseph Mallozzi is everything you would expect and more. He holds a plethora of information in his head and is very open in sharing it. He is passionate about the work he does and loves everything about his work on Dark Matter.

What lies below is a lengthy interview where Joseph teases what to expect from the season finale and teases some tidbits about where Season 2 will go if the show gets picked up. After what you read in this interview I’m confident everyone will be tweeting #RenewDarkMatter in mass quantity. Please note that I had not yet seen the season finale when this interview was conducted, so my questions were not geared towards any specific moments in the season finale. With that said, prepare yourselves for an epic view into the brilliant mind of Joseph Mallozzi.

WARNING! There are spoilers peppered throughout this interview. So, if you don’t want to be spoiled come back and read this after you’ve seen the season finale.

SpoilerTV: I’ve heard the final seconds of the finale are kind of insane.

Joseph Mallozzi: Yep, yep, yep. In fact one of the things I wrote in my blog is that when I originally conceived of the series I had the basic premise and I had two big holy shit moments that I wanted to work towards. The first was the moment at the end of the pilot when they get their identity and they find out the truth about themselves and the second moment is the closing seconds of the Season 1 finale. So, as I said, I’m very much looking forward to seeing the viewer reaction to that one.

STV: I’m guessing it’s going to be a pretty big cliffhanger?

JM: You know, I said from the get go that I approach, I wanted to approach each season as sort of an installment of a book series. So there is definitely a beginning, middle and end. The end could be shocking in many ways, but it is an end. There’s going to be questions that are left unanswered because, as I’ve said from the very beginning, I envisioned the show as kind of a five year arc and hopefully I get to tell all those stories, but…um…particularly in Season 2 we have some great, great, great ideas planned for Season 2. We already have the game plan…we know where the stories are going and um…last night my French Bulldog Lulu was feeling under the weather and was throwing up all night, so I was up with her and because I couldn’t sleep and in my sleep addled state I was really able to focus and came up with an amazing, amazing story that I was trying to figure out for the longest time, but everything clicked into place last night. I think Season 2 will have a very different feel. Season 1 was very kind of introspective and very sort of focused on backstory whereas, you know, in Season 2 our arc is going to be more proactive. I mean we’re still going to find out stuff about their backstories, but I mean now that they’ve got the information they really begin to move on what they’ve learned and then the other thing I said is that I wanted to focus a bit more on world building which is something that we really didn’t do in Season 1. We were focused more on the micro, the characters, versus the macro of the universe, that’s colonized space. Then in Season 2 we’ll be getting into the inner workings of the Corporations, the Galactic Authority, and specifically the result of Episode 11 there is going to be blow back amongst the Corporations and of course our crew is going to be caught in the middle.

STV: Speaking of Season 2, have you heard anything about a possible renewal?

JM: I feel cautiously optimistic that we’ll get a second season. If we don’t I’ll be disappointed, but I’ll be very satisfied with the stories we’ve told.

STV: What was your take on the initial early fan reaction to the show and reaction to the characters?

JM: People react to different episodes better than others. Some people really didn’t like Episode 5, including my mom, because she doesn’t like zombies. I was caught by surprise by how they respond to certain things. After the pilot aired I was amazed by how many people really hated Three, Anthony’s character, like really, really, really hated him. I could only find a handful of viewers who actually liked his character and I thought “oh gosh maybe we made him to unlikable”, but he’s actually grown on people which is great and he’s turned out to be one of the favorite characters.

STV: I think it was kind of important for his character to start off that way because of his character arc and he becomes more likable as the season goes along.

JM: At the end of the day that was the whole point. Some of the early reviews mentioned the fact that their very archetype characters and we’ve seen these characters before. My response is yes, kind of purposely because these people have no memories and no points of reference, so you can’t really add depth to them in the usual way. You’re essentially on a journey of discovery with them from the blank slates they are to the people they become as they learn about their backstories. Three is actually the perfect example.

STV: While we’re talking about Three, what are the odds you can steal Natalie Brown (Sarah) away from The Strain long enough for Sarah to make a reappearance?

JM: Obviously they say she died, but then there is that moment at the end of the episode where Five is just standing there over her stasis pod. I often said to people on Stargate no one ever dies on scifi, so there’s always hope.

STV: I certainly hope so. Anthony and Natalie had great chemistry.

JM: They had actually worked together before and I think they were friends, so they were super excited to be working together and it shows. We have some really great guest stars this year. I mean there’s a Stargate connection with David Hewlett and Torri Higginson who just eat up their roles. They were so good and if we do a Season 2 they’ll be coming back for Season 2. Hopefully, scheduling permitted, we’d love to have them back. The gang that teams up with them, led by Wexler, they were all amazing and they all die at the end of the episode, but again this is scifi and stranger things have happened. We’ll be introducing some amazing new characters in Season 2. One of the things in Season 1, because we are exploring the characters and their backstories, we really didn’t have a big bad. We introduced a bunch of potentials and quite a few of them will be returning for Season 2.

STV: Well you have Wil Wheaton in the season finale. What kind of trouble will he be causing?

JM: He’s going to be in Episode 12 and I mentioned online that it’s essentially a Two episode and we waited so long to find out about Two’s backstory and after the events of Episode 11 she finds out what she is, but she’s still struggling with the why of what she is and we’re going to get those answers in Episode 12. Wil Wheaton’s character, Alexander Rook, figures into it.

STV: The guys of the crew seem hesitant to trust Two right now. Will we see that continue in these last two episodes?

JM: Basically their initial reaction to sort of the shock of A) thinking she was dead then B) finding out she’s different and potentially there’s the prospect she’s kind of been keeping it from them. Although, I mean, you’re going to see how they react. One of the things I said from the beginning is I don’t want to let things dangle, so right off the bat in Episode 12 One and Two have a conversation with how she’s dealing with the effects of the news she’s received and you can sort of read it in the other characters. There’s this really great moment at the end of Episode 12 that really nicely sums up everyone’s opinions about her and basically the crew in general.

STV: Will Five stand with Two or is she going to be upset about the fact that Two lied to her as well?

JM: I think if anybody who would be willing to accept it is…who is open to acceptance, it’s Five. I think she has that connection with Two and it would take a significant incident to kind of shatter that.

STV: What is that connection between Two and Five? There is a bit of debate in the fandom of whether it is a motherly relationship or a sisterly relationship.

JM: I see it as more sisterly, really. Then her relationship with Six is kind of big brother, little sister as well. Their protective of her, but I mean like a big sister Two sort of realizes that you have to sort of grant her, her independence. There’s that scene in Episode 10 where Six confronts them “what the hell are you doing you can’t let her on this mission” and Two was like “she’s capable of going on these missions and we need her”. It’s a big brother, big sister fighting over their little sister.

STV: Did these connections come around entirely post memory wipe or were these connections in place prior to the wipe?

JM: It really depends on the characters and that’s something we are going to be further exploring in Season 2. You’ll see that from the beginning there is a flashback at the start of Episode 12 where we find out how Five got out of the airlock and you see our characters in their pre-stasis mind wipe form and it’s a very different Two and a very different attitude towards Five.

STV: Speaking of Two, you have a cast that mostly consists of acting veterans. Then there is Melissa who was a television newcomer, but from the first time Two appeared on the screen reviewers and fans alike were taken by how gifted she is. I’m a big proponent of casting unknown or lesser known actors, so I was pleased to see a name on the cast list that I didn’t know. Was there any hesitation to cast an unknown actress in such a critical role? What about Melissa stood out that made you and the casting team realize she was the one to take on this part?

JM: Her audition was fantastic. I just love the notion of finding new talent and she’s a great talent and I knew she would hit it out of the park. I’d heard that she’d auditioned for a lot of other stuff and come close and so she was always my number one pick. I mean when you go through the audition process you always have alternates just in case, but she was always my number one. In terms of the character I had envisioned and created she totally embodied it and so it was a no brainer.

STV: How did you decide on the crew formation and skin color? I mean for example, there are only two females in the crew (not counting the android), this automatically sets the tone in certain situations. I always imagine that on a show you try to copy reality as much as possible, meaning half male actors and half female. Same goes for skin color. My main question is, how much influence do you have on this, or who does, and how much do you take that sort of thing into account when working on a TV show? – Question submitted by SpoilerTV reader Leon.

JM: I have total influence on that and basically I mean this idea of if you’re stuck to reality is true, but I mean we’re a scifi show set in the future. You talk about a bunch of ruthless criminals. Now when you talk about criminal gangs in a contemporary setting, what’s the breakdown of the male to female ratio? I would imagine it would be predominantly male. I think we do a great job of representing diversity on the show. Two of our cast members are Asian, Roger is black, we have three females and you can argue The Android is not female, but I would argue she is. When it came time to casting we were looking at both genders specifically for the characters of Four, Six, for The Android and we ultimately just picked the best actor for the role. To be honest, it’s kind of an off putting question because if you compare our show to many of the other shows out there, specifically scifi shows, we’re very diverse. The women on our show are very empowered so much so that we actually made a gag of it in Episode 11. Two’s the leader and no one questions the fact that she’s a leader. The Android is probably the most powerful individual on the show and Five has been the lynchpin to almost every adventure. If you break it down and look at how often the girls save the day it’s a lot.

STV: Yeah the guys would have been dead last week without the girls. They definitely saved the guys.

JM: Everybody’s always very quick to point out the negatives, but no one ever points out the positives. I read this article, I think it’s called the Bechdel Test, where they test how often in a show two women talk about something, basically it’s not a man they talk about it’s basically some other topic other than a man. And this broke down various other scifi shows and I think the best performing ones were like Doctor Who. I went over our show and almost all of our episodes include scenes between women, Two and Five, I include Two and The Android or Five and the Android in this category. A lot of the times Two and Five where basically it’s just Two and Five talking and their not talking about men their talking about other issues important to them. People just tend to focus on the negative and the fact that someone says it needs to be half and half or a certain formula I think is crap. Basically you do your best to reflect society obviously and we have and we’ve done a great job in terms of the diversity and the gender balance on our show.

STV: You can’t represent everybody. There is only so much story you can tell.

JM: Well exactly! I didn’t want it to be a show with lead stars and supporting players, I really sort of wanted to make it an ensemble cast. What we tried really hard to do was make sure that all the characters get their moment in the spotlight and I think we’ve succeeded. There were people who said very early on the character of Four and the character of Six don’t see much in these episodes then later on they have episodes dedicated wholly to them. People were getting annoyed that Two wasn’t getting any episodes then Episode 11 she steps up and then Episode 12 she’ll finally get her episode. I’ve always imagined the show as more of a 13 episode mini-series than actually a series, so it’s a binge worthy show where you sit down and hold off on critiquing certain characters not getting their due until after the first season airs because we’ve picked our spots for all of them.

STV: Speaking of feedback, have you made any changes to Season 2 based on what you’ve heard and read so far? Are you surprised by anything the fans have responded to, loved, or criticized? Can you give an example? –Question submitted by SpoilerTV reader Vixx.

JM: I’m not going to give examples. I will say some of the things surprised me and some not and some points where the fans negatively and positively responded really strongly to certain events or characters. Of course we take that into account. It’s the same issue we had on Stargate where there are a lot of fans with a lot of opinions and you want to be true to your vision. You’re not going to just take dictation, on the other hand the fans are obviously reacting and a lot of them are reacting either positively or negatively to different aspects of the show and I think it would be foolish not to listen to that and make a judgment and we have for Season 2.

STV: How did you guys decide to make Two the leader? Was it always in the works or after you cast Melissa you decided that’s the one that needs to lead them? –Question derived from a question SpoilerTV reader Ivan submitted.

JM: For me it was sort of inspired by various TV shows and anime. In anime, the female Commander is almost a tradition and I just love the notion of making her the Commander and it’s not even really making a point about it. I mean, I love the fact that people think she’s a strong female character, but she’s just a strong character and right from the get go we established that she’s the Commander. She takes Command and besides One questioning her in Episode 2, which is one of my favorite scenes of the season, no one says anything about it because it’s not a big deal. She’s a leader because she’s the most capable. She’s the one who steps up and is willing to make the tough decisions and whether she’s male or female in my mind is besides the point. She’s just strong.

STV: Let’s face it; Melissa is the best person you could have cast because she is ridiculously talented.

JM: Yeah, she is great. As I mentioned many times she does the lion's share of her own stunts which makes editing so much easier because you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to cut the stunt double here or there. Obviously they all have stunt doubles that we use, but rarely in her case or in Alex’s case.

STV: How much of that Two and Tash fight was Melissa and how much was her stunt double?

JM: Again it was the lion's share her. She is committed, she got cut and bruised and there was one instance where, I believe it was on the first episode, where she was on the bridge floor. We created a sort of hard plastic flooring to simulate metal and she slammed her hand so hard she showed me her hand and it looked like a henna tattoo, but it was actually the imprint of the floor and that lasted for days on her hand. She is committed. Then you have Alex who wakes up at three in the morning so he can work out for like 2/2.5 hours and train so he can be in the hair and makeup chair at 4 or 4:30 so they can spend two hours getting rid of his tattoos, so we have a very committed cast.

STV: While we’re talking about the cast, do you plan to have One surgically return to his original face (i.e. Derrik Moss) in the future? In this case can Jace Corso be hired on the Raza? I’d hate to have to say goodbye to Marc! –Question submitted by SpoilerTV reader Sylmaril.

JM: I’m going to respond to that with a no comment, because any way I would answer that would be a spoiler for Season 2, so I will just say no comment.

STV: Since we were talking about stunts and you guys have done some amazing stunts, which one has been your favorite?

JM: My favorite stunt…John Stead our stunt coordinator is amazing and to be honest it’s really hard to pick. I really like the android beat down in Episode 10 where it’s Three, One, and Cain trying to take on the security android. It’s just a fun, fun sequence. I loved that. I also loved the Wendy fight between Three and Wendy. That one took basically the entire day to shoot, but it was a lot of fun.

STV: We’ve only seen humans in the Dark Matter universe…or well, what we assume are humans anyway, are we going to see any aliens? –Question derived from a question SpoilerTV reader Sol submitted.

JM: I’m going to answer quite possibly, yes, but not until Season 2. If we’re going to see them it’ll probably be in Season 2.

STV: Aliens would be cool, but I kind of like that it's a human based universe because it makes it more relatable.

JM: Outside of the rumors of alien entities the prevailing gist to me is very human, so the prospect of aliens would be very shocking in the kind of world we’ve created. Shocking is good. It’s all about twists and turns and shocking not only the characters but our audience as well.

STV: Was that you’re plan all along to leave each episode on a cliffhanger or did it just kind of happen when you were writing it?

JM: No, no, that was always the game plan. I’ve always been a big fan of cable shows that you kind of watch with one eye on the clock thinking “oh my gosh I can’t believe it’s almost over” and then it ends with that final scene or shot that makes you kind of scream and go “oh my god I can’t wait until next week”. It’s why I think this is such a great binge worthy show because we try hard to end every episode or almost every episode with either like a WTF moment or with a twist or a surprise, so yeah that was intentional.

STV: I got a lot of questions about asking you to pick your favorite character, but I kind of feel that would be like asking you to pick your favorite dog.

JM: Dogs and TV characters aren’t like kids or children where you can actually pick a favorite. It’s very difficult to do. I would say that I love them all in very different ways just because they are fun to write in very different ways.

STV: So, instead of doing that to you I thought I’d ask you about your favorite moment from each character. Since my reviews are so heavily character focused I think our readers would really like to know your thoughts on this.

JM: Favorite moment for One is in Episode 4 basically he’s a fairly straight forward earnest guy, but in Episode 4 when he’s tied back to back with Three. I thought Marc did a terrific job and I thought he was hilarious. Playing that back to back in the moment has got to be trickier.

For Two she does so much and does all the fight sequences which are great, but I have to go back to that scene at the top of Episode 2 where One challenges her and says “who made you leader” and she comes back to him and says “I did by stepping up and all of you by not challenging me when I did”. It was so forceful and strong and without having to kick anyone’s ass and I just think it totally encapsulates the character. Melissa was great in that.

For Three, huh, tough, on the one hand I really do like his scenes with Sarah because it just adds so much to his character and such depth to him. For me I like that scene very early on where he’s in the marauder with Six and he asks him “Who do you think has the biggest wrap sheet? Rank us from badass to cause for concern”. And that kind of encapsulates the kind of character he is. He’s kind of self focused…self centered if you will.

For Four I have to say I like Episode 9 a lot and specifically his scenes with Akita especially his scenes at the end where he says “can you deliver a message for me” and he just says “sure” and then he runs him through. One of the things I’ve noticed is in those early reviews, as we get to find out about the characters, is some reviewers were like “Oh well the characters have gone soft. Their not the badasses we thought they were. Four was a prince and he was framed. He was an innocent”. In my mind I was like you don’t know what’s coming up. I mean basically back in Episode 1 Five has a flash of his memories and she remembers the royal guard coming for him, but rather than killing them he just carved out their eyes and left them for his mother to find. Those are not the actions of a softy and we see him at his coldest most calculated when he runs through his mentor. I love that moment for Alex.

For Jodelle, Five, there were so many of them and it was just sort of an instant that I just love. There’s a scene where basically Six is working out and the shot of her…the skyward shot…and she just kind of pops up and goes “hiya” and I thought that was hilarious. It was just a little moment that totally sort of encapsulates her, but for a scene I really like the barnyard scene with Six in Episode 6 where essentially she’s in Tich’s memory, by the way we will find out who Tich is in Season 2, and she makes this heartfelt plea for staying and it’s actually quite sad and Jodelle did fantastic.

For Roger (Six) I have to say the same scene, I love that scene, and the scene at the end of Episode 9. Both of those were his audition scenes and one of the benefits of having all the scenes ready to go before we even start production is that when it came to auditioning we could actually pick out the very best scenes for each character and with seven characters it’s a challenge. That scene where he blows up at her (Five) and she’s in the vent and he goes to apologize and they have that talk and he says “I’m still not happy about having you on the ship because I worry about you, but eventually there will come a day where you leave and when that day comes I’m going to miss you a lot”. And that delivery was just so good and it’s no wonder Roger is a fan favorite cause he’s got such warmth he’s such a warm character.

The Android is hard just because there are so many and Zoie is so, so good at that kind of quirky earnest sense. There’s just so, so many for her and I guess for me if I have to choose I really like that scene between her and Five in Episode 7 where Five gives her the pep talk and says “hey look just because Wendy is on board doesn’t mean we think any less of you”. That episode is just speckled with great little moments for her, like that scene where she comes in to the cafeteria and everyone is eating and ignoring her and she basically has to say that she’s improved the efficiency of the ships engine by like eighteen percent and the response is “so what and Wendy’s improved the taste of our food by a hundred percent”. She has to be like “by the way if I hadn’t done that it could have been a fatal error and it could be disastrous”. Then the response to that is “good catch” then they totally ignore her. She looks like a kid whose trying to get her parents attention and Zoie is just brilliant in that role and she does it so good.

STV: Can you give us some behind the scene funny or embarrassing moments from the actors?

JM: Behind the scene moments, it’s really tough, I can’t really think of them. There was one very early on, it was a Roger moment, I wrote about it in my blog, where basically we finished the first day and he was super happy. He hugged everyone and when he hugged me he hugged me a little too hard and I think he cracked some cartilage in my ribcage and I was walking wounded for weeks.

In terms of Jodelle, she’s basically a huge geek, and we had Wil Wheaton on for Episode 12, and she doesn’t have any scenes with him, but she found out way after we finished shooting the show that he’d been on the show and I got this text saying “you…you didn’t tell me Wil Wheaton was on the show” and she was totally bummed, but who knows, if he survives Episode 12 there is a possibility he may come back.

STV: You mentioned The Android, and this is just me being curious, does she have a backstory like before the memory wipe? I’m assuming she had a place within the crew before the memory wipe.

JM: Yeah, there is an upcoming revelation about The Android that will throw kind of a wrench into things, but I’ll leave it at that. You’ll find out about it before the end of the season.

STV: The name of the site is SpoilerTV, so can you give me any spoilers that I can take back to our readers?

JM: I always differentiate between teasers and spoilers.

STV: I’m sure our readers will be happy with some teases.

JM: Wil Wheaton will play the character of Alexander Rook who’s this character that is a wealthy industrialist who essentially is Two’s maker. She meets her maker in Episode 12 and she finds out exactly…well not exactly…she finds out a lot about her backstory.

The Android goes on a mission in Episode 12. People are complaining about why we don’t see The Android get off the ship and kickass, well she does.

Five makes a shocking discovery in Episode 12 and like I said, this was in the sneak peek, we see how she got out of that airlock.

I already mentioned this online, but there is a super shocking moment at the end of Episode 12 that sets up Episode 13.

There was that moment where Three basically gave up the code thinking he would be able to save Two, but wasn’t able to. That’s something that will be addressed in a rare moment between Two and Three in the double episode season finale.

We get an answer to one of the biggest questions of the season. The show from very early on is who wiped their memories and why. It’s made fairly clear that, if you can connect the dots, there are a number of numerous points that you just need to connect, but I think it’s fairly obvious who wiped their memories and why.

Like I told the cast as we headed towards the finale…the person who wiped your memories may not be the person you have to worry about.

STV: Here is the most important question of this interview. With Five becoming a little more badass the crew is going to need a new mascot. Any chance of seeing your dogs cameo?

JM: Possibly not the dogs, although Jodelle is lobbying for a cat, a space cat, that she can bring on board and have it hang about around her room.

STV: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me.

JM: Thank you for supporting the show. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to do this all again next season.

I hope everyone enjoyed this interview with the brilliant Joseph Mallozzi who so graciously gave his time to give SpoilerTV this vast quantity of information and insight. If you want to keep up with what is going on in the world of Dark Matter I highly recommend following Joseph's daily blog. When they are filming it is full of behind the scenes details and when they are not he has exclusive cast interviews and all kinds of other great stuff. If nothing else follow it to keep up with his dogs who are the real stars of this blog. If they could talk I think they would have some amazing stories to tell. Remember when you're watching Dark Matter tonight to include #RenewDarkMatter in all of your social media posts.

The Season 1 Finale of Dark Matter airs tonight at 9/8c on SyFy in the United States and Space in Canada.

About the Author - Aimee Hicks
Aimee works for a local newspaper and has a BA in Broadcasting and Cinema. She has been a TV lover since before she really understood what TV was. She has a long list of shows that she loves to watch and can be found on twitter (@ahicks83) live tweeting about each new episode whenever she can. A list of her favorite shows includes (but is not limited to) the following: 12 Monkeys, Orphan Black, Outlander, Chasing Life, Scorpion, The 100, The Night Shift, Bitten, Black Sails, 2 Broke Girls, Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Continuum, Lost Girl, Faking It, Falling Skies, Finding Carter, Once Upon A Time, Orange Is The New Black, Switched At Birth, The Fosters, The Flash, The Originals, Teen Wolf, Under The Dome, & Z Nation. The upcoming shows she is most excited about are: Supergirl, Dark Matter, UnReal, Blindspot, Lucifer, Legends of Tomorrow, Stitchers, Recovery Road, Shadowhunters, Quantico, Code Black, Heartbreaker, and Chicago Med. She has a large and passionate dislike of ""reality"" TV, especially ""reality"" dating shows, but has a weakness for Americas Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance. But those two don't really count as ""reality"" shows, at least that's how she justifies those guilty pleasures. She was the original creator and co-founder of LOST Video Island ( which is still operating under the management of the very capable and skilled group she turned it over to.
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