Season five of Amazon’s The Expanse is almost over, with just two episodes left after today’s episode 8 “Hard Vacuum.” So far, the Roci crew has been split up, with Holden (Steven Strait) and Alex (Cas Anvar) taking over plot duty while Amos (Wes Chatham) and Naomi (Dominique Tipper) going on more personal journeys and reconnecting with their past. It’s been a great opportunity to explore a bit deeper into those two characters, and the season has delivered on both of them.
For Naomi, episodes seven and eight include some incredible moments, both emotionally and physically, like her talk with Filip (Jasai Chase Owens) and the space jump to freedom. Over the phone, The Young Folks spoke with Dominique Tipper about Naomi’s solo journey this season, and her MacGyver mindset, adrift in space.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
What has it been like exploring Naomi’s past, but through her present-day situation as a hostage on Marco’s ship?
As an actor, it’s rewarding to come full circle and have the arc meet itself. It’s rare that anyone gets to season five of the show and this far into exploring because when we find them this season it is indicative of where we meet her on the Canterbury in season one. This is what she’d run away from. It’s a very difficult season emotionally and physically, as you’ve seen, but definitely felt like it was earned. I was excited to showcase that side of her very shady and secret past. The audience cares to see it, I think they’ve also earned it as well.
One of my favorite scenes so far has been in episode seven, between you and Jasai Chase Owens as Filip, and you’re explaining to him why you left. What has it been like exploring that mother-son relationship that is a little contentious but has a lot of history, regret, and also a lot of love there?
This is probably the most illogical we’ve seen Naomi in terms of her running into this situation that she has no plan for, no way to get out of it, and quite naively, thinking that she can change it or at least convince [Filip] that there’s another way. And exploring that and this different side of Naomi, that isn’t all based in logic.
Naomi’s been quite in a turmoil over the course of the seasons, in her relationship with Amos and just how when her heart does come through, it’s from a maternal place. It’s quite interesting to see her get to be that way with her actual son and just become aware as an audience of what the absence has cost her, what it’s cost their relationship, and also his response to her coming back into his life in the way that she has.
I don’t think it’s gone the way that she expected at all, but that’s made for a really beautiful season. It was weird. I feel very maternal towards Jasai. So that was an interesting thing to explore within myself because I don’t have children yet.
Naomi’s also showed a lot of ingenuity in her situation, especially when she was trying to get a hold of Holden, but then also at the end of episode seven, when she decides to make a run for it. Can you walk us through that moment where she decides to do that, as well as in episode eight, when she’s find herself in a bit of a Castaway situation, figuring out how to change that automated message?
The end of episode seven—that scene with Cyn where he tells her that he was involved in hiding Filip from her—was like the second-to-last nail in the coffin. That very final scene with Filip, it hits her. This hold that Marco has over people, like the hold he has on me, this hold that I thought I was breaking down in Filip and in Cyn, it’s there. I’ve tried and failed; I’m not going to get through, and so therefore it’s time for me to put myself first and leave and get out of this situation in whichever way I can.
Just before she jumped in episode seven is her reckoning with the fact that she’s failed to get [Filip and Cyn] and maybe was a bit naive and hopeful to think that she could change it. And so then I guess she doesn’t really know what she’s going into with jumping into the Chetzemoka because she just is desperately getting out of that situation on the Pallas. Once you’ve arrived on the Chetzemoka, it’s literally just a MacGyver attempt at getting out of it and surviving.
We get to see truly what kind of survivor Naomi is, the way she doesn’t give up, ever, is a testament to her character and who she is. Because me, as Dominique, I think there’s a few times I probably would’ve given up in episode eight, but I just think for Naomi that there’s always a way out, there’s always a way forward, no matter how bad the situation is that you’ve just left. There is a want to survive with her. And I love that about her. I really discovered a lot about her in episode eight. It speaks to who she is, and mothers and people that survived abusive relationships, who have to recreate and start again, and recreate themselves anew.
That whole sequence where she keeps running into the room and then running back as the air in her suit keeps going out. The whole time I was like, I can’t figure out what she’s doing, but I know she’s doing something. And then that moment at the end, when you figure it out, I was just blown away. I was like, God, that’s so clever.
Yeah, a really beautiful episode. Even when I read it, I was like, what is she doing? I had to have a couple meetings with [the writers] and have them explain, break this down to me. I like that they wrote it so it’s never explained until the end. And you’re like, oh, that’s what she was doing!
When her new message keeps playing over the credits of that episode, it’s kind of chilling.
That was a great choice. I can’t take any credit for that, but yeah, that was a great choice.
We haven’t talked about her and Marco at all, but in previous seasons we’ve seen Naomi take strides to protect the Belt, hiding away that piece of the protomolecule. And then Filip himself is sort of taken in by the tales of Naomi saving Belter lives. How will we see, or do you think we’ll see, Naomi fight for the Belt in the wake of Marco’s war? Because he’s sort of set up all the Belters to have to take part in his war, but there could be other ways.
This has always been Naomi’s struggle—how do we liberate our people in a way that is humane and doesn’t cost lots of lives? Belter lives and Inner lives. And for Naomi, though it wasn’t completely ideal, Fred Johnson’s way seemed the best kind of option. For her, that was the right way to go about it. Marco is just too radical for her and how her vision of what she wants to develop. So it’s just to say, Naomi would fight for the Belt, but with what Marco has done, it’s going to be a challenge for any Belter going forward to approach it with any kind of nuance because the most extreme way always wins out. We’ve even seen that echoed but it tends to dominate because it’s easier to not have nuance.
It’s easier to go, let’s go in with the sledgehammer or not. On one end of the spectrum, there’s zero change and everything stays the same, and at the other end, there’s annihilation, which is Marco’s way. I just think it’s hard. It’s hard for Drummer, it’s hard for Naomi, it’s hard for anyone. Fred, Anderson Dawes, people that didn’t want to go to that extreme. So, Naomi will always fight for the Belt, but it is going to make it a lot more difficult to sit where she’s always sat. I don’t know how that’s going to come out for her.
My last question is more about the final season, so anything you could tell me without spoiling the end of this one — what are your hopes for Naomi as the show wraps up next season?
I hope she can get over what happened in season five, find some middle ground with her ways of helping liberate Belters, and is able to negotiate that on her own terms. I hope her PTSD is not too extreme. In my most idealistic wants for her, I would love her to have a relationship with her son. Again, on her and his terms with the absence of Marco. I don’t know if any of this will happen, but they’re my dreams for Naomi.
The Expanse releases a new episode every Wednesday on Prime Video.