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Sharon Duncan-Brewster: Intergalactic is a feast for the eyes – Secrets from the set
Sharon Duncan-Brewster talks exclusively to BT.com about being part of a female-led cast on Intergalactic, filming at Space Studios and her favourite sci-fi shows.
Sharon Duncan-Brewster admits that she doesn’t know a lot about recent science fiction – which is surprising, as not only did she feature in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, she’s about to hit both the small and silver screens with two further projects in the genre.
“I fell out of sci-fis when I started to go to secondary school and I’ve never really looked back since,” she says.
She laughs: “I’m in them, but I don’t really watch them. As long as I can say the words in the right order and sound like I know what I’m talking about, I’ll get away with it!”
Sharon’s biggest job to date, which is set to be released later this year, is the movie adaptation of Dune - which she stars in alongside Hollywood heavyweights such as Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Zendaya, Charlotte Rampling and Javier Bardem.
Once she’d finished filming there, she hopped onto Intergalactic – the ambitious sci-fi drama on Sky One and NOW.
“[Dune is] the biggest thing I’ve ever done and it’s a dream come true. It was weird to come from one sci-fi straight into another because that’s not something I would normally do, but the roles were so totally different and contrasting that I just went yes,” she grins.
‘Tula was too good to turn down’
Sharon stars in Intergalactic as Tula Quik, part of a group of convicts sent to a prison planet for their crimes. She leads a mutiny as they seek control of the ship transporting them, putting a new spin on a prison break drama.
“You can’t turn down Tula! You can’t turn down the character. She’s so gorgeously rich and I just thought ‘right, you’ve got to do this’,” exclaims Sharon.
“Tula Quik is a sort of new-age ganglord and has a very healthy appetite for all that is bad in the world and in the galaxy,” she explains.
“Tula is so much fun to play. She’s feisty, she’s tough, she’s arrogant – she’s everything that I’m not,” Sharon laughs.
Also in the group is Tula’s daughter Genevieve, although the two do not have a normal relationship. Sharon believes the unravelling of all the characters, not just Tula and Genevieve, is at the heart of the show and is bound to keep viewers gripped.
“They have a very fragile and complicated mother-daughter relationship, which on the outset you sort of go ‘what’s that about? Where is this going?’.
“You start to find that they have a dysfunctional relationship of sorts which is quite controlling from Tula’s part. Tula utilises her daughter in a very negative way.
“I think as we go along people will start to understand why she’s done that. It’s not justifiable but they come from a very dark past.
“This is the beautiful thing about this show - there is so much to come within the story. When you first meet these characters at face value, you sort of make these assumptions, you can’t help it.
“But as every episode goes by, you start to see little chinks and cuts and bruises of their past. They’ve all got such contrasting back stories as well. It’s not as if you look at one person and say ‘hang on’. They’re all so different and that’s what’s rich about Julie’s [Gearey, the show’s writer] writing.”
Industry is ‘moving forward’ on diversity
One of the striking elements of Intergalactic is its female-led, diverse cast – something that should be celebrated without easing the pressure on the industry to continue changing, Sharon says.
“It was glorious to be on a set that had a lot of females in it. A lot of people keep saying ‘female-heavy’ – it irritates me when I hear that because you don’t say that when you’ve got a show that’s mainly men.
“Let’s celebrate it, that we’ve got a lot of strong female characters in this, and let’s try and push this towards being just the norm so it’s not ‘Oh wow, isn’t it great? You’ve got all these women!’. ‘Well why the hell not?!’ is what I say!”
She continues: “With regards to the industry and diversity, we are moving forward and I sense change.
“There’s definitely a lot more to go on, a lot more to be implemented at the root and really high up as well, so we approach this from both directions. There are a lot of conversations that need to be had.
“Things are changing slowly. We need to press on and I think we all need to take part in that. It’s important that everybody has input because it’s not going to happen overnight. We all know that. It’s definitely happening and that’s promising.
“But we all have to be totally confident that this is the right thing and energised in our approach to the change.”
Cast nights out: ‘I’d try and keep up with them’
Sharon reveals there was a real rapport between the cast on and off the set.
“I’m a little bit older than the rest of the gang. Sometimes they would go out and club - I’d go out and I’d try and keep up with them!” she laughs.
“We all lived in these apartments when we were in Manchester. Sometimes we’d all go round and have a cup of tea and a chinwag. Some people would go out for dinner, we’d go out and eat food together, we’d go clubbing.
“From day one really, everyone sort of gelled. There was never a moment of any egos or attitudes flying around when we were filming at all. Just laughter, a lot of jokes really, which is nice.”
Asked what her favourite moments were on set, she alluded to an awkward moment on set with co-star Thomas Turgoose.
“Myself and Thommo had an experience in one of the cells where somebody had a bit of gas. A moment occurred,” she chuckles.
“There were some great moments, some giggly moments and some really intense moments when we were shooting as well. There’s a lot of funny scenes that are within the show but also some really deep, heartfelt stuff as well. I remember doing some stuff with Natasha [O’Keefe] and there’s also stuff with Diany [Samba-Bandza] as well. There’s so many. There’s loads. The fart moment with Thommo is something that springs to mind!”
Filming on space sets was a ‘feast’
Despite coming straight from a Hollywood sci-fi set, Sharon was wowed by the production of Intergalactic.
“The first day when we hit Space Studios in Manchester and we walked onto set and looked around, they slowly took us around the main part of the Hemlock itself and they showed us the other things that were being constructed elsewhere, and it was just a feast! You were just like ‘this is going to be wicked!’” she recalls.
“I had actually just come from a sci-fi film and I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if there would be a difference in set design and budget but this show is up there as far as the set goes, also with regards to the CGI as well.
“This CGI is just, you just look and go ‘oh my gosh – is that Big Ben?’. There are so many landmarks within it that people are going to recognise.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of this project and to be part of such a great team as well. It’s not just us in front of the camera, it’s the crew, it’s the designers, art department, sound, CGI all of that. Everyone has worked so hard to make it work. It’s a real huge team effort for sure.”
All episodes of Intergalactic are available on Sky One and NOW from Friday, April 30.