‘The Expanse’: Cara Gee on Drummer’s Heartbreaking, ‘Absolute Rock Bottom’ Breakdown

Q&A
AMAZON STUDIOS

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Expanse Season 5, Episode 8, “Hard Vacuum.”]

Throughout the past five seasons of The Expanse, Camina Drummer (Cara Gee) had been one character we could count on to never lose their composure. While others cried or lashed out, Drummer was all dark smoky-eye makeup and carefully calculated moves.

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There's only so much loss a person can take — and Camina Drummer, played by Cara Gee, reaches her limit.

Until, that is, she loses Ashford (David Strathairn), Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) and Naomi (Dominique Tipper) — or so she thinks! — in rapid succession. Suddenly, the makeup is running and it seems like it’s all Drummer can do to keep moving forward.

TV Insider chatted with Gee about bringing Drummer’s emotional side to life, that heartbreaking drinking scene, and what we can expect from the iconic bosmeng in Season 5’s last two episodes.

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Drummer telling Oksana how hard it was to keep going was pretty unexpected.

I think that Drummer has the feeling of already being dead inside. She’s operating on a completely empty soul, surviving for the sake of the people she loves, not herself. If she was on her own, she would choose death. That’s what we’re seeing — absolute rock bottom.

Naomi’s loss seems to have been the last straw. We know they’re close, but what about it pushes Drummer over the edge?

There’s this great quote that Drummer has when she’s sharing a drink with Naomi and Ashford, and she says, “All the optimists I know are dead.” That’s something that haunts her. And she lets people in and she gets close to people, and then they’re taken from her. That’s what it means to be a Belter — it’s part of the plight of that oppression. She’s seen a lot of death. Naomi is someone she has loved deeply. So, to imagine that she has died as well and the blood is on Drummer’s hands…she had Marco in that airlock, and he’s just slaughtering her people.

It’s like he’s going down a list of her closest friends.

Exactly! I can’t imagine how horrific that would be.

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So Drummer blames herself for everything that’s happened? Does she wish she’d killed Marco when she had the chance?

Absolutely. I think that’s part of why she’s barely able to hold on. Millions and millions of people on Earth have died, and she’s feeling that guilt. How would you live with yourself? I don’t know. I don’t know how she does it.

How has it been exploring Drummer’s softer side?

I think it’s important for strong female characters to be capable of love and have the vulnerability of hopes and dreams. There’s nothing weak about that; there can be strength in vulnerability. I think it’s interesting how the pendulum swings for female characters from one extreme to another. We don’t have to be ingénues any longer, and I think it’s good to get into the complexity of the whole person, even in the “strong female character” trope. I’m grateful that the show does that.

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The hard-drinking, hard-charging leader of a pirate fleet is someone we'd like to have a beer with.

I had chills when Drummer closes the door and screams. How did you get to that place as an actor?

[Laughs] Working on the show is always about trying to wrap your brain around how high the stakes are for these characters. If you can wrap your brain around that, then the actual execution of it requires a strong sense of humor, at least for me. I was like eight months pregnant at the time, and there’s something hilarious about acting like you’re drunk and crying while being very pregnant — the absurdity of it! Step 1 is “wrap your brain around scale,” Step 2 is “execute with humor.”

There’s really no other character on the show who’s an amalgam of characters from the books. What is it like to read the source material and know you’re taking a different character’s story? Do you find yourself “translating” their thoughts and actions to your character?

Absolutely! [Laughs] From the beginning, that was a huge part of my process. I love having source material that is so rich. The books are incredible. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ve got to read the books. I’m so lucky I get to pick and choose aspects of the characters to incorporate. I kind of Frankenstein them all together. You choose your ingredients, put it in the oven, and see what comes out.

What can you tell us about Drummer’s story for the rest of the season?

I think we’re seeing what happens when she’s running on empty — when she’s balancing that inner feeling of having nothing left to give versus having everything to fight for.

The Expanse, Wednesdays, Amazon Prime Video