‘Debris’: Riann Steele Reveals the Reality of Finola’s Connection to Bryan

Debris + Riann Steele
James Dittiger/NBC

Debris‘s game-changing two-parter concludes tonight with “I Am Icarus,” as Bryan Beneventi (Jonathan Tucker) scrambles to use a submerged piece of alien craft to get back to his original timeline. The reality-jumping arc kicked off in last week’s episode, in which a young man was basically jumping through timelines in hopes of finding the sister who vanished after they triggered a submerged piece of alien wreckage’s ability to reset reality. After a series of these reboots, the hour ended with the former Marine, trapped in an alternate reality, phoning his Orbital partner Finola Jones (Riann Steele) at her MI6 desk in London for help, despite the fact that she had no idea who he was in her version of the universe.

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Can Bryan get back to the real timeline?

It’s all very sci-fi and twisty, and tonight’s episode tears the fabric of reality even more, while also re-energizing the Bryan-Finola partnership established in the season’s early outings. But first, Finola must figure out why she has such a bond with someone who is a practical stranger to her in the current timeline and how she can, as Tucker said last week, bring him back home. Here, the fabulous Steele fills us in on her attempts to keep track of the various realities the pair have been party to, as well as what is coming up when (or if) they can straighten all of this out.

I love what you’ve done with this character. Finola’s emotions are all just right under the surface, just waiting to be tipped over.

Thank you! I don’t know how much of that is me or just Joel [Wyman, show creator], just creating this space and then creating these characters for us to come along and fill them up, add the layers and the complexities and things. But I mean, I just feel like Joel has given me this amazing gift. I can’t believe this is happening. But it’s also daunting…I’m back home now, but I am exhausted and just realizing the amount of work.

Watching this episode, I thought, “Did they tell her how much running there was going to be involved in this show?”

[Laughs] Honestly! And it’s not even the running, it’s these emotional scenes. You don’t realize just how much mental preparation they take. Especially the world that Joel’s created where there’s so many moving parts and interpersonal relationships. And who can you trust? There’s Finola with Maddox (Norbert Leo Butz)…however she feels about Maddox, she can’t be as honest as she can about him just yet because she’s also protecting Bryan and respects his relationship with him. And then there’s her own handler…

And her sister…

And her sister! And the different personas. There’s the agent persona, how you have to be at work. The beginning of episode 108, I just loved that scene that Joel put that in…it was just Finola sitting in a room and discussing her father. But you know that if she breaks, if she showed any emotion, she’s off that case and you need to do everything you can to be in that room and sit in all of that pain that’s, like you said, just under the surface. So she’s forever having to manage something very quickly.

And she hasn’t had a break.


Debris + Riann Steele

DEBRIS — “Do You Know Icarus” Episode: 109 — Pictured: Riann Steele as Finola Jones — (Photo by: James Dittiger/NBC)

And in this episode in particular, it feels like those two worlds of the agent and the person really do dovetail. When I talked to Tucker last week, we discussed the idea of this realities-jumping case allowing him to reset the relationship with Finola because he had been dishonest.

Yeah. And this is what I love about them: You’re seeing these two people meet and you now, there’s a moment where she stares at him almost like a deja vu moment that just speaks to the truth and the authenticity of their connection. Almost like they were always soulmates, no matter what reality they’re in. That these two people would look at each other or he would call her on the phone when she’s MI6 in London and she still would listen to his voice and know that her instinct is to help him.

And again, not leaning into any romantic stuff. It really is a partnership. How great was it to see what Finola would have been like as a desk jockey?

I sat with that for a while, really slowly building and deciding “Who is this Finola that we’re going to meet?” I mean, what a great opportunity to take a character that you’re playing and then put them in a different world and slowly put together who she is. So I made certain decisions. I decided that I wanted that Finola to be changed at the end of that scene, that she would tell say that penguin story out loud and relive it.

And at the end of that story, she puts two and two together for something in her own life. She is moved and maybe this is the Finola that never went to the US, who decided to stay and help her sister. She couldn’t abandon her sister, but is just driving herself into a hole. But that maybe at the end of that story, she decides to take the journey just like the the penguin.

On screen, it was like, “This is the unfulfilled Finola.” The one who never got to the point where she believed that the Debris was here to help something.



With all of the shifts in realities, how did you keep track of it all?

[Laughs] Let me tell you, I came up with all different ways. I bought different colored pens. I made notes on different things, I wrote it all out. And on the day, it just all went out the window because you just can’t keep track of it. You can’t! But we had the most amazing director, Paddy McKinley, who I think was the only person on set who could.

We were all trying to keep up. No matter how prepared you think you are, you’re just not when it comes to the day. But he was the only person, and thank God, it was all in his hands and he knew exactly what was going on at all times.

Debris + Jonathan Tucker + Riann Steele

DEBRIS — “Do You Know Icarus” Episode: 109 — Pictured: (l-r) Jonathan Tucker as Bryan Beneventi, Riann Steele as Finola Jones — (Photo by: James Dittiger/NBC)

Once they get restore their reality, where does this spin them off into? What is next for them?

I’m not quite sure that I even know, to be honest. [Laughs] I feel like if Jonathan was on this call, he could give the answer to this 100% because I know that he had very different conversations with Joel and they had a different journey. I decided to learn as I went, episode to episode. So I didn’t really know that far ahead…I can’t answer because I think I’m just as like, “I don’t know!”

You get to do some of the water stunts along with Tucker in this episode…how was that?

Yeah, that was a journey! [Laughs] You’ve interviewed and worked with Jonathan before. He’s just like, “Done it. Did it. Done it. Done. Did it. Already done it.” Me, I’m like, “What?!” I had to have a crash-course in swimming underwater, scuba diving, dealing with a regulator and let me tell you, I did it! I had five hours each time on my weekends and the then you go, “I got it. Got a handle on it. Feels great.” And then they tell you, “Great, now you’re going to go in a tank, you’re not going to be able to see anything and you’re going to take off your goggles and you have to do it with your eyes open.” Whoa, that messes with your mind! Suddenly, when you can’t see, immediately, you can’t breathe. But we were being trained by this Olympic free-diver, this amazing woman, and she said “What you think you know about swimming and diving, you know what it really is about? It is about meditation.” That is it. If you can calm your breath and find relaxation within the water, then you can extend your breath holds. And that in actual fact, when you are under water and you get that feeling that you need to breathe and you’re running out of oxygen, you have enough oxygen in your blood to last you minutes, minutes upon minutes. It’s all mental.

Debris + Riann Steele Jonathan Tucker

DEBRIS — “Supernova” Episode: 106 — Pictured: (l-r) Riann Steele as Finola Jones, Jonathan Tucker as Bryan Beneventi — (Photo by: James Dittiger/NBC)

Jonathan and I also talked about your car scenes…

We love them. I think we learned very quickly that within the show, there is so much going on that you rarely get to see them just kick it, just hang and be who they are. And so whenever we’re in the car, these are the moments that sometimes we improvise, which I love doing. We’re definitely on script, but we can come out and add these different textures to ourselves and the characters so you just see them in the day-to-day and that’s what you want to see so you can relate more to them. And we love the car. [Laughs]

He said the same thing! How has it been with him as an acting partner?

There was a scene we filmed, I think it will be at the end of episode 12…and it was heartbreaking. He’s crying and I am crying. And I know, as Finola, that I’m not supposed to be crying, I know I’m on camera as well, but I couldn’t stop. I just had to. And then the director came to me at one point and said, “So…I don’t think that Finola would be crying in this.” I’m like, “No, absolutely not.” But I’m going to have to work so hard to stop because I am so connected to this person!

And it’s also, again, so great that NBC has allowed us to do this. She has known from the beginning that Bryan is not someone you push. And he is going to reveal himself so slowly and she’s listening and always observing and watching him. And whenever there’s a moment where she sees a crack, she takes a little step and he’ll say, “Not right now” and she backs off. She understands. So when you get to that moment where he is opening up his heart and is breaking, I was shocked at my own reaction to that. And I couldn’t stop myself.

Tucker doesn’t make it easy.

No! I didn’t expect that I would have to work this hard to not allow myself to be that affected by him. [Laughs]

Debris, Mondays, 10/9c, NBC.