The Expanse: Thomas Jane Returned To Direct in Season 5 and He Brought a Hat

After playing Joe Miller through four seasons of The Expanse -- first as the actual Joe Miller and [...]

After playing Joe Miller through four seasons of The Expanse -- first as the actual Joe Miller and then as the protomolecule construct embedded in James Holden's head -- Thomas Jane is returning in a new role, that of a director. Jane makes his television directing debut with the third episode of The Expanse's fifth and penultimate season, "Mother." The episode will be released along with the first two episodes of the season on December 16th on Amazon Prime Video. Before slipping in a question about the Punisher, spoke to Jane about what it was like returning to The Expanse as a director.

"I had the experience of a lifetime directing The Expanse," Jane says. "It is not an easy show. There are a lot of moving parts, and what makes it beautiful is not only did I know the whole cast and crew for over the four or five years that we've all been working together, I was immersed in the mythologies of lore and the story. It's something that's been a part of my life for a long time. So, I had a much easier time with it than somebody who will be jumping into a cold. It can get a little overwhelming with all the spacesuits, and the fans, and the helmets and, and the green screens, and the blue screens, and the flyaway sets, and just all the different little gags that we take for granted when we watch it, like somebody pulling up a phone call on their little machine. All this stuff takes an incredible amount of preparation and planning."

The Expanse Seaosn 5 Thomas Jane Director
(Photo: Amazon Prime Video)

Of course, there's always the risk upon returning to a familiar workspace in a new role that your old co-workers won't be able to adjust. "You're wondering like, are these guys going to take me seriously because I'm the guy that hangs out by the stage door, who smokes a cigar, and waits for somebody to come in and say, 'Okay, they're ready for you on set,'" Jane says.

He quickly realized what he needed was a hat. Yes, a hat. Jane donned headwear that would make him look familiar to anyone who has followed the sci-fi show through its first four seasons.

"Not Miller's fedora, but I wore a fedora every day so that people will look around the room and if they wanted to know where the director was, they just look for the guy in the hat," Jane explains. "And I went out and bought myself a pipe. I got myself a real nice Peterson pipe made in Ireland, and it had this futuristic vibe to it too. It was almost something that you might see on The Expanse."

He goes on to say that it was all about "making sure that people felt comfortable in the new role that I was playing. And maybe I'm just an actor, but it is a role. You're the director. You're the guy with the answers. Somebody has a question, you're the guy that says yes, no, or bring me something else."

That realization became a reality for him during the shoot. At one point, he realized that things weren't going as planned, and the entire production was threatening to go off the rails.

"We were shooting a scene in a futuristic apartment," he recalls. "Of course, we've got a blue screen out the windows, and I had this train gag where we'd have lights flashing as these super high-speed trains would whip past. And there was just a point where I didn't have the plan because we couldn't do the angles that I wanted to do because the visual effects guys had set up the train from one angle and my angle was different. And there's this interesting moment where nobody knew what to do. And everybody started throwing out ideas, and I just said, 'Guys, guys, guys, let's go to the storyboards.' And I walked them over to the storyboards and I said, "Pick a shot, but if it's not on this board, we're not doing it.' And then everything kind of rolled back into the rhythm. And that's when I realized the importance of a director who has a plan. Even if he doesn't have a plan, he better pretend like he's got one, because of how quickly things can devolve without that leader to point the direction. And what I learned was you don't even really have to know, you just need to point them in a direction."

"Mother" is an episode that would test any director's versatility. It has action and conversation, as you would expect, but some deep, interior character beats as well. Despite being a television rookie, Jane feels this was the perfect episode for him to helm.

"I think they're very smart and they gave me the episode where I could shine, which is an emotional episode," he says. "There's quite a lot of emotional stuff going on with several of the characters, and the scenes are beautifully written and they trusted me to bring the performances. They're like, 'I don't know what this guy's going to do with everything else, but we're pretty sure that we can get him to bring our actor's best work to the table.' And I knew I could do that in my sleep. I've been an actor for 25 years, I know how to talk to them, I know what they need, I know how they need to feel, I know that deep down, every actor is eight years old inside. That I had down,

"What made me nervous was the special effects, dealing with the green and the blue screen, dealing with the practical gags that we had to do, how to cover them. And of course, the action stuff needs to be handled very specifically, you need to know what the hell you're doing. So, what I did was storyboard all of the action scenes, and all of the important stuff. Some of the traumatic stuff, I knew how to shoot and didn't need to board, but what I did was just board everything out. And that became our guide. I'm very proud of the work that we all did."

"Mother" is the third episode of The Expanse's fifth season. The first three episodes of the season debut on Amazon Prime on December 16th.