zaterdag 22 november 2014


Here it finally is! The unofficial English translation of my interview with Stephanie Leonidas (Irisa from Defiance), which I had the priviledge of doing during the Imagine Film Festival. The Dutch version can be find either at the Imagine website or a slightly longer version on


A couple years ago you could spot her in the Dutch movie Crusade in Jeans and last year she scored one of the leads in the SyFy show Defiance: Stephanie Leonidas. On friday March 11th season one premiered at the Imagine Film Festival for which she had flown over. I quized the beautiful Irathian about her alien character and talents. 
With titels on your resume such as Dracula, Atlantis and MirrorMask - winner of the Jury Award in 2006 at Imagine - it looks as though you're into fantasy. 
“Did MirrorMask win an Award here? They never told me! That's great. It's true, I like movies with strange beings and a dark vibe. I grew up with The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal and E.T. Those are my favorite movies. I always stared at the tv thinking 'I want to be there'. I never expected it would actually happen."

And now you're playing the alien Irisa on Defiance. What kind of research do you do for such an extraordinary character? 
“Irisa may be Irathian, but she has a human heart. She's a young girl trying to find herself above anything else. The new element, for me,  was in her talent to handle knives. A lot of training hours went into that. I got this gigantic piece of paper with a human shape drawn on it and was told to aim tennisballs on that. Slowly I was allowed to go from tennis balls to knives. And those became sharper and more dangerous. When I train as myself, as Stephanie, everyone is always scared for me. But the funny thing is that as soon as I'm in the skin of my character Irisa, they're confident enough to let me do anything with those knives. While I'm really the same person!"
You're still you, but unrecognizable. Do you ever get recognized on the street? 
“Not as Irisa, haha. Sometimes at conventions people will be shocked to find out that I'm the girl behind the make up. The fun thing is that fans will show up dressed as Irisa at these cons. It's very surreel and flattering. Sometimes they look so convicing I'm actually worried for my job (laughs). And instead of the 2,5 hours that I have to sit in make up every day, it only costs them like twenty minutes! So I think we're doing something wrong, haha." 

Firefly has Browncoats, Star Trek Trekkers… how are the fanatic fans of Defiance called?
“I have no idea! But if we don't have a name yet, I'll come up with one! has to be something that's connected to Irathians though. Even if it's just to have myself represented by the title, as there are so many alien species in Defiance." [After thinking about this for some time, she still couldn't come up with a great name, so during the Q&A a day later I asked again]. "It's you again! You're cheeky... I discussed it yesterday with others and we came up with 'Defi-ers', but that was actually rubbish. So probably something like 'The D's'."

What are good and bad qualities of Irisa?
“As Irisa I feel like I can handle everything. When I'm in her skin I can suddenly clime a fence. While I can't even clime a rope as Stephanie! There's a certain power that comes out and that's great to do and experience. Other than that she's not much of a talker. She only speaks when she feels that it's needed and when she can bring something to the table. If that's not the case, she'll stick to the background. And yes, she's an alien, so she can be dangerous. You can see that in her relationship with Nolan, played by Grant Bowler. He knows how dangerous she can be and it may create some tension in their father-daughter relationship." 

The story takes place in the future. What if you'd be around in 2046? 

"Wow… I'd hide behind Irisa I think! I'd be one of the screaming people asking her for help. Or I'd use my look from the show and walk around like that. That way no-one would try anything."


In Defiance St. Louis looks drastically different because it's been terraformed. What do you think Amsterdam would look like in 2046? 
“Terraforming is a mix of the earth and a different planet, so colourful alien plants would grow out of Amsterdam buildings. And since you guys bike a lot...they would have a jet-engine in 2046 which makes it a hover-bike. With bike paths in the air/sky. Wouldn't that look cool? And you'd have aliens with Dutch accents, which I'd really like to hear. This might actually be a good idea for season three.”

Speaking about accents and languages: You had to learn an entirely new language for Defiance
“Irathian is now my second language, haha. David Peterson, who also works on Game of Thrones, has created five languages for the show. One for each culture. It was quite hard to learn such a new language, but it makes my character complete. The funny thing is that we keep talking in those languages during lunch break, like we have a secret language or something. My favorite word? That would be 'tashinka', which means 'little girl'. It what's Irisa is called. But the curse word 'shtako' is the first word we all knew or remembered. I even use it outside of the show, like when I'm with my parents. It's a safe curse word, because no-one understands it or knows what it means.”
It's an American tv show, though you wouldn't say that looking at the cast. 
“Haha, that's true. Julie [Benz] prizes herself that she's the only American. Other than that Grant is from New-Zealand, but a large part of the cast is British, Scottish or Canadian. Which matches Defiance when you think about it. In this show several cultures are living together and the cast mirrors that. I even had to learn an American accent for Irisa. I tried a Cogney-accent, but that didn't work at all!” 

Season two starts on June 19th in the U.S. Does this mean you're enjoying a nice vacation now? 
“We finished shooting in december. That took about six months and after that I did have a holiday. But we just started promoting season two, so that's what I'm currently doing. What can you expect from season two? The new season will be darker. Not just the whole vibe of the show, but Irisa herself as well. In the first season she was a little bit sweeter and sometimes I kinda want that Irisa back (laughs). We're also going to see more of the landscape outside of Defiance. So you'll get to see other surroundings.”
You can watch Defiance starting wednesday April 30th at 21:00h on Syfy in the Netherlands. New episodes from season two will start airing in America on June 19th 2014.