Vagrant Queen, which premieres on SYFY tonight, is far from your average space opera.
Based on the Vault Comics series by Eisner and GLAAD Award-Winning writer Magdalene Visaggio, the series takes viewers to another galaxy where the tough but loyal Elida (Adriyan Rae) finds herself on the run once more from the man who toppled her monarchy years ago.
There’s certainly a little Star Wars to be found in the show, especially as she’s joined by charming rogue Isaac (Tim Rozon) and loveable mechanic Amae (Alex McGregor) to form the perfect trio. But one big difference lies in the power behind the throne, for Vagrant Queen‘s creative team is made up primarily of women.
Why Vagrant Queen Is So Significant
Not only is Vagrant Queen‘s showrunner an Emmy-nominated director, but Jem Garrard (You Me Her) also brought with her an all-female writing and directing team. This bold move follows in the footsteps of shows like Harlots and Queen Sugar, and it most certainly helps expand the worldview of its leading lady.
Speaking of the Vagrant Queen herself, The Illuminerdi chatted with series star Adriyan Rae in anticipation of tonight’s premiere. The actress praised Garrard’s directorial style and not only explained why a female perspective was important, but also why carrying a sci-fi series as a black woman was monumental for her personally.
I believe Vagrant Queen has an all-female writing team. Is that correct? How do you feel that has influenced the development of Elida and the environment on set?
Adriyan Rae: The environment on set is everybody’s like family. We’re all weird in our own ways, and it all works out. You know how in a family, everybody has this little thing about them, and everybody’s a little weird. Then you get together, and you’re like, “I love this weird.” It’s like that.
We all just have so much fun, and we’re definitely led by – we have great leadership, and we’re still lead with compassion and understanding. It’s not like, “Do this!” It’s like, “Yeah, I like this. What were you thinking?” This was my idea for this thing, and this is my idea of how this is going to go. This is what we need to happen in order to get to this phase of the journey. Then we have that creative talk, and actually some creative freedom with Jem, where she’s like, “Yeah, that makes sense.”
It’s not like you can only take one street to get to this way in the journey. She’s open to, “I want to walk right here, and then I want to run, and then I’ll get in the car.” She’s like, “Cool. As long as you get over here.” It was super collaborative.
And the fact is that we’re part of this movement that’s showing Hollywood that women are powerful and women can do this. It’s a great feeling to be a part of it. And it’s one of the reasons that, when I heard about this, I was like, “Whoa, I gotta be a part of this.” for me. You feel like you’re walking with a group of people down Washington, DC, and you’re just standing in this movement. It’s so great.
Speaking of being part of a movement, how important is it for you as a black woman to not only be leading a sci-fi show, but also be a whole queen?
Adriyan Rae: For me, that’s something that I hold very, very close to my heart. It’s very important to me. And I know in the show, because it’s in another world, race isn’t a big thing. But in all actuality, the fact that it’s seen here in this world shows little girls – I come from a city that has 6000 people. I have eight siblings, 20 aunts and uncles. I was a first-generation college student, and my parents didn’t have money.
So, for young women to see my journey and be able to interact with me, and to look on TV and see women of color… All colors, not just black women that were light skin. It’s not just black women that have light skin or only black women that have chocolate skin who are beautiful. It’s like, “Hey, black comes as dark as this and as light as this, with hair like this and hair like that, eyes that are brown or eyes that are blue or green.”
For a little girl to be able to look on TV and see someone that looks like her on television, allows her to genuinely know that whatever she dreams that is possible. She can create that, she can be whatever she wishes to be, and nothing has to stop her. That’s so important to me. Because when I grew up, I literally thought people on TV were in this magic land in the TV. I did not know acting was even possible. I’m so grateful to be able to be a part of that. It makes my heart so full, and I’m so honored that I was able to do this.
What was it like filming on location in Cape Town, South Africa?
Adriyan Rae: Oh my gosh. Well, sometimes the sets were really far. Like, for the tombs, my pick up time was like 3 o’clock in the morning to get us there by 5. But it’s like, “How in the world did you find all these places?” They looked like different planets! It was crazy. From Corrillo in the yellow to the dunes, it was just madness – but beautiful madness.
The fact that all of those places are available in one country is just, like, wow. Cape Town is absolutely beautiful. There’s so many different terrains, but parts of it also resemble LA, with the palm trees and the mountains and things like that.
But the locations were just sick, and our set decorators made things real. [We] really had all those chunks of stuff everywhere, and then they cleaned them all up afterwards. If you look, there’s a bunch of computer mouses and keyboards. There was a crap ton of those that I kept stepping on. Those were real dunes that we had to walk up, too. We did one take, we had to go around the back of the dunes, come all the way back up, scoot over a little bit, get those footprints out and then go down again.
Finally, are there any shows you recommend binging during self-isolation?
Adriyan Rae: I recommend that people watch Locke and Key. A friend of mine is in that, Petrice [Jones]. So, watch Locke and Key. Mystic Quest on Apple TV; Imani Hakim, and she’s a really close friend of mine as well. I’m just going to put all my friends in here.
But personally, I’ve been bingeing things like Succession. It’s so good. The Outsider, holy crap. It’s on HBO, and so is Succession. So, yes, those are my four shows. And then, of course, Vagrant Queen. March 27 at 10/9c on SyFy!
Do as her Royal Highness bids, and don’t forget to check out Vagrant Queen‘s first episode tonight. Then come back to The Illuminerdi for all the latest in sci-fi entertainment.