A new frontier for a pack of people running from their pasts marks a new frontier for Youtube as the challenge-video-and-vlog-receptacle website moves into Hollywood-level of production value territory with its newest original Youtube Premium series Origin.
Origin tells the story of a group of humans looking for a fresh start. Escaping lives filled with pain, the details of which are for the most part kept a mystery in the beginning, each individual learns of the Siren Corporation and the Thea Project. Thea is a brand new planet that can sustain human life, and Siren wants to send humans there. They board a spaceship from Siren towards a new planet and a new life.
Though they are supposed to sleep through the journey, the main 10-12 characters awaken on the ship to find the crew and the other 480+ passengers gone and the ship nowhere near its destination. They must work together to find out what happened while they were asleep and how they will survive until they make it to their new home.
At New York Comic Con, Nerds and Beyond sat down with the stars of Origin Tom Felton, Natalia Tena, Sen Mitsuji, and Philipp Christopher as well as director Mika Watson to discuss the then-upcoming series and the excitement in store.
One of the biggest questions on the table was for Felton and Tena, both veterans of the Harry Potter franchise. Felton played Draco Malfoy, Harry’s long-standing school adversary, and Tena played Nymphadora Tonks, a member of the Order of the Phoenix and wife of Remus Lupin. Potter fans were excited to see them together again in the trailer, however Tena explained this was their first time actually working together. “I didn’t really hang out with him at all. I got to know him at other Harry Potter conventions over the years but when we were together we were completely two ships in the night,” she said. “He’s lovely – I already knew he was a good laugh, and he’s fun, so it was easy.” Despite it being a new project, Felton lamented that he has not been able to outrun the Malfoy name, even from director Mika Watkins. “Just so you know, she calls me Draco all day, every day. She’s the only person I give a full license to say it. And she still does – even this morning, she made a joke about ‘my father will hear about this.’”
It is a big leap from magic to space, but Felton and Tena do it brilliantly. It is also a big leap for them to work on a show that is not for the big screen, but for the digital one.
“With Youtube it was an exciting prospect because it’s not something that has been done before. Youtube is quite new to the game. I think they have the luxury of knowing what audiences want to see,” said Felton. “So although they’re fresh to the table, I felt it was really exciting and ahead of the curve with all the data collection and their knowledge of what people want to see. At first I was a bit daunted about Youtube producing it, but after a few weeks, I realized we were onto something pretty exciting.”
Watkins agreed, saying, “I think there are a lot of different streaming platforms coming out and they have such a great way to connect with the right people. And also, when we met in the room, it was just a really good dynamic, and I felt creatively we were on the same place.”
The Thea Project is a global idea from the Siren Corporation, and this was incorporated into the storytelling and diverse cast. Watkins said this was a priority in telling the story. “It’s meant to be about a global project, and if we didn’t embrace the fact that that involves a lot of different people in the world, then we wouldn’t be right. But also I think it really does enrich the show, being able to suddenly be in another language, in another country, I think all of those things make it very special.”
Not only do the characters come from different physical places, but also from different backgrounds that they are all trying to run from for one reason or another. Luckily, in Sen Mitsuji’s character Shun’s case, his backstory comes in kind of handy on a derelict spaceship.
“One of the interesting features of the writing is we come from such diverse backgrounds. Everyone has something they regret doing – that’s what they’re running from. But I know in my character’s case, the thing that I’m running from is useful in this particularly hostile environment. A life in organized crime sets you up well for an abandoned spaceship.”
Tena’s character also seems to have a background that ends up being useful in this situation, she explains. “There is a regret there and my character is well equipped just because she was trained, but actually she has to fight through a lot of ptsd to be useful on the flight, which she eventually does – ish.”
Philipp Christopher comments on the characters’ actions and decisions as well, saying, “Something happens that none of us expected – we all expected to be on this planet and then something happens and we all wake up on this abandoned ship on the way to the planet. Because of that, some other character traits come up that probably would not have come out if we had just landed on Thea.”
At the time of the interview, no one had seen past the first two episodes–not even the cast. But there were certainly aspects they were excited for people to see. Tena, Mitsuji and Christopher teased that audience members will eventually see every cast member naked. Tena also excitedly whispered to Mitsuji about a supposedly scary part, but Mitsuji immediately told her she could not share it – so the extraterrestrial threat is still a bit of a mystery, but not for long.
Origin is streaming now on Youtube Premium and the first two episodes are available for free.