Morgan Lariah On
Diversity in Science Fiction
an Interview by Jonah Bergan
As a part of my series “On Diversity in Science Fiction,” we have with us here at Queerscifi.com, Morgan Lariah; actor, writer, and filmmaker. She plays the lead in the sci-fi film, 5th Passenger, a film featuring many of our favorite actors from Star Trek. Morgan also co-wrote and produced the film.
Jonah: Morgan, when we discussed the possibility of doing this interview, you indicated that you wanted to discuss women in science fiction. Generally speaking, what would you like to say about that?
Morgan: I have always found Sci-fi to be very inspiring. Sci-fi was the first genre I encountered that portrayed strong women in leadership roles. It’s a place where women can be strong, intelligent and beautiful. I’m talking about Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Uhura, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry who played Number One, the original Executive Officer in the Pilot of Star Trek and Sigourney Weaver in Alien. In their time, these were all cutting edge examples of women in leadership roles.
Jonah: How would you say the portrayal of women has changed over the years?
Morgan: Now we see women like Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, Janeway on Voyager… Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games—these are all evolutions of strong characters…strong women. They retain their feminine core; they still love and care and still nurture and even sacrifice for those they care about, but they are also protagonists in their own lives and in the world around them. They aren’t characters who serve only to support the male characters in finding their destiny. That’s an important lesson—a role model for women.
Jonah: I’ve heard and seen people react negatively while discussing Diversity in Science Fiction. They say Science Fiction is not about sexuality or gender roles or any of the other many forms of diversity. What would say to someone who feels there is an agenda at work?
Morgan: It surprises me that anyone in the science fiction community might think that way. I personally haven’t encountered anyone saying anything like that. But if I did, I suppose I’d tell them that these are the stories I want to tell, plain and simple. Yes, they are going to be gynocentric because I am female. The world is diverse and I believe our media should reflect that. I’d tell them that stories have always taught all of us about what it means to be human and how to become a better human being. They inspire a sense of community and intimacy. It’s a part of what we are, and who we are and they allow us to let others know that they are not alone. It relieves societal pressures. it’s liberating. In fact, I would say just the fact that someone feels there is an agenda at work, tells me that it is even more imperative that we tell more diverse stories. If you feel inspired as an artist, to create a piece of art, there is a reason for that. We have to trust that.
Jonah: What was your role in making 5th Passenger?
Morgan: I play Eve Miller, she’s a navigational officer on one of the ships going from earth to the new planet. The story is told through her eyes, but I really view 5th Passenger as an ensemble piece. David Lim, Tim Russ, Marina Sirtis, Manu Intraymi and Armin Shimerman all play pivotal roles.
Jonah: I understand that you did more than act in 5th Passenger. You wrote and produced as well didn’t you?
Morgan: Yes, I did. I am a classically trained actress, and I started writing and producing some of my own work back in 2011. I met Scott Baker at a filmmaker group, and he approached me with this idea for the film. He and I started working on the script and it just took off. Scott ended up meeting Manu who was perfect for the role of Thompson and, then, through Manu, Tim Russ, Armin Shimerman and Marina came aboard. Scott also produced. Ryan Husk came on as co-producer as well as Prince Bagdasarian who is doing a lot for the film. Matt Hunt, came on as associate producer.
Jonah: That must have felt amazing.
Morgan: It did. It was, it was really great. There’s this moment, after the ideas come out and all the work is on paper, when all of a sudden there are trucks and film crews and the work isn’t really yours anymore—all of a sudden it’s out there in the world. You know. Being a writer is a very lonely process. It’s internal and then there’s this moment when you realize it’s not just yours anymore—it’s out there and it’s a really great moment. For me it happened when we had a production meeting a few days before filming was going to start. We were on the set, and I had this moment where I realized it had gone from my laptop and out into the world. That’s when it became real.
Jonah: Let’s talk about the sets. I’ve seen the trailer—it looks great, and Manu told me that there’s a story behind the sets. Can you tell us a little about that?
Morgan: Yeah, we were really fortunate. Marc Zicree from Space Command gave us the opportunity to film at his studio. He had filmed his first installment of Space Command and they had these sets that were really perfect for our script—a hallway, an upper deck, and this door… Scott and I had these concept drawings of the pod done, and the door on Marc’s set almost identical—it was absolutely perfect. Really, it was uncanny.
Jonah: Cool. You know I’m excited to see the film. What’s the status of 5th Passenger now? Do you have a release date yet?
Morgan: No. No release date. We finished production last February. We’re planning an indigogo campaign to raise the funds necessary for the visual effects on September 29th. It’s science fiction and we all feel that we need some truly stunning visual effects. Then, we’ll put it through the rest of post production. We’re planning on meeting with distributors, to get the film out there in the best way possible. It’s like our baby—we want the best for it.
Jonah: Understandable. So what’s next? Tell us a little about one of the projects you have coming up.
Morgan: Well, I’m working on a script now for a project called “Full Take” it’s science fiction. It’s set 50 years in the future. The USA is an ultimate surveillance state and a woman who works in a government branch of surveillance must decide if she will help a man under suspicion. He’s in search of his missing sister, and she risks becoming a suspect of the state herself. There are a few robots in it, too. I am really excited about it.
Jonah: That does sound good. Morgan, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. To keep in touch with Morgan, you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram (@MorganLariah.) and be sure to Like the 5thPassenger page on Facebook, and follow 5th Passenger on Twitter and Instagram (@5thPassenger.) You can join in the discussion and be among the first to get news and other information.
Jonah Bergan is the author of “Off-World.” a Gay Science Fiction novel published by Booktrope/Edge