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Steven Strait delves into his favorite Holden relationship on The Expanse - Exclusive

Contains spoilers for The Expanse

Even before he was cast as James Holden, captain of the Rocinante and multi-time savior of the solar system, Steven Strait knew The Expanse. See, he'd read the books. As a result, when he was sent the script for the show, Strait had a unique — if very fair — reaction. "The first thought I had, having had read the books and seeing that they were going to adapt it for television was, 'Well, that's ambitious for a show,'" Strait tells Looper in an exclusive interview. "I was like, 'How the hell are they going to do that?' It's so big."

Not only did they do it, but they also did it very, very well. Over the past five years, The Expanse has become one of the most popular sci-fi shows on television, amassing both critical acclaim and an incredibly dedicated fan base. Now, with The Expanse's fifth season well underway and its sixth — also its last (barring another last-minute save) — quickly approaching, Strait took a few minutes to talk with Looper about playing Holden, and what it's been like to be part of something that he originally came to as a fan.

"The story was something I had always really loved and attached myself to," Strait says. "[In] the books and what you see in the show is that while there [are] all of these macro world-building events, it really does center on human relationships, and that the sci-fi of it exists in the background to cradle a very human story."

As a fan, Strait also had certain moments he was excited to bring to life in live-action. Thankfully, most of them survived the adaptation process. "A lot of the moments from the books for Holden in particular that I always kind of attached myself to, most of them have been in the series itself," he says.

Still, there was one relationship in particular that Strait was especially excited to bring to the screen: the one between Holden and the mysterious alien protomolecule that drives most of The Expanse's action.

What makes Holden and Investigator Miller's relationship in The Expanse so special

As viewers know, after Holden was infected with the protomolecule, it began to talk with Holden by taking the form of the deceased Investigator Miller, played in The Expanse by former Punisher star Thomas Jane. For Holden, this caused a number of problems. For one, while he shared some of Miller's mannerisms, the Investigator had his own agenda, and often kept Holden in the dark with regard to his real intentions. For another, the ghostly Investigator was a hallucination created by the protomolecule, not a physical presence. Only Holden could see him, leading the captain to question whether or not he was losing his mind.

As an actor, that was untapped territory that Strait was eager to explore. "When he first starts to see the Investigator and starts to communicate with him, it's such a unique relationship that I really didn't have a template for — which, as an actor, you love, because you've got this completely new thing that has no real reference anywhere," Strait tells Looper. "You can paint it without any influence from other movies, or what have you."

That Strait got to work with Thomas Jane made it even better. "To be able to do that with Tom, whom I adore, and we have developed such a great creative relationship over the years, I knew we were just going to have a blast working through all of that," Strait says. "Looking back, it was so fun for me to be able to do."

In fact, while talking with Strait, it's clear that – like Holden himself – he values the people who work on The Expanse just as much, if not more, than any outer-space shenanigans. "I've always said that we have a feel about this show that's more akin to a theater company than it is a television show," he says. "It's very collaborative. We have devoted our weekends and our days that we don't work to rehearsing the show, from the first episode of the first season, and haven't missed one throughout the entire run of the show."

Strait adds, "By and large, we still have the same crew from the first year. I think it really does speak to just how much everybody cares about the work and the show and each other. I think more than anything, that commitment and that closeness and that warmth is going to be what I miss the most."

New episodes of The Expanse's fifth season drop every Wednesday on Amazon Prime Video.