On set in Limerick at George RR Martin’s new show Nightflyers

Meadhbh McGrath pays a visit to the set of Netflix’s new sci-fi series, based on a George RR Martin novella, and meets the Irish cast and crew who are determined to make it a success

From the two episodes made available to critics, Nightflyers seems to be the type of sci-fi show that wants to be different from all the other sci-fi shows – something Eoin Macken, whose credits include Fair City and fantasy series Merlin, makes the case for.

“It’s not about trying to find space aliens and s***,” he insists. His character, Karl D’Branin, is the leader of the expedition, and wants to track down alien species the Volcryn to get help bringing back his dead daughter.

“That’s really what drives him, and that’s more far interesting than ‘just go find aliens’. I think one of the things that brings down a lot of sci-fi stories is when it starts becoming totally ridiculous. It needs to be grounded in some solid form of reality. This is very much about the relationships, the character details and the psychological aspects of them.”

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Nightflyers on Netflix: Thale and Karl’s true relationship EXPOSED in unexpected twist

Nightflyers comes from the mind of George R.R. Martin – the creator behind Game of Thrones. And while there are no dragons present (yet) in the psychological space thriller, its plot is sure to keep viewers guessing.

The first spanner in the works saw Karl D’Branin (played by Eoin Macken) welcoming Thale (Sam Strike) onto the ship.

Express.co.uk caught up with Eoin to discuss Karl’s story throughout the show.

On Thale and Karl’s relationship Eoin explained: “Their relationship actually progresses from one of a mutual fear to a bit more of an understanding.” However Karl is never innocent, in Eoin’s eyes, as he went on to talk about Thale’s involvement in the mission. He continued: “But Thale has been brought on by Karl almost as a tool – which I think gets lost a little bit – but that’s what he’s done.

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“There’s a lot of violence and death in it” – Eoin Macken about Nightflyers

Macken was drawn to the Nightflyers script for this reason, as felt like a move away from poppy sci-fi towards proper, old school science fiction. “It’s a bit more realistic. Well, the ideas are totally crazy and it’s a bit bananas, and it’s a bit weird, but I kind of like that. I like the weirdness of it, and I like the fact that the characters are pushed into really dark places where you’re not sure who’s going to break or who’s going to survive.”

“I love science fiction just because of the scope of what it can be,” he tells us in a plush Soho hotel room. “I used to read a lot of Isaac Asimov and Philip Dick and Inland Empire’s one of the earlier books I read!”

You’re working on an adaptation of Rob Doyle’s book Here Are The Young Men at the moment, which you’ve almost finished. How exciting is that?

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Eoin Macken says George RR Martin’s Nightflyers on Netflix is “very different” to Game of Thrones

“There’s a big psychological horror aspect to the show.”

Merlin‘s Eoin Macken leads the expedition as Karl D’Branin, who he described to Digital Spy as a “a troubled astrophysicist” struggling with “his own personal demons” while trying to lead.

Asked how Nightflyers compares to Game of Thrones, he explained: “It’s very different. the only similarities towards Game of Thrones, really, are in terms of the size and scope of the worlds that he builds; and because he creates these great characters; and he creates great plot in terms of setting off on a journey, and for where these characters can push and develop to.

“But it’s the size of the world he builds that is what he’s really great at.”

The differences were so stark that Macken didn’t even realise that Nightflyers was based on one of George RR Martin’s novellas when he first read the TV version.

“I hadn’t read the book at the time, but I’d heard of it,” he explained. “And then I read the book after I read the script. It’s quite different. The book is a basic template, but Jeff Buhler, the showrunner, created his own world around his version of the book.

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Nightflyers’ Eoin Macken ‘there’s a lot of Kubrickian elements’

“There’s a lot of Kubrickian elements,” actor Eoin Macken tells us over the phone from Dublin, “which Mike [Cahill, director] and Jeff [Buhler, showrunner] included in terms of how the characters react within the physical world.”

“Mike, who directed the first episode and the director of photography Markus [Forderer] were huge fans of 2001. A lot of Mike’s visual references came from that in terms of the scope of it, but also the building sense of a big, expansive space where it’s actually quite claustrophobic.”

“It’s kind of incongruent,” continues Macken, who plays the Nightflyer’s astrophysicist and mission leader Karl D’Branin, “with the fact you’re in space and there’s so much of it but actually you’re in a tiny small ship and there’s nowhere to go.”

That claustrophobia goes hand in hand with paranoia, and plays into Nightflyers’ theme of surveillance and the invasion of privacy. “That’s a very Orwellian thing, isn’t it?” says Macken. “It’s woven into a lot of science-fiction and it does become a big part of it.”

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Netflix releases poster for Close

“Inspired by the life of the world’s leading female bodyguard, Jacquie Davis. The film stars Rapace as Sam, a counter-terrorism expert used to war zones, who takes on the job of protecting Zoe (Sophie Nélisse), a young and rich heiress — a babysitting job for her. But a violent attempted kidnapping forces the two to go on the run. Now they’ve got to take some lives, or lose theirs.”

Close was filmed in the UK and Morocco and can be streamed on Netflix starting January 18.

Eoin plays Conall.