The Expanse's Wes Chatham Reflects on the Relationships That Define Amos' Season 5 Journey

Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) heads to Earth in season five.
Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) heads to Earth in season five.
Image: Amazon Studios

“I think it’s the best thing we’ve done so far,” Wes Chatham, who plays Amos Burton, says of The Expanse’s fifth season. We agree—and we also think Amos’ thrilling, emotional storyline has a lot to do with that success. In season five, we see him pay a long-awaited return visit to Earth, where things...take a turn.

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At a recent Expanse press day, io9 spoke to Chatham—a fan favorite not just because everybody loves the stoic, fierce, hilarious-in-his-own-way Amos, but also because Chatham himself is a huge Expanse fan—about his character’s evolution so far. “This season has been extremely creatively satisfying because I had the benefit of [the Amos-focused novella] The Churn and the [other Expanse] books before we even started with season one, and got to have long conversations with [authors Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham, who write as James S.A. Corey] about the character,” he said.

“I created [so much] in my imagination to kind of put me in the character and in that spot—and actually having tangible things that I’ve been imagining for over six years now, getting to meet [the character of Amos’ childhood friend] Erich, seeing where he grew up, seeing Lydia, and seeing himself as a boy. It was a really special moment to get to that level,” Chatham continued. “Book five [Nemesis Games, which inspired The Expanse season five] is my favorite book, and the whole time we were shooting, I was like, ‘Man, I hope we get to book five.’ And we did!”

Amos’ reunion with Erich, played by Jacob Mundell, gives us the first glimpse of someone who knew Amos growing up in Baltimore—back when he was still known as “Timmy,” a kid who dreamed of escaping his daily routine of abuse and violence and starting a new life in space.

“What’s really interesting about Amos and Erich’s relationship is that early on, when they were childhood friends, Erich was really sickly. He was kind of kicked around, he wasn’t really respected, and Timmy was his protector. Timmy looked out for him, and they developed a deep bond,” Chatham said. “But when Amos comes back to visit, Erich has reinvented himself. He’s risen through the ranks of the crime world and is now kind of the king of this block in Baltimore. When he sees Amos, there’s a lot of conflicting feelings. He loves him, he misses him, and he’s glad he’s there, but he doesn’t want to be reminded of the person he was before. It triggers that fear and insecurity, [since] Amos knows who he really is. He doesn’t want somebody around who knew him when he was younger.”

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Erich is an important part of Amos’ story in season five—but we also get to explore Amos’ intriguing friendship with Clarissa Mao (Nadine Nicole), or “Peaches.” They first met back in season three; she began her time on The Expanse as a villain, but along the way realized the grave error of her ways. While heading back to Earth to serve hard time for murder—a trip that took months—she used her skills as a mechanic to help Amos aboard the Rocinante, and they became pals.

In season five, when Amos visits her in prison, he finds she’s being kept in a heavily drugged state so she can’t use her strength-enhancing body modifications. In this week’s episode, “Gaugamela,” the prison takes a hit when an asteroid strikes North America—and without spoiling any plot details to come, let’s just say that Amos and Peaches are about spend a lot more time together. Chatham had some thoughts on why Amos is so drawn to Peaches, despite all the darkness in her past.

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Nadine Nicole as a repentant Clarissa Mao in The Expanse’s third season.
Nadine Nicole as a repentant Clarissa Mao in The Expanse’s third season.
Image: Rafy (Syfy)

“When he goes to the prison to visit her, he says to her, ‘This world is messed up. Sometimes it can mess you up. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.’ Aboard the Rocinante he got to see that she’s not a bad person, she was just really messed up by her father, and she’d done really a lot of terrible things. But [Amos] has [also] done a lot of terrible things,” Chatham said. “When he goes back to Baltimore, that last scene where he’s sitting and overlooking the skyline and the ocean, he’s thinking about Lydia, it dawns on him that if he didn’t have Lydia in his life—if he didn’t have someone steering him and kind of being the moral compass that lives inside of him, he would have a real dark existence. So he had the compulsion to go see Clarissa, and try to help her in some way, be that Lydia for her. He doesn’t know how he’s going to do it, or how to articulate why he’s there, but he just felt like he needed to be there.”

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Unlike years past, The Expanse season five sees the entire Roci gang spread out around the solar system. For Chatham, it was an adjustment at first. “I really felt it the first day of work,” he said, recalling that his first scene was Amos’ arrival in Baltimore. “I showed up and I wasn’t wearing Amos’ coveralls, I didn’t have the Roci crew, I wasn’t on a spaceship set. I was in the city shooting a practical scene, and that is something that on this scale that we hadn’t done before. I felt like I was in a different movie at first, wondering if I can connect to Amos the same way without all the things I’m used to around me.”

Eagle-eyed fans will note that Amos’ travel bag has a familiar name on it, at least: Murtry, the security chief he clashed with on Ilus last season. “Oh, he took it from him,” Chatham chuckled. “I thought that was a really smart, funny detail—I think that was Naren Shankar, the showrunner’s, idea. Ultimately it’s just kind of a little Easter Egg that connects you back to Murty. It really shows how much respect Amos has for Murtry; he really liked his bag so he just took it, crossed out his name and put his name on it instead.”

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New episodes of The Expanse drop Wednesdays on Amazon Prime.

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io9 News Editor, here since 2016. Previously SF Bay Guardian newspaper (RIP), SFSU (MA, Cinema Studies), member of the SF Bay Area Film Critics Circle, big fan of horror, metal, and verrry small dogs.

DISCUSSION

nicktaxidermy
NickTaxidermy

Wes Chatham is remarkable. I’ve only ever seen him in this but he’s one of the best actors on a show full of awesome actors.