'The Expanse' Has A Bigger Coffee Cup Problem Than 'Game of Thrones'

Assembled at New York Comic Con for a Q&A panel following the world premiere of the first episode of The Expanse Season 4, the cast delved into the difficulties of acting as if they're in zero gravity. Particularly tricky to track are coffee cups, marking another point of similarity between The Expanse — known to search engines as "Game of Thrones in space" — and HBO's completed fantasy saga, which accidentally left a Starbucks coffee cup in one episode.

Captain James Holden enjoying a cup of coffee on "The Expanse." Amazon Studios

Many science fiction shows — or space operas like Star Wars — cheat in space, assuming gravity and otherwise deviating from zero-gravity physics aboard their spacecraft. But The Expanse keeps it as real as possible, with characters wearing magnetic boots to walk the decks, or strapping into "crash couches" during high-G burns of their Epstein Drive.

While The Expanse uses wire harnesses and other special effects techniques to capture characters moving in zero gravity, the cast onstage at NYCC described the performative side, which involves an acting technique dubbed "floaty arms."

"Well, there's a lot of floaty arms, for sure," Steven Strait, who plays Rocinante captain James Holden, said.

"Steven crosses his arms a lot so he doesn't have to do zero-G acting," Dominique Tipper, who plays ship engineer Naomi Nagata, said. "Which we all want to get him in a headlock, because he always picks the position first and then I'm like, 'S--t, I can't have that one now.'"

"That's exactly right, no floaty arms for Holden," Strait said.

Wes Chatham, who plays mechanic and fighter Amos Burton, described the additional difficulties that come with coffee.

Wes Chatham as Amos Burton on "The Expanse." Amazon Prime Video

"We do blow a lot of takes, because, to keep in mind that we are in weightlessness, when you do a scene and you're thinking 'Damn, I'm good in this scene,' and then you put down whatever you're drinking and you're like 'Goddamnit, we're in zero-g, can't put the cup down, it's going to float in the air,'" Chatham said.

Unlike Game of Thrones, which let slip an anachronism, coffee is an essential part of The Expanse.

"Holden could drink coffee at half a g. Actually sit and hold a mug under his nose and let the aroma drift up," we're told in Leviathan Wakes, the first novel in The Expanse book series by James S.A. Corey. "Drinking coffee was one of the activities that didn't make the transition to microgravity well, but at half a g, it was fine."

In the book series and on The Expanse, coffee is great universalizer, enjoyed by Martian, Earther and Belter alike. It also reflects the Rocinante's crews background, not as space royalty or highly trained warriors, but as working class stiffs, just trying to get by. One of the most exciting discoveries when they first board the legitimately salvaged Martian warship that becomes the Rocinante is its industrial coffee machine.

"It also had a full-size coffeepot that could brew forty cups of coffee in less than five minutes whether the ship was in zero g or under a five-g burn," is one of their first discoveries. "Holden said a silent prayer of thanks for bloated military budgets and pressed the brew button."

This love for coffee makes it to the TV version of The Expanse as well, with Holden's coffee cup often floating just to one side. Between the special effects keeping coffee cups afloat and the takes ruined by coffee cups refusing to float, The Expanse has much more coffee troubles than Game of Thrones ever did. But there's always hope for floating coffee cups in The Expanse Season 5.

"We're hoping to shoot on location next year," Strait joked.

The Expanse Season 4 premieres on Amazon Prime Video December 13.