Interview: Trenna Keating (aka Doc Yewll) from Defiance

photo credit: (left) Michael Halbwachs – (right) SyFy Media

The SyFy Channel is putting a metric ton of financial resources behind their new SF drama Defiance, which airs on Mondays 9/8C. Released this spring, SyFy has also simultaneously launched an online video game for the show that gives viewers an additional portal into the world. It’s nice to see this kind of commitment being made toward the development of smart new science fiction shows that feature strong characters and interesting plots.

Defiance has been described as a futuristic, eclectic immigrant drama. More precisely, it’s a show about hope, about the choices people make in order to build a new life in the face of devastation. While a lot of attention has been put on the incredible world of Defiance, it is at heart a character driven story that delves into what makes people tick. While there are many noteworthy characters, one of Defiance’s standouts is Doc Yewll. She’s an Indogene, which “is a technically-minded race who augments their bodies with a variety of cybernetic implants.” Given the hints of things to come that specifically pertain to Doc Yewll’s sordid past and her stalwart dedication to the survival of the town of Defiance, it is no wonder that she is generating so much interest. However, behind every great character is a great actor, and in the case of Doc Yewll that actress is the very cool Trenna Keating.

photo credit: SyFy Media

Trenna recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with Amazing Stories and to answer a few questions about the show and her character, Doc Yewll. It was an honor to talk to her and to hear her special insights into the show.

Erin Underwood for Amazing Stories: Defiance is a show that takes place in the near future on Earth after an alien invasion that changed our planet forever. From your character’s perspective, how would Doc Yewll describe the show?

TK:  Defiance is a bit of a melting pot. We have all these different races of aliens learning to live together and learning to live with humans. The residents of this town are survivors and for the most part they are all dedicated to “the greater good”.

ASM: How would you describe Doc Yewll? How does your character fit into the heart of the story?

TK:  Doc is, of course the doctor in the town so her position is one of great importance (especially since they seem to be battling all kinds of crazy things each week). And Doc is a good example of the kinds of obstacles that these residents need to overcome. She is different and an outsider and just like in grade school, they are gonna have to learn to get along.

Doc YewllASM: Defiance incorporates unique languages. What was it like to learn an alien language? What kind of influence or affect does the Voltan languages have on the show or its actors?

TK:  I have only had to speak a few lines in an alien language and it took me quite a bit of practice to get it down. The actors that do entire scenes in it are pretty incredible. The idea of that kind of terrifies me. I think the languages add another really nice level to the show and they further emphasize the difference in the various cultures.

ASM: Doc Yewll has already been named as the breakout alien of the show. What is it about Doc Yewll that you love? What do you think makes her so interesting to the Defiance audience?

TK:  I love her cranky no-nonsense attitude. She is completely unapologetic, and I think it is this kind of frankness that makes her appealing to the audience. Doc gets a lot of great lines in the show.

ASM: What’s the general process for Doc Yewll’s make-up? How does the process and/or end result affect you as an actor?

TK:  The process takes about two hours. I have a bald cap under the mask, and then the mask is pulled over my head and glued in place and then it is painted. The mask certainly influences my performance. I can’t move my mouth very much so it influences the speech, and I can’t turn my head very far so it is those kinds of things that determine how I move. Doc is a pretty rigid alien and I think these “limitations” are actually kind of fitting for her.

ASM: What was it like to walk onto the Defiance set for the first time? What was your reaction?

TK:  I was blown away by how incredible the set was. I was especially pleased with my office. I had expected a very sterile lab type environment and it was completely the opposite. It is lush and warm and I think it is beautiful. There is a new corner to explore on the Defiance set every day. It is huge and so amazingly detailed.

ASM: Defiance has been compared to other cult SF hits such as Firefly and Battlestar Gallactica. What do you think it is about the show that might generate such comparisons?

TK:  I think it is these very detailed worlds. All of these shows give you such a strong sense of entering a world that is slightly familiar but also so very different. Strong writing has strong heroes and I think these shows are no exception to that.

ASM: Throughout the bulk of the first season, it is widely thought that the falling debris caused the geological event that reshaped the Earth. There were hints in “Episode 9” that this might not be the case and that Doc Yewll might know more than she is revealing. Is there anything you can share about Doc Yewll and what she was doing during the Pale Wars?

TK:  I think it is these kinds of secrets that will perhaps be unveiled more and more as the show goes on. What I love about this show is that all of these characters have important pasts, but the writers are not going to give it away easily.

ASM: How would you describe Doc Yewll’s relationship with the other characters and with the town of Defiance itself?

TK:  Doc is definitely an outsider. She keeps to herself and I think she likes it that way. That being said, I think she has a certain level of respect for the town and its residents.

Defiance Game
photo credit: SyFy Media

TK:  I have played the game a bit. Although gaming is not really my thing, I have to say, it is a pretty incredible game and it’s cool to see that world and how it influences Defiance the show. Having both the game and the show just makes the world so much bigger and with a bigger world comes bigger possibilities!

ASM: Did any of your earlier roles help to prepare you for your role as Doc Yewll? If so, which role? What kind of experience was it?

TK:  It wasn’t my film background that prepared me for this role as much as my theatre training. I studied clown and neutral mask quite a bit, and it was this training that really helped me in bringing Doc to life. It helped with the mask work but also, clown is completely about being present, in the moment and always aware and reactive to your surroundings. There is a very special sort of freedom that I feel when I’m working in a mask.

ASM: You’re an actress in a hot new science fiction drama. Before joining Defiance, did you read much science fiction or watch many shows? Do you have any personal favorites? Any science fiction icons who are near and dear to you?

TK:  The only sort of sci fi type shows that I watched were Buffy and Firefly. I was a big fan of those. I’m a really big fan of Fringe and Walter Bishop is my favourite 🙂 As for reading, I was pretty into Raymond Feist for a while.

ASM: Have you spent much time within the science fiction or fantasy community? Would you consider yourself a genre fan? Perhaps even a geek girl?

TK:  No, I really have not spent time in that community. Perhaps I will be welcomed in now 😉

ASM: Have you gotten anyone coming up to you asking medical question about Voltans yet? If not, are you looking forward to your first alien medical fan question?

TK:  No. No, Votan medical questions yet! I might get nervous; if they ask, I will have to pretend I know what they are talking about! Ha! I have found that I often learn more about the show by talking to fans though. There are a lot of very wise fans out there. 🙂

Release Your Inner Geek Quiz

The Lightning Fast SF/F/H Speed Round (Instructions: Pick one answer per question. There aren’t any right or wrong answers.)

Best Fighter Pilot:
__Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)
__Captain Kara Thrace (Battlestar Gallactica)

Top Mystery Solver:
__Detective Nick Burkhardt (Grimm)
__Harry Dresden, Chicago’s Wizard for Hire (The Dresden Files)

Best World Builder:
__J. R. R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings)
__George R. R. Martin (The Song of Fire and Ice)

Most Clever Captain:
__Captain James T. Kirk (Star Trek)
__Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Firefly)

Coolest Futuristic Hero:
__Lilu (The Fifth Element)
__Neo (The Matrix)

Bonus Fill in the Blank Question:

Favorite TV Alien (shameless self-promotion is highly encouraged, but not mandatory):
TK ANSWER: Does Walle count? I loved that little guy…..But that Doc Yewll is kind of cool too.


Trenna-KeatingTrenna can be recognized from her roles as Sergeant Hannah Corday on Global’s Combat Hospital. She can also be seen on Corner Gas, Little Mosque on the Prairie and Born and Raised in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Trenna Keating likes spending her time off screen outdoors hiking and camping. She also has a passion for writing plays, cooking, playing Scrabble and Settler’s of Catan and of course, dancing in her living room.

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