Netflix’s space sci-fi series Another Life chronicles the adventures of a crew exploring space in an attempt to find an alien race who has built a mysterious “artifact” on Earth. On October 14th, Netflix released its second season, which picks up at season 1’s cliffhanger. Actor JayR Tinaco (he/him or they/them) plays the ship’s medic, Zayn Petrossian (who uses ze/hir/hirs pronouns on the show, and JayR also uses they/them for them in the interview). I sat down with JayR to discuss the new season, the importance of diverse representation, and some fun aspects of working on the show.
BVN: What can fans of the show expect from the new season, especially for Zayn?
JT: This new season we dive deeper into the Achaian story. In the first season we were just touching base with that, and it was more of the unknown, whereas now we need to figure out what they want. With Zayn, there’s a lot more depth to their character and we get to know them a little bit better. We learn about their family history and ze’s mother and what she’s going through. Also with Bernie and Zayn there’s lots of roller-coasters and what you would see in relationships.
BVN: I actually wanted to ask about Bernie. So something I’ve noticed and appreciated about your character is that Zayn’s romantic relationship is meaningful and fulfilling to hir, but it never overshadows the vital role of ship medic. So can you talk a little bit about that balance?
JT: For me when I was watching the first season, it did feel that Zayn and Bernie were very much the heart of the ship. Because there was so much chaos going on, you really needed that balance. The stakes were so high and there was always something happening around every corner, and having that beautiful story at the heart of it was really stunning. It was important to carry that on in season 2 and I think there were a lot of fans of Zayn and Bernie’s relationship and a lot of people who could identify with that. So I think it was very important to keep telling that story, especially from a non-binary perspective and a cis male perspective and having that unique relationship — unique to viewers, anyway, it’s not unique in the world, I’m sure there are many relationships like that — but to portray that on screen for audiences watching and people that can relate I think is super important. Because again, myself, I can relate to this relationship and having similar things in my life happen.
BVN: As someone who uses they/them pronouns myself, I’ve also appreciated how natural Zayn’s identity and neo pronouns seem to others. What is it like to play a queer character in the future who lives in community with others who respect and accept hir, no questions asked?
JT: Going into this, before I was cast, I didn’t realise that the story arc wouldn’t include that coming out story. So I was prepared for that, and it would have been really interesting, and I was fairly new to how I identified and how I should be labeling it even though I had questions my whole life. But I remember as a kid my dream was to live in a world where no one asked me how I identify or who I was dating and so to live this out on screen and in the character is so cool because it’s a dream of mine to have a world like this. And I do believe one day it will be like that, and I think to put that into the story and to see that happening in the future is beautiful, and it’s a great wish to have for people. It’s a silver lining for anybody that’s sitting at home and questioning their identity and if they should come out about their non-binaryness, and to see that one day in life it will be not even a question or not even a topic. I think that was one of the most important parts of Zayn’s story is that we didn’t even touch on their coming-out or make it such an arc.
BVN: Absolutely! So, this show has such a big, vibrant cast. What was it like to film with all of these incredible actors?
JT: It was fun. Moving from Australia to Vancouver, it was the biggest job I had booked since moving to acting, because there’s a lot of work here in Vancouver. It was my first series regular role and I was very excited. Pretty new to the game even though I had been auditioning my whole adult life in Sydney. Working with actors from LA and people with huge resumes like Katee [Sackhoff], Jessica Camacho, and Justin Chatwin (because we got to work together in season 2). Just learning from them was a big take-away for me. My favourite days were when we were all together — big cast days, big group scenes — because when we weren’t working we were just playing around and having fun, and everyone was amazing. I have really good relationships with Alex Eling, Alex Oserov, Elizabeth [Ludlow], AJ [Rivera], so we all still keep in contact and I consider them lifelong friends now. I loved working with all of them and learned so much.
BVN: That’s awesome! So, this show is obviously sci-fi and has a lot of world-building and all of this interesting technology. What has been the most fun aspect of that to explore as an actor on the show?
JT: I always love in sci-fi the writers’ interpretation of what space or what a planet could be or what an alien could be. Coming to set every day, going into the lab —the medbay — you’d see this set that was so intricate and detailed that the prop [team] and writers had thought up. It was just incredible and I loved seeing all the different details everywhere.
BVN: Science fiction television has a long history of centring diversity in its casts. What is it like to be a part of a series that continues this tradition?
JT: Oh, incredible. I read an article from season 1 that I was a part of this new non-binary wave of actors that are coming through and to be a part of that even is so incredible, so I’m really grateful for Another Life and Netflix for including me in the show so I can be a part of that movement. And to have more non-binary actors and queer actors on screen is really the goal. Sci-fi again is known for being so diverse and I’m seeing so many auditions that I get through now that are generally sci-fi and they’ll have the non-binary character. I think the next step now is to get away from the tokenism of it. That’s what I’m seeing a lot of. The non-binary character is the new token character and tokenism is just something we need to move past. One step at a time and we’re getting there, and I’m really proud of my character on the show and the show.
BVN: Personally, when I started watching the show, I had no idea there was a non-binary character on it, so I was so inspired and glad to see you on there. Thank you so much for being a part of the project.
JT: Thank you so much, Bishop!
BVN: Thank you, JayR!
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length
You can stream Season 1 and 2 of Another Life on Netflix now
by Bishop V. Navarro
Bishop V. Navarro (they/she) is a poet, writer, and media studies scholar from Tampa, Florida. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida and currently pursues a PhD in Communication at USF. Her scholarly work examines boundary vulnerability in horror and science fiction media. You can find her on Twitter, Letterboxd, Instagram, and Tumblr @vnavarrowriter