When Jem Garrard was put in charge of SYFY’s adaptation of the Vault comic Vagrant Queen she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her platform. Garrard was named showrunner of the series, which follows former child queen Elida (Adriyan Rae), as she adventures across the galaxy with frenemy Isaac (Tim Rozon) and mechanic Amae (Alex McGregor) to rescue her mother. She immediately got to work making a diverse space show where labels don’t matter and had a decidedly female lens to it.
“We don’t have enough female voices in genre, in action, and in sci-fi. So it was very important for me, when I was put in this position of power as a showrunner, to amplify those voices,” Garrard told The TV Junkies. How did she go about doing that? “Women make up a huge part of the audiences of these genres, but not only that, we just haven’t had enough female writers and directors in this world yet,” she explained. Garrard went on to make the entire first season of Vagrant Queen with an all-female writers’ room and directing team.
Garrard directed several episodes herself in Season 1, and she’s joined on Vagrant Queen by directors Danishka Esterhazy, Natalie Haarhoff, and Cindy Lee. In the writers’ room, Garrard worked alongside Mariko Tamaki (Supergirl, Baroness von Sketch Show) and Mika Collins (Northern Rescue, Travelers).
In addition to knowing that her audience would include many women, Garrard also wanted to utilize her platform on Vagrant Queen to make sci-fi accessible to female directors simply because she personally knew how hard it was to attain such a position. “I’ve been a director for hire, and I know how difficult it is to actually get hired on those shows. A lot of our opportunities come in drama and rom-com.” For Garrard that included directing shows like You, Me, Her and Hallmark movies such as Cooking With Love and Christmas at Holly Lodge. “I’m grateful for those shows,” she said, “but it was very hard to break into genre. It was very important for me, when I was able to hire a team, that I could amplify those voices.”
Wanting to use all-female voices is one thing, but Garrard knew she’d also need network support. With shows like Wynonna Earp, Killjoys, and Van Helsing on its network, all with female leads and female-focused stories, Vagrant Queen certainly isn’t the first time SYFY has shown its support for women in genre. “We read comics, play video games, and watch sci-fi,” said Garrard. It’s a fact that the network seemed to be very aware of and in support of from the beginning. “SYFY was so supportive, and our main network executive there, Josh Van Houdt, I’d have many conversations with him about where we wanted to take the characters. They were so open and so supportive,” Garrard recalled. “I didn’t think that kind of support existed. I joke that I’ve been spoiled with this show because I can’t imagine not being able to write as freely on anything else.”
Having so many women directors and writers telling Vagrant Queen’s story is exactly what sets the show apart in Garrard’s view. “You’ll see when watching the show what that female lens has on it and the way we write our female characters, our male characters, and those relationships. We’ve seen lots of battles and shootouts, and with this being a space opera, there’s obviously things we’ve seen before [in TV and film]. But I think what we haven’t seen before is characters written this way.”
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.