Actress Stephanie Leonidas promises a “darker and grittier” second installment of sci-fi series Defiance, but admits she’s got tough competition from fans for the role of knife-wielding alien Irisa.

“People dressed as Irisa are going to do me out of a job soon, as they’re looking better and better. It’s crazy,” Leonidas tells of meeting fans of the dystopian tale at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

“When they say it only took them five minutes to put on I think I better up my game really. It’s taking me a lot longer at the moment!”

In fact, it takes around two and a half hours for Leonidas to transform into her alien character Irisa, who is attempting to live peacefully alongside humans and other extraterrestrial races (Votans) on a radically transformed Earth.

Even getting out of the costume is a process for the star.

“We’re all pulling our costumes off as quick as possible at the end of the night but I have to really thoroughly shower every evening because of the glue in my hair. It needs to be washed out thoroughly for the next day.

“It’s fun watching myself completely morph into something physically different. It really does catch me still. You’d think I’d get used to it, but it really does still surprise me,” Leonidas adds.

And it’s not just herself she surprises.

“I completely forgot about my costume once and when I was on a lunch break I decided to Skype my friends at home. I was chatting as Steph and they couldn’t get past the fact that I looked so different. They just sat there grinning. It was funny for me to see other people’s reactions. It brought it home again how much I change.”

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Leonidas admits she’s had a bit of an easier ride this series though, with her iconic large eyes added in with CGI rather than contact lenses.

“It was very different going back and actually being able to see everything on set! It was actually very different. Like seeing it for the first time. The contact lenses I wore in series one had no peripheral vision, so I only had pin-point vision.

“When doing some of the stunts I had to turn my entire body just to see anybody next to me,” Leonidas laughs.

The second series certainly sounds like Leonidas has needed her wits about her with the actress admitting it’s a “very heavy series” for Irisa. “There’s some hard times ahead,” she teases adding, “The journey Irisa goes on emotionally has kept me on my toes.”

Defiance returns to Syfy Thursday at 9:00pm