The cast also opened up about the “bootcamp” they went through before playing their characters, as well as what makes their series different from other space movies and TV shows.
Hilary Swank stars in the new Netflix drama Away as Emma Green, an astronaut leading four other space explorers from around the world, played by Ato Essandoh, Ray Panthaki, Mark Ivanir and Vivian Wu, on the first mission to Mars.
While the sci-fi series details the technical aspects of space travel, it also tells the emotional stories of what each astronaut had to leave behind to go where no person has gone before. The cast opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about what makes this show different from other space movies and television series viewers have seen so far.
“Most space movies or space shows deal with just space,” said Swank. “They’re just dealing with the actual space exploration or what happens on your journey there. And this is actually a show about that, as well as that gravitational pull to Earth. So it’s a great love story between all the astronauts and their loved ones down on Earth.”
“It had this great combination of sort of epic scope, telling this sort of very cinematic space story, and you know at the same time combining that with this relationship story,” said Josh Charles, who stars as the husband to Swank’s character. “And that felt like what separated this in sort of terms of NASA-themed shows. That this is what made this one more unique, is that it was going to spend a tremendous amount of time also focusing on the interpersonal.”
“It’s really not a space show, it’s really almost a family drama, almost a workplace drama,” said Essandoh, who plays Kwesi. “It’s amazing to read a script with such well-developed, well-articulated characters and to be able to play one of those characters is really a blessing.”
“It has this combination, a very interesting combination, of a workplace drama and a family drama in one and it goes between the two,” said Ivanir, who portrays Misha. “And in this show they put so much effort into making the space part a very real experience: the way we float, the special effects, the going out of the spaceship into space looks amazing. It’s a very cinematic experience that I’ve never seen on a TV show before.”
As the astronauts embark on a grueling journey, encountering life-threatening challenges along the way, the series reveals what each character had to give up to pursue their out-of-this-world dreams and make history. The cast revealed how they related to that message of sacrifice.
“Certainly, I can relate to that as an actor who’s still continuing to live my dream and what that means, but I just have so much admiration for people like an astronaut who is risking their life for space exploration,” said Swank. “It’s very admirable.”
“As actors, I’ve certainly made many sacrifices in my career,” said Panthaki, who plays Ram. “I’m often away from home and my loved ones for huge amounts of time. Even arriving in Vancouver for eight months [to shoot the series], I found myself with this incredible sense of loneliness being away from my loved one, but it enabled me to use that for the character. Because of all these characters, of all these astronauts going into space on this show, Ram is the character that is most lonely and has the most disconnection back on Earth. So it played out with this amazing parallel, but almost a godsend really because I was able to use it for the character.”
The actors also opened up about the “bootcamp” they went through to prepare to portray people traveling through space in the ten-episode first season.
“We were put on wires,” said Wu, who plays Lu. “It was a lot of hard, physical training. And then in the end I think it all paid off.”
“Immediately as we arrived in Vancouver, we were thrust into these rehearsals for the first few weeks where we got into these wires and the first thing you notice is that, ‘Damn, I can’t stand up in this thing. How am I going to pull this off? How am I going to be doing all these spins that are needed?'” said Panthaki. “And then of course, we had an amazing stunt team … who guided us through this process and two weeks later we were able to do spins and all sorts of tricks, and [we were] auditioning, in our heads, for Cirque Du Soleil. It was a grueling process to start with, but with an incredible team we managed to pull it off.”
Watch the video above for more. Away is now streaming on Netflix.