Oscar-winning actor Hilary Swank said that Kalpana Chawla was among the many real-life icons who inspired her to play astronaut Emma Green in the Netflix space drama Away. Chawla was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. She died in 2003, in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
“I do know of her,” Swank told Hindustan Times. “All the research I’ve been doing about all the astronauts, they’ve greatly inspired me.” She said that astronauts know “that they have a 50-50 chance, and it’s a part of their job, and a part of their journey, knowing that they can lose their lives.” She said that she has an “admiration for anyone who is willing to go to those extremes.”
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In Away, Swank’s character leads a three-year mission to Mars that forces her away from her family. The drama unfolds both on Earth, where her husband and teenage daughter learn to live without her, and in space, where Emma Green navigates unexpected challenges as the commander of an international crew.
Describing her character as someone who has ‘in her marrow’ to fulfil her purpose, she said, “There are these extraordinary people, who have these visions, and that’s what makes them great leaders and explorers.” She said that the difficult choice that Emma has to make about leaving her family to honour her duty isn’t restricted to women. “It’s a modern day struggle.”
Away is Swank’s second major television role after she broke out as a movie star with 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry. She recently appeared in the FX drama Trust, from the Slumdog Millionaire team of Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle. She previously appeared in the Netflix project I Am Mother.
Away, created by Andrew Hinderaker and involving the talents of executive producers Matt Reeves (The Batman) and Ed Zwick (who also directed the pilot), arrives on Netflix on September 4. The show also stars Ato Essandoh, Ray Panthaki, Mark Ivanir, Vivian Wu and Josh Charles.