Contains spoilers for the first episode of the Netflix Away 10-episode series.
You command the first manned (and female) mission to Mars. You’re on the Moon waiting to take off, when a family emergency back to Earth presents a dilemma. Do you go home or do you boldly carry on?
This choice faces the character of Hilary Swank at the start of Netflix’s new sci-fi series Away.
It’s an extreme version of the tension that many people grapple with – work versus family. But when mom goes to Mars for three years, it’s the ultimate work-life conundrum.
Captain Emma Green has a husband and teenage daughter at home, an international crew on board with varying levels of confidence, and a world that is watching.
To answer the question of what she would have done in her character’s shoes when choosing between mission and family, the two-time Oscar winner relates it to an experience of her own life.
“I’m on this trip of my life, right? ” she begins. “And I’m chasing my dream of being an actor. And of course, I’m good in it.
“And my dad, he needs a lung transplant. And so I take what was supposed to be a year off – because it takes a year to see if the organ takes or not – and it quickly turned into two years, then it turned into three years.
“And, you know, I was in this blessed position where I could take time off and become my father’s health advocate and help him overcome the most difficult problem that we think will ever happen to him in.” his life. was without a doubt. Of course, that’s what I’m going to do. Is not it? ”
Her father’s transplant took place in 2015. As she admits, Swank was fortunate to be able to take this free time and has returned to leading roles now that she’s back (which doesn’t. may not always have been the case for an actress in her 40s).
She was able to spend six months filming the new series – her father is now healthy and she took her husband and his rescue dogs to the Toronto set with her. “So we are in a way a traveling circus. I don’t have quite the same circumstances as other people who have children.
Responding to the initial question while trying not to reveal too much of the plot, she continues: “If I were in Emma’s shoes and I was on a mission on Mars… Her daughter and her husband told her with vehemence: what you are going to do ”.
“Then you see the ramifications of that as the show continues to unfold, what that decision meant to her, and how deeply her family is in her marrow. [is]and how important this dream is [of going to Mars] is hers.
“So I think it depends on the circumstances you’re in to make that decision. “
In recent years, filmmakers have placed father-child relationships at the heart of many sci-fi dramas. Last year, BBC Inside Cinema highlighted a breed of “Space Dads” in films like Interstellar, Ad Astra, First Man and High Life.
One of the first moms in space is Swank’s Commander.
Away comes on the heels of Proxima, one of the first new films to screen after UK cinemas reopened in July, which sees Eva Green playing a single mother training to take off, also on Mars.
And last year, For All Mankind on Apple TV + unfolded in an alternate story in which Russia won the space race and placed an astronaut on the moon, which led to the United States making even.
For mothers, however, their trips to space come with trips of guilt about their parenting responsibilities.
Swank recalls how one reporter pointed out that this is not the case with men.
Different for women?
“There was a young lady from a women’s magazine who said, ‘When I saw the pilot, I saw the decision your character made, and I couldn’t believe it. My jaw dropped, ”the actress says.
“She was almost angry. And then she checked herself. She said: “And then I realized that I would never have thought that if your character had been a man”.
“So, it was such an educational moment for her, that the stereotypes that are put on gender or race or whatever made her come to that conclusion. But then it caused her to question it. And I love that about the show. ”
In addition to portraying family tensions over long distances, Away places the character of Swank in claustrophobic relationships with the crew.
In an optimistic view of international cooperation, Commander Green is joined on board by astronauts from the United Kingdom, China, Russia and India. (It may also be a Netflix ploy to make the show appealing in these huge target markets.)
The British representative is actually played by an American – Ato Essandoh. Meanwhile, the Indian team member is played by British actor Ray Panthaki, who rose to prominence as Ronny in EastEnders before moving on to Marcella, Gangs of London and the movie Official Secrets.
The actors took advice on life in space from former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. “We were able to ask him the most personal questions,” recalls Panthaki. The actor turned philosophical, wondering what being in space made him believe in terms of religion.
“He said something so profound that I will never forget,” says Panthaki. “He said: ‘When I look at the Earth from space and see its incredible beauty, I believe it is the Heaven we are talking about. ”
OK, but was it the most personal question he asked? Panthaki thinks again. “These are things, like, what does it look like to go to the bathroom in space and how messy is it?”
Panthaki and Swank both say they dreamed of going to space as children. For Swank, they arrived at the age of nine.
“One of the things that fascinated me at that age was the idea of the unknown and being somewhere that overlooked the vastness of this place,” she recalls.
“I think the idea, which I didn’t understand at the time, was that we are really so small in the whole cosmic idea and the scope of things.
“We live in a time where we can sort of see and experience everything, right? We can look at it and have it all at our fingertips.
“But nobody knows what it’s like to explore space. This is the great unknown. ”
As fulfilling as shooting a TV series about going into space for six months, it’s probably not the same as making that childhood dream come true.
“Not quite the same, no,” she replies with a smile. “But I’ll take it. ”
Away is on Netflix starting September 4.
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