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Two-Time Oscar-Winner Hilary Swank Realizes a Childhood Dream With Her New Netflix Series, Away

When Hilary Swank scooped two Oscars in the space of just five years — for Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and Million Dollar Baby (2004) — she became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Since then, the 46-year-old Nebraska native has navigated the industry on her own terms, appearing in weighty dramas such as The Homesman (2014) and prestige TV in the form of FX’s Trust (2018), but also taking regular breaks from acting.

In 2015, she founded the Hilaroo Foundation, a nonprofit that supports underprivileged youth and abandoned animals, and the following year launched Mission Statement, a clothing line specialising in luxury ethical wardrobe staples. Between 2014 and 2017, she also cared for her father, who was recovering from a lung transplant. When she and entrepreneur Philip Schneider married in 2018, her father was well enough again to walk her down the aisle.

Swank returned to work with turns in the sci-fi thriller I Am Mother (2019) and satirical horror The Hunt (2020), but her next role is her most prominent in more than a decade: that of soft-spoken, sensitive American astronaut Emma Green in Andrew Hinderaker’s 10-part Netflix series Away which starts streaming this Friday. Tasked with leading a mission to Mars, she must unite an international space crew composed of a jaded Russian cosmonaut (Mark Ivanir), a secretive Chinese chemist (Vivian Wu), a British-Ghanian botanist (Ato Essandoh) and an Indian co-pilot (Ray Panthaki). In order to make history, Emma also has to leave behind her husband Matt (Josh Charles) and daughter Alexis (Talitha Eliana Bateman) — an arrangement complicated by the former’s ailing health and the latter’s coming of age.

We recently spoke to Swank about her grueling zero-gravity scenes, the illuminating conversations she had with some of the world’s greatest female astronauts, and why taking on the role meant partly fulfilling a childhood ambition. Continue reading Two-Time Oscar-Winner Hilary Swank Realizes a Childhood Dream With Her New Netflix Series, Away

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Hilary Swank Trained with Astronauts at NASA for Her New Role

The two-time Oscar winner stars as the commander of a mission to Mars. To prepare for the role, she headed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas

Hilary Swank is grateful every day for the ability to tell stories in her craft as an actor.

“It’s a gift that I’ve been given, to be a storyteller,” Swank tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I couldn’t be more blessed. I literally get to walk in different shoes with every single job that I get. It enriches me as a human being in so many ways — it blows open the blinders of how I see the world.”

With her new role, as the commander of a spaceship headed for Mars, Swank, 46, has an entirely new view of the world.

In Away on Netflix, Swank joins the Joint Mars Initiative, an international crew undertaking a three-year trip to the red planet.

While it’s an action-packed and dramatic series, Swank was attracted to it because the tension didn’t come from one familiar plotline.

“I love that the commander on this mission to Mars is a woman and that that’s not the drama of the show,” she says.

The drama of the show, instead, says Swank, also doesn’t come because of the diversity on board. “I love that the show deals with all different types of races. There’s an LGBTQ storyline. It really is representative of the world we live in. And I think so often, in the 30 years of my career, so much of it was just from the point of view of really a white straight male. It wasn’t representative of the street that I walk down every day.”

For her role as Commander Emma Green, Swank headed to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for a day of training in February. She was also able to interview women who have long been her heroes. She met Karen Nyberg — who became the 50th woman in space upon her first mission in 2008 and spent a total of 180 days in space — and met, in a way, Jessica Meir. She spoke to Meir, who was onboard the International Space Station. (Meir returned to Earth in April after seven months in space.)

Swank, who won her first Oscar in 2000 for her portrayal of trans man Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry and again in 2005 for the Clint Eastwood boxing film Million Dollar Baby, is known for going all-in for her roles.

The choices she makes professionally are rooted in her personal worldview.

“We are trying to continually find equality as women in very much what I think is a man’s world,” she says. “I think I’m drawn for sure to these women, mostly true stories, who persevere in their own way.”

Away is now streaming on Netflix.